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. 

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.

2017 NFL Rulebook

Explore the official rules of the game.

NFL Video Rulebook

The NFL Video Rulebook 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.

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.

In 2016, NFL teams ran more than 40,000 plays from scrimmage. The NFL Officiating Department meticulously reviewed and graded its officials’ performance on every one of them. Every play. Every game. And not just from one angle: Evaluators reviewed each play seven times — once for each of the seven officiating positions.

Each game averages about 156 plays, so a typical official who works 14 regular-season games is evaluated on nearly 2,200 plays in a single season. The Officiating Department reviews game footage looking for the calls that were made correctly — and also the ones that were missed.

There is nowhere to hide on the football field. Whether working a closely contested Super Bowl or the final minutes of an early season blowout, officials are expected to exhibit the same high level of excellence on every play.

They’re human, of course, so on-field miscues will occur. And while the 124 officials in the NFL aren’t always perfect, the evaluation process shows that they come very close.

“I happen to believe that the players don’t play perfect games, I really don’t think coaches coach perfect games, and I don’t think officials work perfect games. It’s not a game that is perfect.”

 25-YEAR NFL OFFICIATING VETERAN MASON “RED” CASHION

They got it right 95.9 percent of the time throughout the 2016 season, according to the league’s evaluators. In almost any other career, that level of proficiency would be praised. Yet more is expected from NFL officials — not just from the players, the fans and the media, but from the officials themselves.

They are carefully selected, extensively prepared and rigorously evaluated to ensure that they call games correctly and consistently — so that the players, not the officials, determine the outcome. This process results in the outstanding officiating that players, coaches and fans expect and deserve.

Officiating an NFL game — making split-second decisions at full speed and at field level — takes decades of work and dedication. While fans may not always agree with every call, one thing is certain: These officials are good.

“If you were going to write a 10-chapter book about what it's like to be an official in the NFL, the first nine chapters would deal with preparation. The last chapter would deal with the game.” — Jerry Seeman, NFL Director of Officiating, 1991–2001

Preparing for Success

For NFL officials, on-field success depends on preparation.

While fans see officials only on game days, much more happens away from the field — even before the officials ever don the stripes in the NFL. Each season, the quest for officiating excellence begins before players report to training camps.

In July, the league kicks off the officiating season with a mandatory training clinic in Dallas. Officials take written exams, testing their knowledge of the rules and mechanics for their positions. New rules and points of emphasis are thoroughly covered as officials prepare for any situation they may encounter on gameday.

“The clinic is so important to how the season’s going to go,” said Dean Blandino, the NFL’s former senior vice president of officiating. “Our goal every year is that everybody leaves on the same page. And that will basically kick-start the season.”

An added emphasis on fitness keeps officials in shape for the growing physical demands of a game that gets faster every year: NFL offenses ran 150 percent more no-huddle plays in 2013 than in 2008, according to The Wall Street Journal. The league tests officials’ conditioning and agility to ensure that they can keep pace with the game’s best athletes.

Back Judge Tony Steratore signals a successful field goal during the NFL AFC Championship playoff football game between the New England Patriots against the Denver Broncos, Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016, in Denver. (Scott Boehm via AP)

Back Judge Tony Steratore signals a successful field goal during the NFL AFC Championship playoff football game between the New England Patriots against the Denver Broncos, Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016, in Denver. (Scott Boehm via AP)

“With up-tempo offenses, our officials have to be more efficient in spotting the ball and getting in position,” Blandino said. “Because if they’re not in position, they can’t effectively officiate the play. We have to continue to evolve.”

Officials also go to training camp, where they officiate practices and work preseason games to get into regular-season form. They prepare for these games as they would for the regular season, and they are evaluated the same way. 

During the season, the final whistle of a game marks the beginning of preparation for the next week. Before leaving the stadium, each crew member gets a flash drive with the TV broadcast of the game that he or she just worked. Many review the video on the flight home.

While most of the league’s 124 current officials have full-time jobs outside of football, their heads are always in the game: From one week to the next, they spend hours breaking down tape, getting ready for the next contest, and reviewing with crew members and supervisors what went right, what went wrong and what could be improved.  

On game days, officials emerge from the tunnel ready to put months of preparation, training and hard work on display, knowing that the whole world — and the Officiating Department — is watching.

MAKING THE GRADE

The Officiating Department’s weekly evaluation process is thorough. Senior Vice President of Officiating Alberto Riveron and the Art McNally GameDay Central crew work with eight officiating supervisors to review every play from each of the seven officiating positions: referee, umpire, down judge, line judge, field judge, side judge and back judge. The eight supervisors — former officials with decades of experience — identify successes, areas for improvement and points to emphasize.

Supervisors are not just evaluators — they’re teachers.

“We focus on teaching, training, positioning and mechanics. Our evaluation system is the best way to achieve consistency across the league.”

 DEAN BLANDINO, Former Senior VICE PRESIDENT OF NFL OFFICIATING

Officiating supervisors grade one game in person each week. From a booth above the field, they observe the officials, keying on positioning, mechanics, accuracy, professionalism and more. Grading begins at the stadium, and supervisors will leave with a flash drive of the game so they can get a closer look. Depending on how many teams are in action in a given week, supervisors also may evaluate a second game. They’ll receive a hard drive with the additional footage from Art McNally GameDay Central and grade that game using the same strict criteria.

Officials receive their grades early in the week and discuss them with the supervisors and their fellow crew members. Weekly training videos are distributed to every official to clarify the handling of specific calls. In the middle of the week, senior leaders from the Officiating Department hold calls with crews to go over specific plays. 

The department also distributes weekly media videos every Friday for the public and those who cover the sport. These videos clarify controversial calls from the previous week.

All of this is done in pursuit of consistency across every officiating crew — from game to game and week to week. Pass interference in Buffalo must be the same as pass interference in San Diego.

"The key to officiating is learning to focus completely for eight seconds at a time, 160 times in a row." — 25-year NFL officiating veteran Mason “Red” Cashion

THE RESULTS

A typical 2016 NFL game averaged more than 156 plays — a number that has remained high in recent years as more teams run up-tempo offenses.

More plays create more chances for an official to be graded — and also increases the possibility of error. Still, officiating proficiency actually has increased over that same period. 

According to the league’s exhaustive grading system, the 2014 season saw a per-crew average of fewer than one incorrect call and only 1.7 no-calls — a penalty that should have been called but was missed — in each game. 

Even on the toughest, most controversial calls that were elevated to instant replay review, an official’s initial ruling on the field is confirmed nearly two-thirds of the time. Only 37 percent of on-field calls have been overturned since 1999.

A JOB WELL-DONE

The evaluation process culminates when officiating crews are evaluated for the past season’s work, with rewards and consequences.

Members of the Super Bowl LI officiating crew. (Ben Liebenberg/NFL)

Members of the Super Bowl LI officiating crew. (Ben Liebenberg/NFL)

The top officials and crews each year receive the ultimate recognition in officiating: the privilege and responsibility of working an NFL playoff game. For some, decades of hard work and preparation pay off in a potentially once-in-a-lifetime Super Bowl or conference championship assignment.

For others, a subpar season-long performance could mean remediation, or even a demotion. All NFL officials serve on a year-to-year contract, and they have to prove their mettle every year. There is no guarantee that they will return the next season.

The vast majority do succeed. Fortunately for the NFL, its players and its fans, these officials are good.

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