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.

NFL Way to Play

Knees Bent. Pads Down. Head Up and Out.

The NFL and HBCUs

The NFL is proud of the HBCU professional football legacy.

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. 

Game Day: 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 five NFL executives to create the NFL’s 256-game masterpiece.

Big Data Bowl

The annual analytics contest explores statistical innovations in football — how the game is played and coached.

Youth Football

Promoting the values of football.

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 and services NFL Player Engagement provides to assist every player before, during and after his football career.

College All Star Games

Strengthening football and the community.

NFL Legends Community

Strengthening the NFL brotherhood.

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 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.

NFL Video Rulebook

The NFL Video Rulebook explains NFL rules with video examples.

2019 NFL Rulebook

Explore the official rules of the game. 6.2.5

2019 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.   

NFL Rules Digest

A quick reference guide to the NFL rulebook.

Football 101

Football 101

Terms Glossary

Sharpen your NFL football knowledge with this glossary of the game's fundamental terms. 

Formations 101

See where the players line up in pro football's most common offensive and defensive formations.

Quick Guide to NFL TV Graphics

Understand what the graphics on NFL television broadcasts mean and how they can help you get the most out of watching NFL games.

NFL Instant Replay Process

The NFL’s instant replay review process focuses on expediting instant replay reviews and ensuring consistency. Learn how it works.

Stats Central

Stats Central

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

The Extra Point

Welcome to the Extra Point, where members of the NFL's football data and analytics team will share updates on league-wide trends in football data, interesting visualizations that showcase innovative ways to use the league's data, and provide an inside look at how the NFL uses data-driven insight to improve and monitor player and team performance.

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.

The Extra Point

What Can Player Tracking Data Tell Us About the Onside Kick?

Throughout NFL history, it wasn’t uncommon for kickoff teams to line up like they were kicking deep, only to shock both fans and opponents with an onside attempt. Famously, Thomas Morstead of the New Orleans Saints surprised the Indianapolis Colts at the start of the second half of Super Bowl XLIV with an onside kick (one that the Saints recovered). In total, from the start of the 2010 season through the 2017 season, the league averaged 9.4 surprise onside attempts per season.

In 2018, however, there were only five surprise attempts. Through the first four weeks of 2019, we’ve only seen one. 

The likely culprit? Changes to the NFL’s kickoff rules.

Prior to the 2018 season, NFL Player Health and Safety and special teams coaches worked together to reimagine the kickoff play — one designed to increase player safety — resulting in a multitude of changes regarding player alignment and allowable blocking types. Concussions on kickoff plays dropped by 35 percent in 2018, but the formation redesign potentially made it more difficult to recover onside attempts. In addition to the drop in surprise onside kicks, the kickoff team has only recovered 6.1 percent of non-surprise attempts since the start of 2018, a rate lower than the league’s historical average of 12 percent. In 2019, teams are 0-for-9 at onside kick attempts through Week 4 (not including recoveries that were nullified by penalties).

During last year’s offseason meetings, the NFL’s Competition Committee debated the merits of a follow-up rule change, proposed by the Denver Broncos, that would have given teams the opportunity to use one scrimmage play per game in place of an onside kick. Although the proposal was not adopted, our football data and analytics crew was able to provide the Committee with insight into how and why onside kicks have changed.

Check out the below animation, which overlays Next Gen Stats tracking data on onside attempts for the kickoff teams and the football, averaged over the course of each of the 2017 (pre-kickoff changes) and 2018 seasons (post-changes). Dots in red correspond to players in 2017, while the blue dots represent players in 2018. Only onside attempts to the kickoff team’s right side are included. 

Three differences stand out.

First, there are six red dots on the right side, compared to five blue dots. As part of the kickoff rule changes, five players must now line up on each side of the kicker.

Second, players on the kickoff team may no longer get a running start, which is why the blue dots (2018 season) begin the play standing still.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, without the running start, players from the 2018 season are no longer able to get down the field as quickly, giving them less of an advantage over the receiving team. 

Altogether, each of the above findings provide an explanation for why we are seeing fewer surprise onside kicks and lower recovery rates. Although Denver’s proposal for an alternative did not pass last year, the NFL will continue to use analytical insight to drive potential rules changes.

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