Competition Committee Press Conference Transcript




McKay: Okay, good afternoon. I think I will go first and then I will turn it over to Jeff and to Dean. Usually we go through all the proposals; I’m not sure we need to do that at this time – there were a lot of them. Jeff knows them by heart so he can go through them, but I don’t think we’ll start on that. I think what I’d like to start with today is there is a proposal we didn’t cover on the call the other day and that is Resolution G-2 which was given to the clubs today and that resolution deals with a medical stoppage by the ATC spotter – that’s the spotter that’s upstairs in the press box that will, if passed, will then have the authority to stop the game if they see a player that displays obvious signs of disorientation or is clearly unstable. So in other words, Dean instructs all the officials on the field to make sure we look for players that might be in distress and have them leave the game. But in case we miss a player, this ATC spotter will have the ability to stop the game, to radio to the side judge, I think it is, and have the side judge stop the game, have the player removed for a play, so the player will be looked at. So that is a resolution that we hadn’t covered with any of you last week just because we were still developing it as a committee and it was given to the clubs this morning.

I’ll have Dean cover with you ‘catch/no-catch’ because I know there is interest in that and he’s got video to show you. And I thought I’d have Jeff talk a little bit about – I know we gave you our position on instant replay – the reason we gave it to you in writing is because it was longer than we typically take a position on and there are a lot of different points to it so we just wanted to cover it in writing. So, if you want, I’ll let Jeff talk to you a little bit about replay and all the replay proposals and what we put in writing for you.

Fisher: As we talked during the week we have 13 of the 18 proposals presented by the clubs deal with instant replay in one shape or another. Whether it’s ‘review everything,’ whether it’s to be able to review fouls on defenseless players, whether it’s increase the number of challenges involving the game clock, the play clock, those kinds of things. There is one proposal that the committee favors and that’s the one with respect to the timing on the game clock, not the play clock, but the game clock at the end of the half or the end of the game. And it needs to be more than one second at issue. And so we’re going to obviously see how that goes with the vote.

The committee’s position for years has been to oppose involving fouls in replay for a lot of different reasons – for two different standards that we’ve talked about. We’ve looked at a lot of tape this offseason, we looked at the fouls particularly relating to hits on defenseless players. We had 27 of them this year, we looked at them as a group. We could not agree on a number of them, that’s just the nature of the standard in replay. A number of these fouls will go, on Monday morning, at the league office from the officiating department to player discipline and oftentimes that process will take 20-30 minutes, maybe an hour, to determine whether it was in fact a foul. So you can see the issues that we’re going to have if we involve those things in replay.

The Canadian Football League experimented – a one-year experiment last year – with adding to replay defensive pass interference, where the coach could actually generate the foul. They had 55 instances during the season. Forty-nine of those were initiated by the coach, so the coach basically in essence became an official in those instances and only six were overturned. There are a lot of things at stake and the big thing is the standard. The standard is very, very difficult. The on-the-field, full-speed standard versus the frame-by-frame review and basically what you’re doing is adding another element of subjectivity. So those are the basic reason for the committee being opposed to adding fouls to replay.

Blandino: I’ll take you through the ‘catch/no-catch’. A lot of discussion about the process of the catch. What is and what isn’t possession? This was generated, obviously, with the play from the Divisional Playoff game with Dallas and Green Bay. The committee doesn’t recommend a change to the rule, but looked at the language and tweaked the language in an attempt to make it clearer and easier to understand. For years the requirements for a catch – the way it was communicated in the rule book is control, both feet and then after that the receiver had to have the ball long enough to perform an act common to the game – and that was defined as being able to pitch it, pass it, clearly advance the ball as a runner. I think as part of this discussion around this play it was that ‘act common to the game,’ football move, whatever you want to call it, that I think created some confusion. And so in an effort to clear that up the committee looked at the language and made several changes. So in order to complete a catch, the receiver has to have control, both feet on the ground and he has to have it after that long enough to clearly establish himself as a runner. And this would fall directly in line with our defenseless player rule where we say a receiver is protected until he can clearly establish himself as a runner. What does that mean? That means he has the ability to ward off, avoid, protect himself from the impending contact. And then we get into is the player going to the ground or falling to the ground to make the catch or is he completing the catch while upright? Well, if he can clearly establish himself as a runner, then he’s not going to the ground to make the catch. If he hasn’t clearly established himself as a runner prior to going to the ground, then he has to hold on to the ball until after his initial contact with the ground. And that’s the rule that applied here. When you watch the play, Bryant is going to the ground. He is falling to the ground to make the catch, he has not clearly established himself as a runner prior to going to the ground, so he has to hold on to the ball until after that initial contact with the ground. He’s basically got to hold on to it throughout this action. If the ball touches the ground and comes loose, it’s an incomplete pass. And you’ll see the ball hit the ground and then it pops loose. That’s all part of the catch process and so the committee looked at the language and feels ‘clearly establishing himself as a runner’ makes the rule a little bit easier to understand. And when we talk about ‘clearly establishing himself as a runner,’ just a couple of examples. Where here, the receiver has control, both feet and he clearly becomes a runner and then extends the football out for the goal line. The difference between this play and the Bryant play is that here the receiver has possession, he’s become a runner and then he extends the ball for the goal line. If the ball breaks the plane in possession of a runner, it’s a touchdown at that point. Another example here where the receiver, he’s not going to the ground to make the catch. He has control, both feet down, he has the ability to ward off, protect himself from contact, so he doesn’t have to protect himself when he lands. Just one more example when we talk about holding the ball until after the initial contact you’ll see here Nelson goes to the ground, he lands on the ground and then the defender knocks it loose. That’s a catch because he has completed the requirements, held the ball until after his initial contact. His initial contact is there, then the defender knocks it loose. So the committee looked at a lot of tape, didn’t recommend a change to the rule but wanted to clean up some of the language, put it more in line with the defenseless player rule and the receiver who can clearly establish himself as a runner does not have to hold on to the football if he subsequently goes to the ground to be a catch.

