The Football Guidebook for Dummies

The time of year is upon us: the time when all the men (or potential men) in our lives retreat into the depths of man caves around the country and neighborhood sports bars become no-girls-allowed boys’ clubs. I’m of course talking about football season. The rules and nuances of the sport can seem overwhelming to the untrained eye and it seems impossible to even pretend to know what you’re talking about sometimes, but never fear. This is exactly why I’m here to help! I’m going to give all of you a run-down on the need-to-know information for this football season, from the basics all the way down to penalties and players.

  1. First things first, the home team in Philadelphia is the Eagles, and we’re currently 3(win)-1(loss) on the season. Now that’s out of the way…
  2. We are part of the division called the NFC East. The other teams in this division are the Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins, and New York Giants. Any time we play these teams, it’s a big game.
  3. Some of the big name players you need to know:

             -Carson Wentz: QB 1, the greatest of all time, our Savior, and the King of Wentzlyvania. This guy is supposed to restore the Eagles to their former glory. This is Wentz’s second season and some are concerned he might fall into the sophomore slump. So far, he’s been pretty impressive, but there’s still a lot of season left.

           -Nelson Agholor/ Alshon Jeffrey: The life of the Eagles’ Wide Receiving core. These are the guys that Wentz is trying to throw the ball to most of the time. Last season, Agholor couldn’t catch the ball to save his life and all of Philadelphia chalked him up as a bust, but it appears that he’s worked on those bricks for hands this off-season and there might be some hope. Speaking of the off-season, the Eagles acquired Alshon Jeffrey in one of the most highly anticipated pick-ups in recent Eagles history. He was picked-up from free agency (don’t worry I’ll explain this in a bit) from the Chicago Bears.

          -Darren Sproles: Shortest player on the field at only 5’6” but boy can this guy move. He’s our slippery running back known for quick footwork and turning seemingly impossible plays into big yardage.

          -Zach Ertz: Carson’s favorite target and our Tight End. The tight end is a multi-purpose position. Sometimes they act like a blocker and sometimes they act like a receiver. He’s not the fastest on the field, but watch out for him to make some clutch 3rd down plays!

         -Fletcher Cox/ Lane Johnson: These are the big boys on the field. The linemen are there to make the big tackles and protect the quarterback

Now that we know some basics of the Eagles, let’s go over some of the most important rules and concepts of the game.

  1. Football is played five days a week, if you count college games! Sunday is the biggest day for the NFL, and Saturday for college. Thursday, Monday, and sometimes Friday games do occur every week though.
  2. The game starts with a coin toss. The captains of both teams meet at the 50-yard line. Whoever wins the toss can elect to receive the kick-off and start on offense or defer to receive the kick after halftime. Both have their advantages and the choice really depends on the team’s individual strategy.
  3. The football field is 100 yards long, with a goalpost and endzone at either end. To score points, the ball has to get into the endzone by either running or throwing it in OR kicking the ball through the uprights. A touchdown is worth 6 points on it’s own. After the touchdown, there’s the point after touchdown (PAT) attempt. The team can kick and get an additional 1 point, or go for a two-point conversion by running or throwing it into the endzone again. The kick is generally the safer option. A field goal on its own is worth 3 points.
  4. In order to move down the field, teams have four “downs” to go 10-yards. They can pick from a variety of plays in the playbook to try to get the next 1st down. If teams get to 4th down without getting the 10 yards, they have two options. If it is say 4th down and inches to go in a close game, a coach might decide to go for the last play and convert a first down. If they miss, however, it is what is called a turnover on downs and the opposing team gets the ball in that spot. This is why most teams will chose to punt the ball on fourth down, launching the football far down field with the punters kick.
  5. Not everything goes in football. There are a plethora of penalties that a team can incur.
    1. False start/offsides: if a player from the offense moves over the line of scrimmage before the quarterback snaps the ball into play, it is called a false start and it is a 5-yard penalty, which means the ball is moved backwards on the field five yards. The same goes for the defense. This is called offsides and it moves the ball forward on the field 5-yards. For example, say it is 2nd down with 7 yards to go and a player on the defense jumps over the line. The referee will throw a yellow flag and the next play will be a replay of 2nd down but there will only be 2 yards to go.
    2. Roughing the passer: The quarterback is considered sacred in the game of football. He is one of the few players in are not allowed to touch if they aren’t holding the ball. If a defensive player tackles the quarterback after the ball has left his hand, that’s a 15-yard penalty and an automatic first down.
    3. Holding: Pretty much any player can be guilty of a holding penalty, but the most common offenders are the big lineman who are trying to let the running back or receiver get a few extra yards or stop someone from getting to the quarterback. This penalty will cost you 10 yards and is exactly what it sounds like, holding on to the other player to stop them from advancing.
    4. There are hundreds of different penalties in football and the more you watch, the easier you’ll be able to identify them.

