Dean Blandino admits there will always be ‘subjectivity’ to the NFL catch rule

Courtesy of Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

NFL fans have long lamented the league’s inability to consistently determine what does and doesn’t constitute a catch.

Every week it seems there is new evidence that the league doesn’t know what a catch is, and now the NFL’s V.P. of Officiating, Dean Blandino, has admitted there never will be a definitive answer to the question “what is a catch?”

“There’s always going to be that subjectivity to it,” Blandino said in his weekly officiating video (h/t Pro Football Talk). “The rule, the way it’s written, is clear, but we are going to have subjective judgments and debates on how long is long enough, was he going to the ground, was he a runner, and that’s just part of the deal. A catch is control, plus two feet, plus time. And it’s that plus time that’s the subjective element that we’re all debating.”

So what he’s saying is that we do know what a catch is, but we don’t know how to quantify how long a player has to have the ball before it is considered a catch.

This has led to some maddening debates and seems completely subject to interpretation, which makes it not really a rule so much as a guideline. And when millions of people are watching with millions of dollars on the line, and the outcome of the game rests on subjectivity, that’s a problem.

However, Blandino doesn’t think it’s as big a deal as most of the rest of America does — at least those of us who care about the game of football.

“Nobody knows what a catch is — I do feel that is somewhat hyperbole at this point,” Blandino said. “What we’re really dealing with is a small group of plays — some high-profile plays — but a small group of plays where we’re debating the subjective element of the rule. We’ve had thousands of pass attempts this year, thousands of completed passes, thousands of incomplete passes. We haven’t had an issue on the overwhelming majority of them.”

Needless to say, it doesn’t appear the NFL is too concerned with what the rest of us think about having games decided by the refs, rather than the players on the field. And this is especially troubling considering the results are all too often completely baffling, as we can see above. We might as well just flip a coin on many of these “is it a catch?” scenarios, because the rule has nothing to do with the outcome.

Then again, perhaps this is exactly what the NFL wants. Nothing brings out the fans like a good, old-fashioned controversy, and we’re having those on a regular basis these days.