NFL Makes “Football Move” Rule Change

A ‘Football Move'; two words that have driven Dallas and Detroit crazy. Dallas lost to the Green Bay packers in part due to Dez Bryant’s infamous incomplete pass. Picture it for a moment, remember the emotion of the game.

It’s fourth and two, down by five. The NFC divisional game is on the line. Dez Bryant has been blanketed in double coverage for the entire game. Romo sees single coverage and sends Bryant on a sprint down the sideline. Romo gets the time to air it out… Bryant makes the catch! Touchdown! Wait, did he make the catch? What just happened?

Bryant seems to have maintained control but then the ball comes loose… Did he purposefully stretch to the goal line, or was it an accident? Regardless, Mike McCarthy, Head Coach for the Packers, wasted no time to throw the red flag. Green Bay goes on to win.

So did the ‘football move’ statement in the wording of the rule have an effect on the outcome of an entire game? To avoid future confusion and controversy, the NFL has removed the ‘football move’ component. The rule now states:

“A player is considered to be going to the ground if he does not remain upright long enough to demonstrate that he is clearly a runner. If a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass (with or without contact by an opponent), he must maintain control of the ball until after his initial contact with the ground, whether in the field of play or the end zone. If he loses control of the ball and the ball touches the ground before he regains control, the pass is incomplete. If he regains control prior the ball touching the ground, the pass is complete.”

So under these new rules was Dez Bryant and the Dallas Cowboys robbed of a victory? No, because his movements after the catch ended in the ball touching ground. So does this help clarify anything? Application is always in contrast with intent… or in simpler terms: we will have to wait to wait and see.

The problem extends further then Dallas. As an avid Lions fan, I remember vividly the loss to the Bears due to Calvin Johnson not ‘finishing the process’ of the catch. With clear control Calvin touches the ground, with ball in hand, in an effort to regain balance and stand up. This prompted a debate about what completing the process of the catch meant that resulted in the ‘football move’ wording.

For better or worse, the Calvin Johnson Rule and Dez Bryant Rule inextricably links the games two most dominant receivers. One might think this is just another way Bryant is chasing Megatron for the media’s crown of best receiver; he couldn’t let Johnson have a rule named after him without his own.

Actually, Bryant was very positive following the playoff loss. He stated, “You can’t hang your head after a game. You can’t even get mad. You just have to accept it. We’re going to keep fighting and move on.” Right on Dez, but both of those were still catches.