Football Ops

Football Ops

Protecting the integrity of the greatest game.

NFL Ops: Honoring the Game

It's our responsibility to strengthen the sport.

League Governance

Ensuring a consistent and fair game that is decided on the field, by the players.

NFL Rules Enforcement

Ensuring that players conduct themselves in a way that honors the sport and respects the game.

Fines & Appeals

The NFL's schedule of infractions and fines, and a process for appeal.

Economic & Social Impact

Honoring the league’s commitment to serve the communities where the game is played.

The NFL Ops Team

Meet the people behind NFL Operations.

The Game

The Game

Learn about the people, the jobs and the technology that deliver the best game possible to NFL fans across the U.S. and around the world. 

Gameday: Behind the Scenes

Countdown to kickoff: how NFL games happen.

Technology

In the NFL, balancing technology with tradition.

Impact of Television

How television has changed the game.

History of Instant Replay

Upon further review…

Creating the NFL Schedule

It takes hundreds of computers and four NFL executives to create the NFL's 256-game masterpiece.

The Players

The Players

Learn how NFL players have changed over time, how they’re developed and drafted and how the league works with them after their playing days are over.  

Evolution of the NFL Player

Creating an NFL player: from “everyman” to “superman.”

Development Pipeline

Supporting the next generation of players and fans.

Getting Into the Game

Preparing players of all ages for success at football’s highest level.

The NFL Draft

Introducing the next wave of NFL superstars. 

NFL Player Engagement

A look at the programs the NFL and its partners provide to help every player before, during and after his football career.

NFL Legends Community

Celebrating, educating, embracing and connecting all former NFL players with each other, their former teams and the league.

The Officials

The Officials

Discover the evolution of professional officiating, the weekly evaluation process and how the NFL identifies and develops the next generation of officials.

In Focus: History of the Official

“One thing hasn’t changed: the pressure. It will always be there.”

Inside NFL GameDay Central

The latest information from the NFL's officiating command center.

These Officials Are Really Good

Every week, officials take the field ready to put months of preparation, training and hard work on display, knowing that the whole world — and the Officiating Department — is watching.

Officiating Development

Officiating an NFL game takes years of training and experience. 

Behind the Stripes: Timeline

Starting the next week’s work when this week’s final whistle blows.

The Rules

The Rules

NFL Football Operations protects the integrity of the game by ensuring that the rules and the officiating are consistent and fair to all competitors.

In Focus: Evolution of the NFL Rules

The custodians of football not only have protected its integrity, but have also revised its playing rules to protect the players, and to make the games fairer and more entertaining.

2016 NFL Rulebook

Explore the official rules of the game.

NFL Video Rulebook

NFL SVP of Officiating Dean Blandino explains NFL rules with video examples.

2016 Rules Changes and Points of Emphasis

NFL Overtime Rules

NFL Tiebreaking Procedures

The NFL's procedures for breaking ties for postseason playoffs.

Signals Intelligence

The NFL's familiar hand signals help fans better understand the game.   

Stats Central

Stats Central

Go inside the game with the NFL's official game stats.  Sort the stats by season or by week.

Chart The Data

Chart and compare the NFL Football Operations stats you're looking for with the NFL's data tool. 

Weekly Dashboard

Get a snapshot of the current NFL game stats, updated weekly during the regular season.

Impact of Television

How television has changed the game.

As first dates go, this one didn’t show much promise. But for television and the NFL, Oct. 22, 1939, marked the beginning of a long-term, symbiotic relationship that forever changed football — not just how the game is viewed, understood and marketed, but also how it’s played, operated and officiated.

Today, 17 million fans tune in for a typical regular-season game. NFL games dominate weekly television ratings each fall and the league evenly divides the revenue from multibillion-dollar television contracts among all 32 clubs. Each game is a major production, with broadcasters deploying 12 to 20 cameras and 150 to 200 employees for regular-season contests.

