IRVING, Texas– Did he catch it or not? That was the question 192 days ago, Jan. 11, in the closing minutes of the Cowboys' 26-20 Divisional Round loss to the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.
The week before the Cowboys head to Oxnard for 2015 training camp, the most memorable (and painful) play of the 2014 season is still a public point of discussion.
The officials ruled Dez Bryant's fourth-and-2 play near the goal line incomplete because he didn't make a "football move" with the ball and and maintain control throughout the process, per the Calvin Johnson Rule.
In March, the NFL's Competition Committee tweaked the rule's language to state a player must "clearly establish himself as a runner" -- an effort to clarify confusion over whether Bryant's two-step lunge toward the end zone was indeed a football move. The play still would've been ruled incomplete based on the new wording.
With the league once again holding its annual Officiating Clinic in Dallas this past weekend, the interpretation of the rule inevitably came up. NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino told reporters he made an effort to discuss the rule in person with the Cowboys' coaches this offseason.
"It was always positive," Blandino said. "They may not have agreed with the call, but it was always positive. They look at it as, 'Let's try to get to some common ground to what we're going to teach our players. How can we be consistent?'"[embeddedad0]
Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones also was asked about the play again Tuesday during the opening of Dallas Cowboys Club at DFW Airport. He gave a reasoned, diplomatic answer from his unique perspective as part-owner of the Cowboys as well as a member of the Competition Committee.
"Well, first of all Dean does an amazing job and I think overall the league and our officiating department does an amazing job," Jones said. "I happen to serve on the Competition Committee and probably have a better feel for how difficult it can be in terms of the task of officiating a game and getting it right for our fans. No one wants it more right than Dean Blandino. No one wants it right more than the commissioner and the officiating crews. We want to get it right. That's why we have a Competition Committee and why well continue to look at those things.
"As it turns out, according to the rule, I think the call was correct. Now, going forward is there a better way that some of these plays that are made by great players like Dez Bryant or a Calvin Johnson, is there a way to tweak a rule to where you can say, 'Hey those guys really caught those footballs and they should be catches even under the NFL rules?' Well, that's the job of the Competition Committee and for us to continue to look at ways to get better.
"But I applaud everything Dean has done. I think he's done a great job of verbalizing not only with the coaches, but with the players and his officiating crews that he has out there on the field. And I think we're lucky to have Dean."