Let's Fix The NFL's Stupid Rules On Catches

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Drew Magary’s Thursday Afternoon NFL Dick Joke Jamboroo runs every Thursday during the NFL season. Email Drew here.

In case you missed it last week, Falcons running back Devonta Freeman fell victim to the dreaded CalDez JohnBryant Non-Rule that automatically invalidates any potentially fun and awesome catch. Here is a photo of Freeman, ball secure in his hands, crossing the goal line. And here is video of that same play as Freeman stretches out for the go-ahead touchdown:

Now, Freeman scored just a few seconds after this catch was overturned, putting Atlanta ahead of the Skins and bringing great joy to the world. But that doesn’t diminish how annoying this call was, especially since Freeman crossed the plane of the end zone before losing control of the ball. As football fans, we are told time and again that crossing the plane is all that matters—that you have now officially scored and everything afterward is irrelevant—and yet here is the only example in the game where that is NOT the case.


Later that day Cowboys tight end Jason Witten, in a play that was similar to Freeman’s, caught a ball that was ruled a fumble, and not an incompletion. Here is the video of that play:

The reasons that Witten’s catch was a catch and Freeman’s catch was not a catch can be found deep inside the bowels of the NFL rulebook. There, you will find the groan-worthy language that drowns a pure and simple athletic act in a sea of legalese. Here are the two sample passages that will make your blood boil:

“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 out-of-bounds (with or without contact by an opponent) in the process of making a catch at the sideline, he must maintain complete and continuous control of the ball until after his initial contact with the ground.”


You hear some form of this in virtually every broadcast, much to everyone’s regret. I am well aware that this language exists for a reason. We all want the act of catching a football to be simple, but it’s not always so clear cut. What if you land on a beaver BEFORE you hit the ground? What then?! Hence, you get things like “the process” and “the demonstration of runnerdom” coming up on every controversial replay. As always, the NFL wants to be fair and good, and in their idiotic nobility they have farted all over themselves by adhering to a bunch of clumsy overwrought bullshit.

The result is a rule book that is quite strict about what can and cannot be labeled a catch, and that’s bad because there should be MORE catches. It is inherently more fun to watch a game with more catches than less. NO ONE DENIES THIS. So, to that end, here should be the basic rules of a legal catch in the NFL:

  1. You have secured clear possession of ball with either one hand or two. No juggling. We hate jugglers.
  2. You have both feet down, or the standard one knee/one elbow/one buttcheek down.
  3. That’s it.

If a defender knocks the ball out of your hands after the first two rules have been fulfilled, that’s a fumble. Will that cause more fumbles? Yes. Are fumbles exciting? FUCK YEAH THEY ARE. As it stands now, the NFL is too scared to make more things a fumble, because they want everything to be FAIR and they don’t want coaches to complain. They only want to rule a catch a catch in the safest scenario possible, with a secured ball in the hands of a forward runner or a concussed man lying half-dead and motionless on the ground. Anything else is too fraught with uncertainty for them.


This is bad for football because an incomplete catch is a waste of everyone’s time. It is, as a viewer, the least optimal outcome of any play from the line of scrimmage. No yardage is gained to benefit the offense. No yardage is lost to further benefit the defense. The clock stops. Nothing happens, except that we all get a little bit older and closer to death. If the NFL had any brains (unlikely!), they would endeavor to reduce incompletions, especially now that every quarterback seems to be hurt and/or terrible. And the easiest way to do that is by making more catches count. Catches are good. Catches are fun. God forbid Roger Goodell discover such things.

The Games

All games in the Jamboroo are evaluated for sheer watchability on a scale of 1 to 5 Throwgasms.


Five Throwgasms

Patriots at Colts: I’m not sure Tom Brady is gonna make it through this season without suffering an aneurysm. I mean, he was crazy fired up last week just because he beat Brandon Weeden. No mortal man can remain that intense for six months straight. I know he’s THIRSTY FOR VENGEANCE and fully capable of finishing off unfinished business from the 2007 season. But if that team goes 19-0 and wins it all, they’re gonna have to hook his ass up to an IV bag the size of an oil tanker to keep him from pulling an Urban Meyer. He’ll probably give Goodell the finger on the dais and then drop dead on the spot, with his nutrition guru feeding him bottles of PlasmaLyte to revive him.


