As the catch rule changes, one prominent referee sees no real change to how the play will be called on the field.
“Most of the calls that seemed to create the most controversy, we ruled them correctly and then they were overturned on replay,” referee Walt Coleman said Friday, per the Associated Press, in connection with the annual pre-training camp gathering of game officials. “From our standpoint, we’re just going to continue to officiate the plays like we have.”
It’s a stunningly candid assessment, and a somewhat tactful was of saying, “Don’t blame us.” And it has indeed been the excruciating, frame-by-frame application of replay review that has supplanted know-it-when-you-see-it common sense with a micromanaging of decisions made in real time.
The new rule combines objectivity and subjectivity to make it harder to overturn a ruling on the field of a catch and easier to overturn a ruling of a non-catch. Which should lead to more catches. Which is what everyone seems to want.
“People just didn’t understand that you had to hold on to the ball going to the ground,” Coleman said of the former rule. “When you catch the ball and you reach out, everybody thought that should be a catch. The way the rule was written, it wasn’t.”
It’s not that people didn’t understand the prior rule. It’s that people thought the prior rule conflicted with common sense. The new rule doesn’t, if it’s applied in a common-sensical way.