Lead football producer Lance Barrow, in the CBS Sports truck for a November 2013 Dallas Cowboys-Oakland Raiders contest. Each week, his crew produces what fans see on their televisions from multiple cameras deployed throughout the stadium. (AP Photo/James D. Smith) 

Lead football producer Lance Barrow, in the CBS Sports truck for a November 2013 Dallas Cowboys-Oakland Raiders contest. Each week, his crew produces what fans see on their televisions from multiple cameras deployed throughout the stadium. (AP Photo/James D. Smith) 

In 1939, NBC was the first network to televise a pro football game, using two cameras and about eight staffers. Shortcomings in the available technology presented challenges for airing the contest between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Brooklyn Dodgers. 

“It was late in October on a cloudy day, and when the sun crept behind the stadium there wasn’t enough light for the cameras. The picture would get darker and darker, and eventually it would be completely blank and we’d revert to a radio broadcast,” play-by-play announcer Allen “Skip” Walz recounted in Football Digest.

NBC play-by-play announcer Allen "Skip" Walz used two cameras for the first-ever televised NFL game, including one that operated right over his shoulder in the stadium’s mezzanine section. (Pro Football Hall of Fame)

NBC play-by-play announcer Allen "Skip" Walz used two cameras for the first-ever televised NFL game, including one that operated right over his shoulder in the stadium’s mezzanine section. (Pro Football Hall of Fame)

The network broadcast the game to the roughly 1,000 TV sets in New York City at the time and to displays in the RCA Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair. NBC continued to air games and — though football on TV wouldn’t fully take off for a few more years — the seed was planted.

After World War II, U.S. consumers began buying televisions in droves, and televised NFL games became more common. Landmark moments in the television’s relationship with pro football followed, including the first nationally televised game, “the greatest game ever played,” the first leaguewide TV contract, the “‘Heidi’ Bowl” and the births of the Super Bowl and “Monday Night Football.”

Cumulatively, those events and others cemented the relationship. The impact on the league has been remarkable, in both obvious and subtle ways.

Popularity, Profitability and Competitiveness

Televised games fueled the dramatic increase in the NFL’s popularity and profitability. Fans soon set aside time each week to watch their favorite teams play on Sundays. Games were eventually added to other days and moved to prime time. Television elevated the Super Bowl from sporting event to de facto national holiday: Super Bowl XLVII, on Feb. 2, 2014, topped 112 million viewers in the U.S. alone.

Congress’ 1961 decision to allow sports leagues to negotiate their own collective television contracts let the NFL set up a system to share annual television revenue equally among all teams.

Before then, big-market teams like the New York Giants could earn 10 times as much money as small-market teams like the Green Bay Packers, which gave the Giants much more cash to sign the best players. But by equally distributing the television revenue — in addition to sharing revenue from other sources, such as merchandising and ticket sales — the league ensures that every team has the financial ability to compete on and off the field.

The NFL’s revenue sharing has maintained competitiveness across all teams and has helped the league avoid financial disparities faced by other sports that gave teams nearly insurmountable advantages. Other major sports leagues have modified their revenue sharing since 2000 to adopt systems more like the NFL’s. 

All of this contributes to greater parity among teams, competitive games and more teams in the playoff hunt each year — improving the game for fans, players, owners and the league’s broadcast partners.

INSTANT REPLAY

Perhaps the biggest impact and symbiosis in the NFL-television relationship involve advances in the technology that enabled the league to grow and flourish and led to its rise to prominence. Since that first game in 1939, broadcasters and the NFL have continued to innovate and push the limits of how television can enhance the NFL experience. 

Deeper Dive: Learn more about the history of instant replay

Deeper Dive: Learn more about the history of instant replay

Instant replay, initially used for just one play during the Army-Navy game in late 1963, soon would become ubiquitous for NFL broadcasts, especially when slow motion and freeze-frame capabilities were added and enhanced.

Replay made games more entertaining. It provided a natural filler for the sport’s many breaks in play and could be used to highlight hard hits, battles in the trenches, great runs and catches, and other key plays. Broadcasters also used replay to better explain the game’s nuances, creating greater fan awareness, understanding and involvement.

Inevitably, instant replay became commonplace, increasing the pressure on the NFL to find a way to use the technology to help game officials make the correct calls.

