The Blame Game: Who’s Responsible for the NFL’s Convoluted Catch Rules?


Let’s face it: The NFL’s rules on what constitutes a legal catch are ruining football (along with the many different interpretations of those rules by the referees).

There was a time when amazing, acrobatic, physics-defying catches by super-talented wide receivers would be the most exciting part of watching a football game.

When a once-in-a-longtime play is unfolding in football, you don’t want to have to use your brain to be analyzing every little detail of the play and mentally matching those details up with the rulebook. You want it to be an emotional experience that makes you scream, jump out of your seat or throw whatever electronic device is closest to you (depending on which team you’re rooting for).

But now we have no choice but to be skeptical of a completed catch on these brilliant plays because the NFL hates us.

And why would the league bother changing the rule? After all, we’re talking about the NFL even more because of the bad officiating and stupid rulebook. The NFL has turned into a real sport + the allure of drama and soap opera-y plots off the field a la professional wrestling. That’s a recipe for billions of dollars.

So if we can’t get the NFL to simplify its rules, don’t we at least want to know how all this catch/non-catch bullshit came into existence in the first place? Who’s really responsible for these constant headaches we deal with almost weekly at this point?

Many experts will say it all started in 1999 with the “Burt Emanuel Rule”. Emanuel was a receiver for the Tampa Bay Bucs, and his team was facing the St. Louis Rams in that season’s NFC Championship Game. Towards the end of the game, with the Bucs losing 11-6, Emanuel caught a key 2nd down pass to keep Tampa’s hopes alive. But then the refs reviewed the catch, which no one could figure out the reason for doing, and determined it was an incompletion because the tip of the ball touched the ground while Emanuel was securing the ball. Two plays later, the Bucs’ chances were ruined and the Rams were on to the Super Bowl. During the offseason, the league changed the rule so that the ball could now touch the ground during a legal catch as long as the receiver maintained control. But this apparently brought about a lot of gray area, which is the same gray area the refs tend to bungle on a weekly basis now. It’s all here in this fantastic explanation.

But I’d like to throw out a different theory today. If you’ll bare with me for just another five minutes or so, I can prove definitively that this entire situation is the city of Cleveland’s fault.

First of all, the root cause of all these problems doesn’t reside with a single rule change. It goes back much further than that. You know what would immediately wipe away all this controversy about catching a football? If the forward pass never came into the NFL in the first place! Think about it. No forward pass = no players having the burden of catching a pass. It’s so obvious. So let’s go waaaaay back in history on the forward pass.

Please follow along as I use Wikipedia as my source for all quotes you’re about to see:

  • “1905 had been a bloody year on the gridiron; the Chicago Tribune reported 18 players had been killed and 159 seriously injured.”
    • Wait just a second. 18 people DIED while playing football in 1905? What the hell? I’m going to have to dig deeper into that at some point, but not today. But that fact stopped me in my tracks for about 20 minutes while researching this.
  • “There were movements to outlaw the game, but U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt personally intervened and demanded that the rules of the game be reformed.”
    • Thank you, Teddy. I wish there was some way I could personally repay you for saving football.
  • First legal pass: “On September 5, 1906, St. Louis University’s Bradbury Robinson’s first attempt at a forward pass fell incomplete and resulted in a turnover under the 1906 rules.”
    • Hold up. In 1906, any pass that was incomplete was a turnover? And we think the current rules are effed up?
  • “St. Louis coach Eddie Cochems is to forward passing what the Wright brothers are to aviation and Thomas Edison is to the electric light, according to historians.”
    • So all of this controversy over Dez Bryant’s non-catch, Megatron’s non-catch…it’s all this guy’s fault!
  • “This is disputed by historian David Nelson and others, who concluded that the first forward passes were thrown on Christmas Day 1905 in a match between two small colleges in Kansas.”
    • Ohh, so that’s why we actually celebrate Christmas. Because it’s the birthday of modern football. That makes so much more sense than what the Catholics celebrate Christmas for.
  • “According to Nelson, in that Christmas Day game, one team completed three passes and the other team completed two.”
    • Ahh, so your classic Titans-Jaguars game. Got it.
  • “That same St. Louis team led by Cochems was the first team to use the forward pass as a central feature to the offensive scheme as they compiled an undefeated 11-0 season in which they outscored opponents by a combined score of 407 to 11.”
    • Yeah, but did they win the Super Bowl? Because if not, they are HUGE CHOKERS!
  • “In 1913, Notre Dame head coach Jesse Harper showed how the forward pass could be used by a smaller team to beat a bigger one, first utilizing it to defeat rival Army. After it was used on a national stage in this game, the forward pass rapidly gained popularity.”
    • Of course this is Notre Dame’s fault! Everything’s Notre Dame’s fault!
  • “The first forward pass in a professional football game may have been thrown in an Ohio League game played on October 25, 1906. This Ohio League was the predecessor of today’s NFL. The quarterback of the Massillon Tigers, one of pro football’s first franchises, completed a short pass on that day while his team was on its way to winning 61-0 over the hapless West Virginia Mountain Staters.”
    • First of all, how dare they run up the score like that? Where’s the sportsmanship?!?!
    • More importantly, do you know where Massillon, Ohio, is located? Yep, just a little bit south of Cleveland. No wonder that city has endured the shittiest sports luck over the past century. It’s karma! They brought the forward pass into professional football. They’re responsible for all these stupid rules about catching, non-catching, two feet inbounds, toe drags, “acts common to the game”. Fucking Cleveland did this to us!
    • Or, I’m willing to split the responsibility between Cleveland and Notre Dame, if that’s what you’d prefer.