Panthers at Seahawks: I won four bucks in Daily Fantasy last week (REAL PEOPLE CAN WIN!) in one of those multiplier pools that offers you close to “50/50” odds of doubling your money, like laying chips down on RED at the roulette wheel. The problem is that those big pools are marked as sucker pools by veteran (ugh) gamblers, who use bots to enter those pools dozens of times over with the same lineup. One dude above me in the pool entered the same lineup 85 times. The guy above HIM entered his lineup 104 times. So for the casual player (why aren’t you betting big money like a real man?!), your odds aren’t REALLY 50/50 because there are stacks of optimized lineups fucking up the curve.

Like I said here, daily fantasy is succeeding because it’s legitimately fun to play. So if you sign up for ButtDuel or whatever, you’re better off challenging friends or co-workers to wagers rather than entering a big pool and getting marked as an easy target by “pros”. Christ, I don’t wanna live in a world where a gambling professional has his hot sports knowledge validated by actual cash winnings. Those people are unbearable.


Four Throwgasms

Giants at Eagles: There’s no way Chip Kelly is sticking around next year if both the USC and Texas jobs are open. Why bother? He can flee to Austin and be a GOD for the next 20 years. It’s worth leaving Philly as an abject failure. No one has ever regretted leaving Philly. I know Nick Saban will always be a failure in NFL terms, but he’s doing just fine now. I don’t think he’s all that broken up about what happened in Miami when Alabama boosters are stuffing gold bricks into his mailbox.


Three Throwgasms

Falcons at Saints: My dad visited me last week and if you ever have your parents visit, NEVER tell your dad that something is broken or in need of repair. Because here is what happens:

DAD: I bet I could fix that.

YOU: No, Dad. It’s fine. Just leave it.

DAD: Do you have half a PVC pipe? Because what we can do is…

YOU: Dad, stop.

DAD: (magically produces toolbox from back of car, hikes up pants) No, no. We can fix it, so let’s fix it!


YOU: Don’t fucking touch anything. We’re about to eat.

DAD: (Starts ripping out drywall) Has your drywall always been this crumbly? You should have replaced this a long time ago.



Anyway, it was a lovely visit.

Broncos at Browns: My parents also watched football with me and gave a running commentary on everything, including the Viagra lady commercial. “Why is her bed in the center of the room? Look at her! SHE HAS NO ONE!” My parents are the Cris Collinsworth of LIFE.


Bengals at Bills

Chiefs at Vikings

Cardinals at Steelers

Chargers at Packers


Two Throwgasms

Skins at Jets: Everything about Kirk Cousins makes perfect sense if you picture him as a McCown brother. He’s not very good, but he can occasionally rack up some yards and keep your average team afloat long enough to avoid outright humiliation. He is a respectably bad quarterback. This is why Skins fanboys ADORE him. They’re like, “Sure, he threw the game-losing pick-six, but he was really trying!” I bet they spend 10 years trying to make Kirk Cousins happen. It’s gonna be great.


Texans at Jaguars: I turned 39 a while back, and the thing you discover in your 30s is that your farts are more or less uncontrollable at night. During the day, I have some measure of flatulence control. But when I go to take a piss at night, it’s a SYMPHONY. The farts don’t stop. I’ve woken up my wife MANY times because my butt won’t stop trumpeting its presence at 3 a.m. It’s awful. Why is there so much farting at night? Is there a time release in middle-aged rectums? I deserve to die alone.

Ravens at Niners: I saw the Sonic ads for ice cream cake shakes and had to restrain myself from fleeing to my car and driving whatever length of time was necessary to obtain one. In theory, an ice cream cake shake would just be a cake shake, since a shake already has ice cream in it. But if we’re talking about sticking a Fudgie the Whale cake in a blender, I MUST HAVE IT. I’ll shoot you dead to get my hands on one.