Replay provided broadcasters and viewers with visual evidence, in slow motion, to second-guess the judgment calls officials made on the spot at full speed. Howard Cosell, one of the most influential sportscasters of his day, captured the frustration while in the broadcasting booth for “Monday Night Football.” After an apparently incorrect call on a catch in the end zone, the exasperated commentator declared to the national audience: “That’s absurd; all they gotta do is roll the tape!”

But the technology wasn’t advanced enough yet to quickly and efficiently review plays. The NFL tested replay review during the 1978 preseason and determined that to get the calls right, it needed at least 12 cameras to have enough angles on every play. But any system would rely on the broadcast feed, and the networks were not yet using that many cameras. 

After broadcasters began using more cameras — and other technology improved — the NFL owners approved instant replay reviews in 1986. They killed the system in 1992, citing delays and incorrect calls, but brought it back for good in 1999. 

As television added more and better cameras, instant replay reviews improved too. Today’s high-definition video gives officials a clearer view of what actually happened. The league’s state-of-the-art NFL Vision software processes game footage and isolates plays for replay, delivering high-definition images in seconds to officials in Art McNally GameDay Central in New York and at the stadiums. 

This is symbiosis in action. Television’s technological advances, embraced by the NFL, are used to improve the quality of the product the broadcasters are showing: the game.

TELEVISION INSPIRES INNOVATIONS

Television’s impact on the game also can be realized in other ways — by teams and by the league. 

It didn’t take coaches long to realize the power of cameras and film as coaching tools. Cleveland Browns coach Paul Brown became the first coach to use film to scout other players and coaches and to evaluate his own players. 

Skycam television camera is suspended above the field during a game between the Dallas Cowboys against the New York Giants at AT&T Stadium. (James D. Smith via AP)

Skycam television camera is suspended above the field during a game between the Dallas Cowboys against the New York Giants at AT&T Stadium. (James D. Smith via AP)

Today, every team uses coaches’ tapes. In addition to the network feed, the NFL captures game action from two cameras positioned high above the field in every stadium. The “All-22” angle captures every player on the field in a single shot, and the “End Zone” camera provides a downfield view as the play unfolds. The league now makes these resources available to fans as well. 

The proprietary NFL Vision software also enables the league to use game footage to help protect players and evaluate both the officials and the rules of the game.

At each game, an independently certified trainer contracted by the league uses NFL Vision to monitor the broadcast feed and identify potential injuries. In plays during which a possible injury occurs, this spotter immediately notifies on-field medical staff and can even transmit a replay to a sideline monitor for the trainer or doctor to view. 

The Officiating Department reviews network television footage and coaches’ tape to evaluate officials from every angle. The software also allows GameDay Central technicians to isolate plays that merit further review and bring them to the league’s attention. They can also store and collect important game data. 

The stored footage from the television feed even contributes to the NFL’s rule-making: League officials involved in the process study game film to help them research what to do and track trends, as they did in examining kickoff returns to determine the factors contributing to injuries on the play.

STADIUM EXPERIENCE

Television also improves the experience for fans attending the games. Technology has raised the quality of the at-home viewing experience so high that the NFL and its clubs always search for ways to provide a better in-stadium experience.

Oversized video scoreboards have become the norm in all NFL stadiums. Fans rely on them for replays and closer views of game action. Home teams use them to fire up the crowd and entertain the fans between plays.

“Improving the game-day experience at our stadiums in every way possible is an important ongoing priority,” Commissioner Roger Goodell told clubs in a message in the NFL’s 2014 Game Operations Manual. “Each of our games must be an ‘event’ and a ‘high-quality experience.’”

Clubs keep building bigger and better scoreboards. Cowboys Stadium (now AT&T Stadium) in Dallas opened in 2009 with the then-largest LED scoreboard — 72 feet high, 160 feet wide. In a stadium “arms race,” the Jacksonville Jaguars unveiled two 62-feet-high, 362-feet-wide, high-definition LED scoreboards for the 2014 season. 

Of course, NFL football has been very good for TV too. The games are ratings behemoths that provide networks with advertising dollars, along with viewership that benefits the networks’ promotions and non-NFL programming. Like any good relationship, this one remains a two-way street, benefiting both the broadcasters and the game.

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