Dean, in the change of that wording on the Calvin Johnson rule, the difference between time to make a football act and establishing yourself as a runner, do you feel there’s any difference in those two? Are there any plans where the ruling changes from one thing to another based on that difference in wording?

Blandino: I don’t think there’s a difference. I think it’s an effort to just make it easier to understand. What gets lost in this rule is the time element and that requirement. That’s the subjective part and it’s hard to quantify that and so the rulebook has done it for years having it long enough to perform an act common to the game. Now what we’re saying is to having it long enough to clearly become a runner, to clearly be able to do something other than just attempting to secure possession of the football. So I don’t think the standard changes, but the way we’re communicating the standard has changed.

Rich, I wanted to follow up on the spotter proposal. What was the impetus for that and was part of it the Edelman situation in the Super Bowl?

McKay: The Edelman situation was a play we looked at and it was part of the issue. There were a couple of other plays that go back a couple of years that we looked at and really it came a little bit from the health and safety committee just saying, “We got the ATC spotters, they’ve got a really good vantage point, they’ve got technology in their booth, they’re communicating pretty well with our trainers and doctors and we’ve got a pretty good rhythm going there, why would we miss a player where a player shouldn’t come out?” And maybe this becomes the fail-safe. So that was the genesis of it. We do not expect this to be a rule that gets used a lot. We expect it to be a fail-safe when people just don’t see this player and the distress the player may have had, the ATC spotter does and stops the game.

Dean, back to the Dez play. I don’t think there’s any question that while he’s falling, he does reach for the goal line there. Was there any though that – I understand what you’re saying about establishing yourself as a runner – but that act alone, even though it’s happening while he’s falling, that that could be considered a football act? To maybe change it to include that?

Blandino: There was a lot of discussion about that. I think in this rule, the way it’s written, the way it’s being administered, is it’s about a consistent standard. There was a lot of discussion, well should that football move, attempted football move, should that trump going to the ground and the requirement of holding on to the football and I think once you go down that path, it becomes more subjective. What is, what isn’t a football move? Right now the rule is consistent. We’re not talking about a lot of plays – I understand this is a significant play in the game – but we’re not talking a lot of plays over the course of the last five seasons since the Calvin Johnson play.

This allows us to consistently officiate the play. It does, if we change the rule to make this a catch, you would create more turnovers in the middle of the field. You would change the standard on the upright player and how long he’s had the football. That was all discussed. I think ultimately the committee felt that this allows us to be consistent in the application of the rule:

Question on the medical time out and the concussion protocol: Is there a way to know that a player has enough time to get evaluated and get the regulation seven to 10 minutes before he comes back out:

McKay: The way the rule was written, it just states that the player must undergo the required protocol. So it goes back to the trainer and the doctor. They’ll have to go through the protocol. Now, that protocol may lead to concussion examination and it may not. But that’s the way the rule was written.

What are the semantics as far as the application? Will it be the head official with a buzzer, will it go to the sideline? How is it going to be applied?:

Blandino: The biggest change is just the timing of it. Right now the ATC spotter is doing this. He is communicating with the medical staff if he sees a situation. This (resolution) now allows the ATC spotter to communicate directly with the game officials through their wireless communication system. He can say, ‘we have to get 82 out of the game.’ So it will happen before the next snap. He’ll communicate with a member of the officiating crew and that game official will immediately stop the game. If the play clock is running, they will stop. They will freeze. The player will be escorted to the sideline and the medical staff will attend to him if they need to on the field. Or they will take him off to the sideline to attend to him.  Then everything will start up again. The clocks will wind, it’s not a team timeout. The quarterback can’t go to the sideline, coach-to-player [communication] will be shut off. The player will leave the field to get the appropriate attention and we’ll start the game back up again.

