New England Patriots

Roger Goodell wants to “clarify” NFL catch rules. As he should. But one of his explained methods sounds a tad counterproductive.

Speaking to reporters at his annual press conference ahead of Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis, Goodell addressed the NFL’s most controversial rule at length. As you’d expect, he said the competition committee will once again review the rulebook as it related to catches.

“What we have to do is find a rule that we think is going to address what we think should be a catch and what wouldn’t,” said Goodell. “I think we have some very good ideas that we’re going to submit to the competition committee. I think there will be a broad focus on going to the ground, which I think has been part of the confusion for what everyone expects of that rule. And I think we’ve got a great opportunity to get this rule right, so that everyone understands it and appreciates it.”

Catch rules came after fire again in 2017, this time because of the idea of “surviving the ground.” And the controversial non-touchdown by the Steelers’ Jesse James, which helped lead to the Patriots’ Week 15 win in Pittsburgh, has been at the forefront of that discussion. So technically, you could argue the Patriots are forcing the league to change the rules yet again. But that wasn’t the most striking part of Goodell’s comments on catch rules.

Jesse James of the Pittsburgh Steelers dives for the end zone for an apparent touchdown in the fourth quarter during the game against the New England Patriots at Heinz Field on December 17, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After official review, it was ruled an incomplete pass. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

Jesse James of the Pittsburgh Steelers dives for the end zone for an apparent touchdown in the fourth quarter during the game against the New England Patriots at Heinz Field on December 17, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After official review, it was ruled an incomplete pass. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

“We Can Clarify This Rule”

Goodell also said that, as part of his preliminary work on fixing the NFL’s catch rules, he went over 150 different plays with a room full of former NFL players. They bounced ideas off each other that will eventually be submitted to the competition committee. However, Goodell answered a follow-up question by saying he wants to overhaul catch rules entirely rather than make them more convoluted.

“Instead of adding to the rule or subtracting the rule, [we want to] start over again and look fundamentally from the start, because I think when you add or subtract things you can still lead to confusion,” said Goodell. “And these rules are very complex. You have to look at what the unintended consequences are of making a change, which is what the competition committee does so well and with so much thought. We’re trying to supplement that by, in advance of their analysis, giving them some thoughts or some ideas that we can focus on.

“Clearly, ‘catch/no catch’ has been a lot of discussion and a lot of disagreement over it. And I think we can clarify this rule. I think we can do it with a lot of hard work focus and get to a place where – I can’t tell you there won’t be controversy, but I think we can get to a much better place.”

It’s A Bold Strategy

Huh. Goodell wants to clarify catch rules, wants to start over and deliver something fresher and simpler than what the league has now. To work toward that by wrangling a room full of opinionated, headstrong ex-receivers seems like a bold strategy for that. For instance, Hall of Famer Cris Carter believes you should have to make the catch, stand up, and hand the football to a referee in order for a catch to count. Others think possession and two feet down is enough. Surely, there were countless other rabble-rousers firing off their own ideas as Goodell and his sidekicks scribbled them down.

It’s a good development that Goodell wants to overhaul NFL catch rules and make them simpler for officials and easier to digest for viewers. It just doesn’t sound like his quest for simplification is off to a strong start.

— By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at matthew.dolloff@bbgi.com.