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NFL Analysis: The Calvin Johnson Rule Sucks

Before yesterday I thought Marty Debergy asked the only question I couldn’t find the answer to.

“What day did the Lord create Spinal Tap and couldn’t he have rested on that day too?”

This morning I wake up with a question of my own that I can’t seem to find an answer to.

Exactly who is the mental midget on the NFL Rules Committee that came up with the Calvin Johnson rule and what other members constituted the majority to pass it?

I’ve place calls, sent emails and text messages to all the relevant NFL authorities, and no one, absolutely no one, will take credit for creating and or passing the Calvin Johnson rule. Whatever happened to once a player crosses the plane of the endzone with possession of the ball, it’s a touchdown? What about when a player is brought to the ground as a result of contact from a member of the opposing team, a fumble can’t be caused by contact with the ground? How about, if it looks like a touchdown, and smells like a touchdown, it’s a touchdown. Or simply if it’s a touchdown, then it’s a touchdown!

Sunday’s apparent 9-yard touchdown pass from Andy Dalton to Jermaine Gresham was overturned by a replay that determined the receiver didn’t hold onto the ball at the end of a juggling catch. It was the Calvin Johnson rule again, and the rule just gets worse every time it’s enforced. You can watch the play yourself of at the 2.20 mark in their post game recap video. When OJ Simpson was declared not guilty, much of the nation was bewildered and left to rationalize how such a ruling could go down. Each time the Calvin Johnson Rule is enforced in the endzone, we are left with that same feeling.

Gresham bobbled the ball at the 4-yard line near the left sideline and gained possession of it on or about the goal line. Gresham crossed the plane of the goal line with possession of the ball (in bounds) and exited out of the side of the endzone (possessing the ball) just after passing the pylon. Whether or not he bobbled the ball or the ball touched the ground after he left the field of play shouldn’t even be relevant! Who cares what happens to the ball after Gresham was out of bounds? Once a player leaves the field of play, why is anything he does with the ball even considered as part of the play? Players fumble the ball all the time a nanosecond after crossing the goal line, but once it’s deemed that a player still had possession of the ball on the other side of the goal line (has broken the plane), the play is over and it’s a touch down! This play should have been over once he crossed the plane of the endzone with the ball.

The result of this awful rule enforcement is that the Bengals had to settle for a field goal with 5:32 remaining in the game. Then down 31-24, Cincinnati drove back and reached the Baltimore 7-yard line before Terrell Suggs forced Dalton into and intentional grounding on third down. On fourth-and-goal, Dalton was sacked by Pernell McPhee and that was all she wrote… Although there is no guarantee that Cincinnati would have won the game, had Gresham’s play correctly been ruled a touchdown, the Bengals could have kicked an easy field goal at the end to tie the game 31-31 forcing over time.

The enforcement of this rule is the most arcane routine officiating procedure in the NFL since giving the kickoff team endless opportunities to retry an onsides kick near the end of a game after kicking the ball out of bounds over and over again. Someone eventually came to their senses and changed that rule and someone needs to do the same thing with this one. Except for the team’s fan base that benefits from the incompletion, it’s totally unacceptable to have an entire nation of NFL fans see with their own eyes a play that is clearly a touchdown and not call it one.

OJ ultimately went to jail for stealing stuff he used to own, and justice was in some ways comically administered years too late in that manner. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait a few more years to get this simple issue straightened out. Here’s how the rule should read. “If a player at any moment in time has possession of the football and is in the endzone, it’s a touchdown.” They way it is now is just stupid. Stupid, stupid stupid.

The founder and former owner of MC3 Sports Media, Mike Cardano is the Sr. Business Administrator for RotoExperts and the Executive Director here at You may email Mike @ or follow him on Twitter @MikeCardano. Listen to Mike on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio with Scott Engel and the morning crew Tuesday mornings at 10am ET.


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