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Mike Freeman's 10-Point Stance: Does Anyone Know What a Catch Is Anymore?

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterDecember 2, 2015

Nov 29, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant (10) and Seattle Seahawks strong safety DeShawn Shead (35) reach for a pass and Seattle Seahawks strong safety Kam Chancellor (31) make the catch against the Pittsburgh Steelers at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports
Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

1. What is a catch?

On the phone is a future Hall of Fame quarterback. He's one of the most accurate throwers in history. Threw six touchdowns in a game this season. Won a Super Bowl. Knows the sport as well as anyone.

He's the perfect person to ask: "What is a catch?" 

Drew Brees laughs for about five seconds.

"OK, so, here's the deal," he said.

First, before we get to some of the smart points he makes, let's pause for a second. Why does Brees even need a preface to his answer? Shouldn't the answer to "What is a catch?" be a simple one? Not one that needs an introduction to a thesis?

It should be, but it's not. Brees hits on why. I'll get to that in a moment.

The what-is-a-catch phenomenon typifies the officiating buffoonery we've seen this year. One of the reasons the officiating has been so bad is that the rules are so muddled. They are so muddled that it's difficult to tell what is a catch in a passing league.

There was another great example of the catch confusion in Sunday's Pittsburgh-Seattle game. A deep pass to Martavis Bryant was intercepted by Kam Chancellor. It looked like a catch by Chancellor. It was ruled a catch. Then, CBS officiating analyst Mike Carey came on the air and said he would have ruled it an incomplete pass.

"This is one that really—talk about dual possession," he said. "There was not dual possession coming in, but when the receiver hits the ground, and the defender comes in, the ball comes loose; he is out of bounds. When the ball is loose, that ball should be incomplete at that spot."

"He must maintain control when he hits the ground. Both players have the ball, and the ball comes loose. It's kind of survival of the fittest. The ball was loose. It should be an incomplete pass.”

Now, Carey has been mocked for how he seems to make wrong predictions on the air about what a call will be. I'm not joining in the mocking. I like Carey a great deal. I'm using this to point out that even one of the best refs in recent NFL history doesn't seem to be right about what a catch is.

Carey was a damn good official. He did it for 13 years, was referee at a Super Bowl—and at the time of his retirement, he was one of only two senior referees, along with Walt Coleman.

Ironically, Coleman was the referee in the Seahawks game, and Coleman ruled the catch complete. So you had two refs who have worked Super Bowls...two refs who had achieved the highest level of their professional...two refs who saw the same catch differently.

The NFL is starting to realize the mess officiating has become, and how it hurts the product. Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio reported Tuesday that because of the disastrously officiated game in San Francisco this past week, the NFL yanked Pete Morelli's crew from Sunday evening's Indianapolis-Pittsburgh game. Things are so bad the NFL is making public sacrifices of its officials to satisfy angry fans.

Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

Back to Brees, who spoke to Bleacher Report while promoting the Touchdowns for TRX training program.

He made several great points on what's a catch.

"So the rule book has the definition of a catch," said Brees. "We study the rule book; we learn what the rule book says is a catch.

"The problem with the rule, and where all the issues come in, is the football move part of the rule. That's not exactly what it's called, but that's the effect of it. I think everyone who has played football knows what that is, but there remains a difference of opinion with some officials about what a football move means."

Brees is right. One man's football move is another man's...whatever. One ref can see a football move. Another can see a stumble or not one. That's the problem, and as long as that maneuver is a judgement call, it will always remain in flux.

"The main thing we need to do is exercise a little common sense," Brees said.

He's right again. But common sense in the NFL? Pfffttt.

So what is a catch? We still aren't sure. We may never be.

2. GM: 'Jeff Fisher should be gone at the end of the year'

Gary Landers/Associated Press

I've been saying for some time that Jeff Fisher is perhaps the most overrated coach in the modern history of the sport. He continues to prove me right.

The Rams have lost four straight and are on their way to another losing season under Fisher. He's 24-34-1 since coming to the Rams in 2012. A true sign of a coach's impact is how the franchise does over the long term, not just one or two years, and the Rams are getting progressively worse.

Said one AFC general manager: "Jeff Fisher should be gone at the end of the year. If it were any other coach, he would be."

The general manager and others say Fisher gets a pass on some of his coaching disasters because he's a member of the prestigious competition committee. I don't buy this, but I've heard it repeatedly over the past few weeks.