One Throwgasm

Dolphins at Titans: I understand why Playboy magazine has decided to stop being a porno mag in order to stay solvent, but who’s gonna be the first guy to crack open a copy of the new and respectable Playboy out in public? There’s no way everyone has gotten the news yet. If you read Playboy next to an old lady on a plane, she’s gonna think you’re a criminal pervert. Even if you say to her, “No, it’s okay now! There are no tits!” she won’t believe you. I’m not brave enough to make the first move.


Also, what happens to all the special edition Playboy anthologies now? Playboy’s Book of Lingerie? Playboy’s Nudes? Playboy’s Girls In Butter? Are they gonna get rid of those, too? THERE WON’T BE ANYTHING LEFT TO STEAL. When I was a boy you had to work for your porn by God!

Bears at Lions: I’m not sure there’s any coming back from getting the hook for Dan Orlovsky. I know I rationalized the quarterback crisis a few weeks ago, but this season has already featured the struggles of Matt Stafford, Colin Kaepernick, Andrew Luck, RG3, Sam Bradford, Ryan Tannehill, and even Peyton Manning. That is not an ideal outcome. Someone who is NOT Andy Dalton needs to step the fuck up.


Pregame Song That Makes Me Want To Run Through A Goddamn Brick Wall

“Violent Shiver” by Benjamin Booker, as submitted by Colin. This is fucking good! Imagine the White Stripes if the White Stripes weren’t insufferable. This is that! That’s all I ever wanted out of life. I don’t ask much.


I’ve been more into drummer fantasies lately. Like I usually imagine I’m the lead guitarist AND the singer. But sometimes I am HUMBLE and decide to take up the sticks instead, setting the backbeat and laying the FOUNDATION OF ASSKICKING. It’s nice changeup when I’m looking like a pud on an elliptical trainer. I never daydream about playing the bass.

Suicide Pick Of The Week

Last week’s suicide picks of Baltimore, the Giants, and New England went 2-1, making me 9-6 on the season. Again, we now pick three teams for your suicide pool, along with one thing that makes want to commit suicide. This week, the picks are Denver, the Jets, Tennessee, and watching your baseball team choke. I feel like choking in the playoffs is far more painful in baseball than in any other sport. It sucks to blow a lead in the Super Bowl. It sucks to blow a 3-1 lead in an NBA playoff series. But baseball is a slow deliberate affair that gives you all the time in the world to DREAD your choke. It’s gutting to watch any lead slowly erode over the course of a few games, or even a few outs. Even if you DON’T choke, there’s still plenty of time to contemplate the choke and picture it in your mind. No wonder Cubs fans are shitfaced all the time.


Gregg Easterbrook Memorial Haughty Dipshit Of The Week


Every surviving newspaper in America has at least one geriatric hot taker whose brilliant, Garry Trudeau-esque brand of “satire” is lost on pretty much everyone. That brings us to L.A. Times columnist and lawn monitor Chris Eskine, who wrote that Millennial Pledge article that everyone hated…

I will not be smut.

I’m still trying to figure out what that means. I’m at a genuine loss. Is he saying you should not magically transmogrify into a copy of Swank magazine?


Anyway, whenever a widely derided old-man column gets passed around, it is apparently the industry standard for that old man to then double down on his stupid column with a follow-up column, Lee Judge-style. This is what Erskine has done. BEHOLD:

I think what really frosted the millennials was when I suggested they pledge not to name their first-born son “Uber.”


No. No one was going to do that. What really frosted everyone was that your takes are shit.

Millennials… proved to be frightfully smug and humorless over the whole thing. To me, this is what you get when you raise an entire generation without spanking.


So true. If only we had beaten the confidence out of these children, they wouldn’t text and drive and name their children Seamless!

I seemed to cause a lot of confusion when I dubbed myself a millennial, which seemed at odds with my photo. Note that I didn’t indicate which millennium.