There’s so much to know about football I could never fit them into one post, but here are some more miscellaneous things to know

  1. Free agency, that thing I mentioned earlier with Alshon Jeffery, means that a team can get that player by just offering them a contract. No trade is required because the player isn’t contractual obligated to any team.
  2. Games are divided into four 15-minute quarters with a break after the 2nd quarter called half time. While theoretically the game should only last an hour, with stoppage of the clock, penalties, and other things most games last around three hours.
  3. If the score is tied at the end of the four-quarters, there is a sudden death overtime period of 15 minutes. The first team to score wins.
  4. The quarterback is usually the player that throws the ball but there are some trick plays where the running back might throw the ball to confuse the defense. This formation is called the Wildcat.
  5. There is only allowed to be one forward pass on any play, but the player with the ball can toss the ball backwards to another player to keep the play alive. This is called a lateral pass.
  6. A safety in football is a defensive position but is also the name of what happens when offensive players holding the ball are tackled in their own end zone (the one opposite of where they are trying to score). When a safety occurs the defensive team gets 2-points. These are pretty rare but do happen.
  7. An interception is when the defense catches a pass from the quarterback instead of the wide receiver. They can run as far as they can until they get brought down. An interception is also known as a pick and if the player runs all the way back down the field and scores a touchdown, it is called a pick-6, due to the 6 points a touchdown is worth.
  8. There are three separate squads of players on each team: the offense, the defense, and what is known as special teams. Special teams players can be on the other two squads too but they are the ones who are on the field for kick-offs, punts, PATs, and other plays that aren’t necessarily offense or defense specific.
  9. Sometimes teams will call a timeout righhhhhht before a kicker goes to kick a field goal. This is called “icing the kicker” and is meant to throw the kicker off in the hope that they will miss the kick. This usually happens right at the end of the game when the kick is going to decide the winner.
  10. One of the most confusing concepts for a football novice is the on-side kick! An on-side kick is used when a team is down in points with only a short time left in the game. Instead of launching the ball all the way down the field like on a traditional kickoff, the kicker bounces the ball off the ground and into the air. As long as the ball travels forward a minimum of 10 yards, the kicking team is able to recover. They are not always successful in recovering and it gives the receiving team great field position closer to the end zone, which is why it is rarely used early on in the game.
  11. Another way a team can turnover the ball is through a fumble. A fumble is when the running back, receiver, or even the quarterback loses the ball after getting hit by a defensive player, but before their knee hits the ground, which would rule them down by contact. Once the ball is fumbled either team can recover it, which often leads to a large number of players in a pile wrestling for the ball. The quarterback is a little more complicated when it comes to fumbling. If the quarterback loses the ball in the process of throwing the ball, or when his arm is coming forward, it is just an incomplete pass. For the quarterback to fumble, the ball has to go backwards.
  12. You may have heard the phrase “move the chains”. This refers to what happens when a team gets a first down and the literal chains that measure out 10-yards in length are moved down the field. You will see the chains on the sidelines with two orange poles at either end to help gauge how much further a team has to go to reach the first down. When you watch on TV they project a yellow line onto the field so you can see the 1st down line.

Is your brain fried yet? I know it is a lot and this is barely breaking the surface in terms of football information, but this will definitely get your foot in the door of football conversations for the rest of the season. Don’t be intimidated by the people who seemingly know everything there is to know about the sport. My suggestion? Fake it ‘til you make it and don’t be afraid to ask questions!

There’s still a lot of season left and plenty of time to learn some more. Good luck and let’s go Birds!

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