Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has no clue what a catch is in the NFL. We don’t either. The catch rule might be one of the most-confusing aspect of today’s NFL.
The Cowboys owner was quoted on 105.3 The Fan’s Shan and RJ Show in Dallas as saying:
“Since that play,” Jones said (h/t Dallas Morning News’ Jon Machota), “I don’t believe they’ve been able to say it in a way that any of us understands yet.”
It used to just be whether you had two hands on the ball and your feet in bounds that it was a catch. It’s tough to see what a true catch is nowadays because the rule isn’t clear.
The NFL rulebook (Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3) states the following about how to determine a catch:
ARTICLE 3. COMPLETED OR INTERCEPTED PASS. A player who makes a catch may advance the ball. A forward pass is
complete (by the offense) or intercepted (by the defense) if a player, who is inbounds:
(a) secures control of the ball in his hands or arms prior to the ball touching the ground; and
(b) touches the ground inbounds with both feet or with any part of his body other than his hands; and
(c) maintains control of the ball after (a) and (b) have been fulfilled, until he has the ball long enough to clearly become a
runner. A player has the ball long enough to become a runner when, after his second foot is on the ground, he is capable
of avoiding or warding off impending contact of an opponent, tucking the ball away, turning up field, or taking additional
steps (see 3-2-7-Item 2).
That seems somewhat clear. Stay in bounds, have both feet down, and have undisputed possession of the ball. But that’s just an excerpt of what a catch is. The overall length of the definition takes all sorts of intuition out of it and is over 2 pages long.
The common sense of “Is it a catch?” should be decided by referee judgement on the field. Not a mile long definition in a rule book with caveats that are longer than the rule itself. If
you click into the rulebook and see the six different situations that all have their own special rules, it really makes it tough to see what is and what isn’t a catch.
The NFL can do better. Jones is just one owner who’s starting to see that too.