O HO HO! You clever rapscallion. I see what you did there. Turns out anyone of any age can technically label themselves a millennial, which means the term has no real meaning, which means that any generalization about millennials is bound to be flawed. STRONG WORK.

Of course, the irony of this new generation gap is that the baby boomers were famous as the generation that didn’t respect authority. Now they’ve raised a generation that doesn’t respect them. That’s like an irony Double-Double, animal-style.


With extra paradox cheese! And spicy contradiction mustard! OH THE DELICIOUS SUBVERSIVE FLAVORINGS.

Look, I get it. We haven’t handed the millennials a world in mint condition. No parents ever do. But we’ve spread democracy, reduced Communism, virtually eliminated the constant threat of nuclear elimination.


You have? The world’s foremost economic superpower right now is a fucking Communist dictatorship. And have we not been at war with AfghanAsiaRaq for two decades now because we’re scared shitless of suitcase nukes?

Has any single one of you punks been drafted?

If only we still had conscription laws to send young people off to die! THAT WOULD TEACH THEM SOME GODDAMN RESPECT.

The oceans are cleaner…


…the roads safer, the economy more diverse.

That’s true. It is a more diverse economy. Billionaires have investments in Dubai now! Be grateful for that as you are forced to work 16 different freelance jobs.

And, oh yeah, it was boomers who invented your precious iPhones and personal computers.


YOU ARE WELCOME, PUNKS. Where do all these Albom types come from? Were they all mass-produced in a Flint, Mich., processing plant back in 1951? Why are they all so frighteningly similar? Does someone pass their collective talking points around in Lionel train set catalogs?

The worst part of all this is that I am ALSO a suburban dad. This is my future, man. I’m gonna be shaking my cane at the OcuLennials and bitching in my FoxSpin column about how the TEENS don’t get my humor. I am scared. I should go do heroin or something.


Emmitt Smith’s Lock Of The Week!


“This week, I like the underfeeded Panters (+7) to win in Saddle, the Beliebered Colts (+8) to stay computertive versus the Pats, and the Fourteen Knighters (+3) to beat the Raylans! I do not believe John Harbong can turn around this Raylan team. They are soft at the line of scrotum! I wonder if they bought a bit too much into their press clittings. They got a LOT of preseason hyphen! To me, that can breeze arrowpants.”

2014 Emmitt Smith record: 4-5

Fantasy Player Who Deserves To Die A Slow, Painful Death

Devonta Freeman. Every year, there is one back that breaks out and has a monster season. Do I ever properly identify this mystery back? No. I do not. Instead, I draft Marshawn Lynch, and then I watch him suffer a nagging injury that hurts his productivity ALL SEASON LONG while some other guy in my league like HouseO Fuckboy ends up with the stud. It’s not right. HouseO didn’t have some secret info on that shit! I GOT WHORED.


Fire This Asshole!

Is there anything more exciting than a coach losing his job? All year long, we’ll keep track of which coaches will almost certainly get fired at year’s end or sooner. And now, your potential 2015 chopping block:

Joe Philbin - FIRED!

Chip Kelly

Mike Pettine

Chuck Pagano

Tom Coughlin

Jim Caldwell

Mike McCoy

Jim Tomsula

Jeff Fisher

Mike Tomlin

Andy Reid

Jay Gruden

Can someone tell Jeff Fisher to stop attempting 90-yard field goals? Does he know kickers have limited range? He’ll kick a field goal from ANYWHERE, even when his team is down by three touchdowns. It doesn’t make any goddamn sense. Every Rams possession is a cool fake punt, followed by Greg Zuerlein shanking a field goal from Mars. Their coaching baffles me.


Great Moments In Poop History

Reader Beua sends in this story I call THE POOP PANTHER:

One summer during law school, I was interning at a law firm and subletting an apartment with a couple of other guys in Midtown Manhattan. This apartment was on the fourth floor of the building (which was also the top floor), and up a spiral staircase was my “bedroom”, which was basically just a loft space that also had a door that opened outside onto the roof. All of the buildings on this block were the same height, and all of their roofs were connected, but mine was the only one with a living space on that level so I pretty much had a huge private terrace. I used to enjoy unwinding up there after work either by myself or with friends, drinking beer and taking in the sights on the street below.