So there you have it. If it wasn’t for these barbarians mutilating such a beautiful sport, we’d probably still be treated to awesome games like this in 2015:

The First and Only College Football Blog You’ll Ever See on This Website: “The Dream” Picks All the Bowl Winners

As you may have seen, I’ve been known to write a football blog or two in my day. But everything I write covers the NFL. Why don’t I ever write about college football? Because I don’t give a damn about football players until they become whining, overpaid, entitled assholes. I don’t write about college football because I don’t know it very well. I’m the guy who thought USC stood for “University of South Carolina” as recently as three years ago.

But I understand that hundreds, no, thousands of people look to the WBFF blog as their #1 source for sporting information. So it gives me great pleasure to introduce a new guest blogger who’s going to provide all my readers with the winning picks in each college bowl game this season. We’ll refer to him by his preferred nickname, “The Dream.” I don’t wanna give away his real identity because I don’t want people going after him if he loses you all thousands of dollars over the next three weeks.

But I know that’s not going to happen anyway. You see, even though I know nothing about the college game, that doesn’t stop me from getting an itchy trigger finger when it comes to making bets every Saturday. So rather than blindly pick some winners every week like a woman picking her way through the March Madness brackets, “The Dream” has been my go-to guy for college locks. And I gotta tell you, this year he was something like 9-0-1 against the spread in his locks. The reason why there are only 10 games in that record is because he calls a lock only when he truly means it.

I’m really not exaggerating with how good he’s been (it’s been a nice piece of ongoing comedy to see him struggle so much in the weekly NFL pick ’em league we’re in together…such a genius with college, such a disaster with pro). It got to the point where I felt like someone was giving me a weekly allowance, deposited directly into my online gambling account during the 2012 college football season. And during this holiday season, I’m in the giving mood. Why hoard all of “The Dream’s” picks to myself like an Uncle Scrooge when I can spread the wealth among my readers, like a…hold on, searching google for the opposite of Scrooge…like a Fezziwig!

OK, get out your pen and paper or your ctrl + C. Here we go:

Games Already Played

Gildan New Mexico Bowl: Nevada vs Arizona (-10)

  • The Dream’s Pick: Arizona 
  • Final Score: Arizona 49, Nevada 48
  • LOSS

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Toledo vs Utah St (-10.5)

  • The Dream’s Pick: Utah St.
  • Final Score: Utah St 41, Toledo 15
  • WIN

Those two games have already happened and I wanted to show my readers who The Dream picked in them. He’s 1-1, but I promise you he’s heating up.