Fisher has shown a remarkable ability to survive despite mediocre results. The fact the team is caught in a potentially nasty situation with a possible move to Los Angeles might get him yet another reprieve.

The good news is he's handling this current debacle really well.

3. Broncos defenders were aiming low on Pats players

Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

It was noticeable that when Rob Gronkowski—and other Patriots tight ends—were catching the football Sunday, Broncos defenders were aiming low. I can't remember a game where I saw so many players flipped upside down from low hits.

Gronkowski injured his knee on that type of low hit. To be clear, the hit, or what the Broncos were doing, wasn't dirty. As Tom Brady told reporters, this is "the way football is being played now."

This is the dilemma football has now. The NFL is—rightfully so—legislating head shots out of the game. But that leads to low hits and potentially more torn ACLs. It's a nasty situation.

4. Adrian Peterson's historic greatness

Adrian Peterson ran for 158 yards Sunday, becoming only the sixth player in NFL history with at least 30 games of 125 or more rushing yards, according to the league. The other people on the list are eternal:

Most career 125-yard rushing games
Player125-yard gamesTotal games
Barry Sanders46153
Jim Brown41118
Walter Payton38190
Eric Dickerson36146
Emmitt Smith34226
Adrian Peterson30115
pro-football-reference.com and NFL Communications

5. Dolphins' problems start with owner

Dec 21, 2014; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross looks on from the sideline during the first half against the Minnesota Vikings at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

I thought the Dolphins had a bright future. I thought Ryan Tannehill would one day be a good quarterback. I thought they could one day supplant a Brady-less Patriots organization as the division's best. I put all of these beliefs in writingI chose...poorly.

Where is owner Stephen Ross in all of this? He always seems to be a little bit absent, a little bit aloof. He has spent money, this is true, but the decision-making process of who Ross hires for coach and general manager has always seemed flawed.

And the franchise will have to rebuild again. Maybe, again, with a new GM and coach. Maybe, again, in a year or so, with a new quarterback. What a mess. And it all starts at the top.

6. The incredible J.J. Watt

HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 29:  J.J. Watt #99 of the Houston Texans gets the crowd pumped up as they play the New Orleans Saints at NRG Stadium on November 29, 2015 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images

From the NFL: J.J. Watt reached 70 career sacks in just his 75th career game Sunday. There is only one person who reached that mark faster. His name was Reggie White, and he did it in 57.

7. Matt Millen: My bad, Lions fans

Paul Sancya/Associated Press

I know that many Lions fans have been waiting for an apology from Matt Millen, who as general manager set a new standard for putridity with his horrible drafting and running of a franchise.

Well, finally, he gave one. It was years late, but it came.

"It was a little bit of a tactical error on my part," Millen said while doing color analysis for the Bucs-Lions contest Sunday (via ESPN). "We had this fleeting dream that I thought maybe I could run a team.

"Sorry Detroit, it didn't quite work out.”

So is Detroit, Matt. So is Detroit.

8. Eagles sure could have used DeSean Jackson

DeSean Jackson is one of the many castoffs of the Chip Kelly regime. Some of the players Kelly dumped were smart evictions. Others were not. Jackson is in the latter category.

He has helped Washington become the best team in the division. A terrible division. But best nonetheless. The Eagles sure could have used him.

Consider this piece of data from the NFL. Jackson's 63-yard touchdown catch against the Giants on Sunday was his 19th career catch of at least 60 yards. That ties him with Lance Alworth, a Hall of Famer, for the fourth-most in league history. And it puts him just four such catches behind record-holder Jerry Rice.

Yeah, the Eagles could have used him.

9. Who exactly are the sheep in this scenario?

Paul Gerke @PaulGerke

Caution: NSFW language. #Bucs QB Jameis Winston offering some sideline motivation/wisdom... But who is the sheep? https://t.co/PuciWfGIVV

This video jibes with what I've heard about Jameis Winston since he got to the Buccaneers. He's become, rather quickly, the team's leader. Players have told me for some time they love his fire and bluntness. That's a good example of it. Still would like to know the identity of said sheep.

10. Literally the dumbest idea of all time

A police union asked the NFL to allow fans to bring guns into stadiums.

Let me repeat that: guns into NFL stadiums.

I'm not sure if there was ever a dumber idea in the history of sports. Just what you need, a bunch of drunk, angry fans at a football game...armed.

What could possibly go wrong?

 

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.

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