What about in the case of Edelman? Won’t that possibly change the dynamics of the game if the team can’t re-huddle, if you’re in a certain formation and you lose a key player?:

Blandino: They will be able to substitute. In the case of the offense bring in the new player, the defense will have the chance to match up. But we will start the play clock where it was, unless it was inside 10 seconds. Then we will reset back to 10. But the thinking is, we didn’t want to create a situation where a team could potentially gain a competitive advantage or disadvantage through this process.

Dos that have to be voted on?:

McKay: Yes.

On the overtime proposal, do you have figures or numbers on… since the current system came in, how many one possession games end on a touchdown and how many went two possessions anyway?:

Blandino: Since the rule changed in 2012 we have had 49 regular season overtime games and in 42 of those both teams had a possession. About 85 percent, which is significantly more than where we were. I think the committee was alarmed with some of the numbers from ’94 to about 2010 where that number was about 58 percent and the team winning the toss was a higher winning percentage than where we were in 2014. The team winning the toss in 2014 won the game 27 percent of the time, which is lower than it’s been. Just trying to take the coin toss out of it but maintaining that sudden-death aspect. Because the way the rule is now you still have sudden death in that the game can still end on any one play. If you made it a requirement for both teams to have a possession, then you eliminate that aspect of the rule.

McKay: The statistic that I would say shows the committee got this thing right is that from 2012-2014, the team that wins the coin toss is winning the game at 46.9 percent and the team that loses the coin toss is winning the game at 46.9 percent, so we’ve ended up kind of right where we wanted to be. Before it was 64 percent, we were at high numbers for the team winning the coin toss.

In regards to the eligible and ineligible guys in the tackle box as well, I noticed it was the Competition Committee that submitted that rule. Were there any alternatives options you discussed?:

Fisher: Yes, we looked at the college rule, which is unique and which works for them. But in the event that there is a change, they actually require that they put a new jersey on. We are a little uncomfortable with that concept for obvious reasons. We also did not want to lose the opportunity, we had an instance in Atlanta where they lost a couple of offensive linemen and a tight end goes in to play tackle and he’s reporting. We didn’t want to lose that. We still want to allow the offensive lineman to go to the tight end position in goal line situations. When we looked at everything with a broad brush it became apparent that it is also difficult to officiate and enforce, because you’ve got offenses hurrying up, you’ve got a referee that has to tell the defense who’s eligible and who’s not eligible. We felt the best thing to do was to put that eligible number in the box that gives the defense a chance to recognize it if you need to do it. That also gives a chance to be enforced. You know there was a play in Tennessee this past year where both the tackles and the guards were eligible players that reported ineligible, and where they in essence almost executed the Stanford-Cal play, where they all start lateraling the ball. We didn’t want to take that part out of the game as well.

On page two of the committee’s position on instant replay, you talk about the need to improve consistency among officials replacing officials. Did you see improvement in 2014 and how far do you have to go to get it to where you want it to be?

Blandino: Yes, I think we have seen improvement. I think the scrutiny is at an all-time high, and we accept that. That is part of the challenge. I think we’ve seen improvement but we know that we have to continue to work to get even better. And what we are doing is we are really focusing on the staff and do we have to have more turnover? Do we have to get more officials? Look at the low performers and move them off of the staff? And physical fitness is a really important aspect of what we are doing. We are working with sports nutritionists and performance consultants to get our officials up to speed in that area. And that is something we are really committed to.

On the extra point, you have the one proposal to move the ball, snap the ball back and there has also been some talk about moving the ball to the one-yard line to encourage two-point conversions – any chance those get combined?

McKay: I think on the extra point it kind of typifies what we do as a league. We kind of start this discussion and keep the discussion going on for a number of years. And this has been going on for a couple of years. This year you have the proposal from New England, which is to move it back to the 15-yard line, snap it there and go. You have last year, Pittsburgh’s Coach Tomlin pushing the idea of what about if we put the ball at the one-yard line and therefore incentivize teams to go for two more often. I’ll be interested to see tomorrow where this discussion leads us. We’ve been down this path before where we will have this discussion for a number of years. You never know what will happen. Whether a proposal will have enough to get 24 votes – that is not an easy thing to do. There are some of us who were on the committee for a long time and we really thought the two point play at no time had a chance to ever pass. Now it seems like we had the two-point play for a long time. Sometimes it takes some time and we will see what tomorrow brings.

On if there is any chance of eliminating extra points:

McKay: It is not something we’ve discussed. I would say no. I have not heard that proposal. Nobody has made that proposal. And I think last year we kind of said in the room that that wasn’t the solution we were looking for.

From a coach’s standpoint, the change in the language on catch/no catch does it make sense to you? Does it make it more understandable?

Fisher: Yes, we spent a lot of time on it and I think it really clears things up. It really does. From a coach’s standpoint, if you are going to the ground, hang on to the ball. It is really that simple. That is how you are going to coach it. But to include if you become a runner, I think it really cleans things up for us. Yes, I think like Dean said earlier, if you start talking about reaching the ball out or doing something like that on the way to ground, you just invite a lot of gray area back into the interpretation.






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