The Wrong Decision

Patrick Clardy, Staff Writer

The stakes could not have been higher. The score was four to seven with just over five minutes to go in the fourth quarter. The Dallas Cowboys were faced with a game-changing decision: do you go for it and risk losing the ball to Green Bay at mid-field, or do you place your hopes on your highly capable kicker and go for the less risky field goal attempt? Jason Garrett, head football coach for the Dallas Cowboys, chose to go for it. Now he must live with the decision that, for all practical purposes, ended the Cowboys’ run for the Super Bowl.

A long pass down the sideline to the Cowboys’ wide receiver, Dez Bryant, was caught at the one yard line. Deemed a “brilliant catch” by those calling the game for network television, the 6’2” Bryant seemed to have ‘sealed the deal’ and made what would be considered a game winning catch. As the teams lined up for the next play at the first end goal, a timeout was called by the head coach for Green Bay, Mike McCarthy. The Packers were challenging the catch and the officials proceeded to review the play as a hush fell over the crowd.

“Biggest call of the day” is how one commentator put it, as the head official, Gene Steratore announced, “After review, it has been determined that the receiver did not maintain possession.” Green Bay was given the ball on the one yard line, as Dallas, the crowd, the commentators, and millions of people watching, were stunned and shocked. An NFL rule, often referred to as “the Calvin Johnson rule”, states that: “If a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass, with or without contact with the opponent, he must maintain control of the ball after he touches the ground, whether in the field of play or the end zone. If he loses control of the ball, and the ball touches the ground before he regains control, the pass is incomplete. If he regains control prior to the ball touching the ground, the pass is complete.”

Based on this rule, Bryant’s catch was determined incomplete and Dallas ultimately lost the game, and their bid for a Super Bowl championship. It’s a tough pill to swallow, especially for a head coach who took a risk and a talented receiver, who made an amazing catch in a high stakes game.

The implications of this outcome are yet to be determined. The official Steratore had been involved in a similar controversial call in a Detroit and Chicago game in 2010. Bryant believed he made the catch because his elbow touched the ground, but officials deemed elbows as being “irrelevant” in the process of a catch, which is an interesting thing to say, since everyone knows that an elbow is a necessary part of a player’s ability to bend his arm to receive a catch. Teams who go to the Super Bowl profit greatly. Players alone make $92,000 – $180,000 while the team franchises make millions. With so much at stake, we will be hearing about this decision for many years to come.