Upcoming Games

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl: BYU (-3) vs San Diego St

  • The Dream’s Pick: San Diego St

Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl: Ball St vs UCF (-7)

  • The Dream’s Pick: UCF

R+L Carriers Bowl: East Carolina vs Louisiana-Lafayette (-6)

  • The Dream’s Pick: Louisiana-Lafayette

MAACO Bowl: Washington vs Boise St (-5)

  • The Dream’s Pick: Boise St

Sheraton Bowl: Fresno St (-12.5) vs SMU

  • The Dream’s Pick: Fresno St

Little Caesars Pizza Bowl: Western Kentucky (-5.5) vs Central Michigan

  • The Dream’s Pick: Central Michigan

Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman: San Jose St (-7) vs Bowling Green

  • The Dream’s Pick: San Jose St

Belk Bowl: Cincinnati (-7) vs Duke

  • The Dream’s Pick: Cincinnati

Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl: Baylor vs UCLA (PK)

  • The Dream’s Pick: Baylor

AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl: Ohio vs Louisiana-Monroe (-7)

  • The Dream’s Pick: Louisiana-Monroe

Russell Athletic Bowl: Rutgers vs Virginia Tech (-3)

  • The Dream’s Pick: Rutgers

Meineke Car Care of Texas Bowl: Minnesota vs Texas Tech (-13)

  • The Dream’s Pick: No Pick. Let it be known that The Dream is so unsure about this game that he refuses to pick a winner. Be ware.

Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl: Rice vs Air Force (-1)

  • The Dream’s Pick: Rice

Pinstripe Bowl: West Virginia (-4) vs Syracuse

  • The Dream’s Pick: West Virginia

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl: Navy vs Arizona St (-14.5)

  • The Dream’s Pick: Another no pick! I’m starting to wonder if The Dream created such a confusing spreadsheet for himself that he simply forgot to pick a couple games. Either way, this is apparently a stay-away.

Valero Alamo Bowl: Texas vs Oregon St (-2)

  • The Dream’s Pick: Oregon St

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: TCU (-3) vs Michigan St

  • The Dream’s Pick: Michigan St

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: NC State vs Vanderbilt (-7)

  • The Dream’s Pick: NC State

Hyundai Sun Bowl: USC (-10) vs Georgia Tech

  • The Dream’s Pick: USC

AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Iowa St vs Tulsa (PK)

  • The Dream’s Pick: Iowa St

Chick-fil-A Bowl: LSU (-4) vs Clemson

  • The Dream’s Pick: Clemson Gator Bowl: Mississippi St (-2) vs Northwestern

  • The Dream’s Pick: Northwestern

Heart of Dallas Bowl: Purdue vs Oklahoma St (-17)

  • The Dream’s Pick: Purdue

Outback Bowl: Southern Carolina (-5) vs Michigan

  • The Dream’s Pick: Southern Carolina (Let it be known that Michigan is The Dream’s favorite team, so you should feel extra good about this one if he was willing to pick against his alma mater.)

Capital One Bowl: Georgia (-10) vs Nebraska

  • The Dream’s Pick: Georgia

Rose Bowl: Wisconsin vs Stanford (-7)

  • The Dream’s Pick: Wisconsin

Discover Orange Bowl: Northern Illinois vs Florida St (-13)

  • The Dream’s Pick: Northern Illinois

Allstate Sugar Bowl: Louisville vs Florida (-13.5)

  • The Dream’s Pick: Florida

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl: Oregon (-9) vs Kansas St

  • The Dream’s Pick: Kansas St

AT&T Cotton Bowl: Texas A&M (-4.5) vs Oklahoma

  • The Dream’s Pick: Oklahoma

BBVA Compass Bowl: Pittsburgh vs Ole Miss (-3.5)

  • The Dream’s Pick: Ole Miss Bowl: Kent St vs Arkansas St (-4)

  • The Dream’s Pick: Kent St

Discover BCS National Championship: Notre Dame vs Alabama (-10)

  • The Dream’s Pick: Notre Dame


So there you have it. The Dream has spoken. He selected 16 Favorites and 16 Underdogs.

But why weren’t there any locks in all those picks? Well I asked The Dream and he said he didn’t want to lock in any games just yet, especially because some of these games are still three weeks away. But he said he felt best about his Kansas St and Notre Dame picks. Do what you want with that info.