Committee says Bryant ’14 playoff play should be a catch in the future
The NFL competition committee has reached a "unanimous" agreement that some of the league's most debated catch controversies should be ruled complete in the future, according to committee member and New York Giants owner John Mara.
They include plays involving Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant in the 2014 playoffs and Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson in 2010, Mara said, and have prompted a discussion during meetings here at the scouting combine geared toward rewriting the rule for the 2018 season.
"I think where we are unanimous," Mara told ESPN on Tuesday, "[are] plays like the Dez Bryant play in Green Bay, going to the ground, the Calvin Johnson play from a couple of years ago. I think all of us agree that those should be completions. So let's write the language to make them completions."
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has directed the committee to study the issue, prompted by yet another controversial incompletion ruling against Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Jesse James late in the 2017 season. Mara said the committee is not in complete agreement on the James play and acknowledged that past efforts to tweak the rule have failed.
What is different in 2018, in addition to Goodell's insistence on change, is the consensus to find a way to avoid inorganic rulings caused by the requirement to maintain control throughout the process of going to the ground.
"The Jesse James play, I think should be a completion," Mara said, "but I'm not sure we're unanimous on that. But plays where guys seem to make the catch and then make a football move with it, I think most of us agree those should be completions. Now it's just a question of coming up with the right language."
Typically, the competition committee continues rule-change discussions through the spring and makes proposals to owners at league meetings, scheduled this year for March 25-28. Mara said he couldn't be sure that a new catch rule would be ready by then, but said, "We're going to try."
He added: "It's easy to say the rule has got to be changed, but coming up with the right language is a challenge."
Meanwhile, Mara said the committee has discussed the possibility of adding a targeting rule to enhance player safety. But Mara downplayed the possibility of proposing a rule that mirrors the college version, which mandates ejection for a player who hits a defenseless opponent in the head or neck area.
"We've had a lot of discussion about it," Mara said. "I'm not sure we'll ever get to the college rule. But there's been a lot of discussion about it, and we'll have some more."