One evening, I went running in Central Park with my girlfriend and started to feel an uneasy rumbling in my bowels that often comes with bouncing them around for 45 minutes. This was a newish relationship and my girlfriend and I weren’t yet openly discussing our bodily functions with each other, so I didn’t say anything. By the time we got back to the apartment I was feeling ok, so I told her to go ahead and shower (in the only bathroom in the place), figuring I could stealthily take care of business when it was my turn.

Of course, as soon as she hopped in the shower, all hell broke loose and I suddenly felt like my ass was about to open up and spew like The Exorcist had come to town. With the bathroom occupied, I called an audible, grabbed a plastic grocery bag from the kitchen and waddled up the stairs and out to the roof. Under cover of darkness, I ripped off my underwear, threw the bag on the ground as a poopy placemat and proceeded to unleash an ungodly torrent of toxic sludge. As the waves of sweet relief washed over me, I said a silent prayer for my underwear, gave it a quick wipe, and left the whole disgusting mess as it lay, figuring I could dispose of it properly in the morning.

Cue the next day. My girlfriend took off and I steeled myself to confront, in stark daylight, the wreckage that my ass hath wrought. I stepped outside onto the roof and looked around. NOTHING. I shit you not...there was no shit! I looked everywhere—all over my roof, the adjoining roofs, even the street below. Everything had disappeared—the shit, the bag, the underwear...did I mention the shit? I was completely dumbfounded and, to this day, I have no idea what happened to it all. Either there is a Poop Fairy, or somebody one night long ago stumbled upon some poop soup while roof-hopping in New York City and decided to have themselves a smelly souvenir.


It was me. I took it.

Gametime Snack Of The Week


Banana bread! The bread that’s cake! Witness the subset of the bread family that—along with zucchini bread, pumpkin bread, and cranberry loaf—isn’t bread at all! It’s more like one giant, sliceable muffin.

Gametime Cheap Beer Of The Week


ÞURS STERKUR! From Damian and Paul comes this metal Viking brew:

A friend of mine and I came across this can of swill while backpacking in Iceland before the first weekend of college football games. Noticing the stout, spear-wielding, Nordic God on the front, and at 7% ABV, we decided that it had to be consumed. We purchased a 6-pack and struggled our way through the first couple.

Oh, and that first letter P? It is pronounced with a “Th-“ which had to be Googled. The entire Icelandic language is incomprehensible.


I just picture Bjork drinking this and then running across a frozen hot spring in a giant bird costume. The guy on the can is very frightening to me. He looks like he’s trying to escape prison in Valhalla to avenge the death of his family. I MUST AVOID HIM. I also like that “thurs sterkur” sounds like BERSERKER. That’s no coincidence. MY LOVE FOR YOU IS TICKING CLOCK ÞURS STERKUR...

Jim Tomsula’s Lifehack Of The Week!

“If you just try to grill a goat’s head, it’s not gonna work. I coached in Eastern Europe for six years and there were dead goats everywhere. You had to let the head simmer in water or canned tomato cocktail, and you needed a LOT of paprika. What I did was… I would put the head in my ‘cooking drum’ in the morning, and then I would go patch up the holes in the floor of my Reliant Robin, and then the head would be ready just before bedtime… so long as no gypsies had stolen it. I had to put a tube of chicken wire around the pot to keep them away from it. Of course then I had a hard time getting to it too! Took a really long straw to get at that pot. You can live on that head for at least four days if you ration it right.”


Sunday Afternoon Movie Of The Week For Lions Fans

The Martian, which I have not seen but which I can guarantee is better than the book it’s based on. Because that book is brilliantly plotted and researched and has dialogue written by an eight-year-old. Put a professional screenwriter in charge of buffing it up and you’ve got yourself a masterwork.


Gratuitous Simpsons Quote

“I’ve always admired your tart honesty and ability to be personally offended by broad social trends.”


Enjoy the games, everyone.