Ashley’s Rookie Season : Headsets and Touchdown Scorers

football, normal girls, rookie

Here we go with Round 4 of Ashley’s Rookie Season! If you’ve missed any of our previous sessions, you can find them all here:

Round 1

Round 2

Round 3

Ashley has two great questions today. Let’s dive in!

Q: The coaches have microphone headsets – who are they talking to and why?

A: There are lots of answers to this question, but we’ll start with the most relevant one first. The head coach is usually talking to coordinators who are up in the box (a press box up high in the stadium). They can see things from a much different vantage point than the head coach can and make different observations and play calls based on what they see from above. The coach can also get up-to-date stats on how effective the team is in any number of contexts – third down conversions, running plays on first downs, passing plays, etc – and makes decisions for future play calls based on those numbers. Basically, the head coach is engaged in a constant conversation with his staff in the box in order to collectively create the most effective game plan possible.

Another important microphone/headset scenario is the communication that takes place between the sidelines and the designated “live” helmet. One player from each team is allowed to have a live radio in his helmet through which he receives play calls from a coach – usually a coordinator or position coach, not the head coach, since he is in communication with the coordinators upstairs. On offense, not surprisingly, this player is almost always the quarterback. He usually gets the calls from the offensive coordinator or quarterbacks coach. On defense, also not surprisingly, this player is often a middle linebacker, who is like the quarterback of the defense. Similarly, he usually gets the calls from the defensive coordinator or linebackers coach.

The “live” helmets are designated by a green dot sticker on the back of the helmet. The lines of communication aren’t always open – during the 40-second play clock, the coaches have 25-seconds to communicate with the player wearing the live helmet. It automatically shuts off in the last 15-seconds.

Q: Is there an offensive player that is most-likely to score a touchdown?

There are lots of answers to this question, too! Most Likely to Score a Touchdown is a Football Superlative that anyone can win. There is no one position amongst the offensive “skill” players – wide receivers, running backs, tight ends – that is more likely to score a touchdown than any other. It is completely dependent on the team, the players, and the style of offense they play.

Let’s take a look at the 2012 season offensive scoring statistics. Arian Foster, running back for the Houston Texans, had the most touchdowns with 17 total – 15 rushing, 2 receiving. His skill set, combined with the Texans offense (and offensive line), made him most effective as a running back scoring rushing touchdowns.

The player with the second-most touchdowns was James Jones, wide receiver for the Green Bay Packers. He had 14, and they were all receiving touchdowns. Why? That’s the style of offense Green Bay plays: it’s a heavy-passing West Coast offense manned by the league’s best passer, Aaron Rodgers. At that time the Packers had one of the worst running games in the league. Passing was the name of the game, and James Jones is really, really good at that game, so he had a lot of receiving touchdowns as a wide receiver in a pass-happy offense.

Make sense? If you have any followup questions – or any completely unrelated questions! – feel free to leave them in the comments.

Ashley’s Rookie Season : Touchdowns, Wildcards, and Intentional Grounding

football, normal girls, rookie

 Did you miss a post? Check out Round One and Round Two, or get to know Ashley better!

Q. What makes a touchdown a touchdown? Does the player have to catch the ball in the end zone, run the ball into the end zone? Both? And what if a player is tackled in the end zone? Does the touchdown still count?

A. This is a great question…one I can’t believe hasn’t been answered here in over A YEAR of posts!!! Oh my word! What an oversight! Let’s get right to it.

The NFL, as we know, is a funny place filled with funny rules. This funny nature extends to touchdowns. In general, to score a touchdown, the football just needs to cross the plane of the goal line – the white line separating the end zone from the rest of the field. If the ball – with or without the ball-carrier who is holding it – crosses that line, it’s a touchdown. Think of a quarterback stretching the ball over the top of a huge pile to extend the ball across the goal line and score a touchdown. The quarterback may not have crossed the goal line but the ball did, and that’s all that matters.

However, if the ball is being thrown into the end zone and is caught by a receiver, the receiver needs to have two feet down in bounds and have full control of the ball to be called a touchdown. To your question – if he’s tackled in the end zone that’s fine; he just has to maintain control of the ball and have two feet touch in bounds. If he runs out of bounds (or falls/is tackled out of bounds) after he’s caught the pass and has had two feet down in the end zone, that’s fine, too.

Touchdowns are worth 6 points. Teams usually opt to kick the point after (PAT, Point After Touchdown) but can also choose to “go for 2” – get the football into the end zone from the 2-yard line for 2 points.

Q. What is a wildcard team?

A. To start, let’s chat about how the NFL is organized. The NFL is divided into two conferences, the AFC and the NFC. Each conference is divided into four divisions, North, South, East, and West. Each division has 4 teams. Thus, there are 32 teams in the NFL (16 in each conference, 4 in each division).

(For a free printable with all of that info, check out this post.)

Wildcard teams are the teams that squeak into the playoffs. Currently, 12 teams make the cut into the playoffs: each conference’s division winners (8 teams total) and the two teams from each conference with the highest record (4 teams total). Those 4 teams that didn’t win their division but had the highest record among non-divisional-winners within their conference are the wildcard teams.

Q. What is a grounding penalty? I heard something about a pocket and the ball clearing the line of scrimmage… (Eagles/Giants game – Manning had 3 of these)

A. Somewhere, Eli is making this face at the mention of his recent woes.

So, yes, Eli has been a good case study in intentional grounding, the penalty in question. Intentional grounding is a penalty called on the quarterback when he throws the ball a) from inside the pocket, b) short of the line of scrimmage, c) where there is no eligible receiver to catch the ball.

As a visual, picture the quarterback standing somewhere behind the offensive line and throwing a short pass to no one. That’s intentional grounding.

Why would a quarterback do that “intentionally”? Usually because he’s getting pressured by the defense. If he takes a sack (gets tackled by the defense while still holding the football), the new line of scrimmage will move backwards to wherever he was sacked. He doesn’t want to take that loss of yardage. So he will often try to “throw it away” – throw it to the sidelines as an incomplete pass. That’s legal. But if he tries to throw it away while he’s inside the pocket and it doesn’t travel past the line of scrimmage and there are no eligible receivers in the area, that’s intentional grounding.

Don’t try to think about it logically, since the logical conclusion is that there are no eligible receivers on the sidelines, either, so shouldn’t that be intentional grounding too? But it’s legal as long as the pass goes past the line of scrimmage. Intentional grounding has to meet all three requirements: inside the pocket, short of the line of scrimmage, thrown to a place where there are no eligible receivers.

And that’s Round Three! Questions, comments, concerns? High tail it over to the comments!

Ashley’s Rookie Season : False Start, Units, Field Goals, 12th Man

football, normal girls, rookie

Ashley is back with another great round of questions! Let’s get rolling!

Q: What does a player need to do for a false start to be called?

A: Perfect week for this question! Refer back to yesterday’s post, and be sure to print out the printable to keep handy, but the basic answer is that a false start is when anyone on the offensive line (the seven players on the line of scrimmage (starting line) for the offense) makes any sudden movement or jumps across the line prematurely before the ball has been snapped (transferred from the center to the quarterback). The opposite of a false start (which is called on the offense) is offsides (which is the same penalty but called on the defense).

(Were there enough parentheses in that answer for you? (Were there???))

Q: I know there’s offense and defense, because every sports team has that, but then football throws in this special teams thing? How many “teams” does each team have?

A: Oh, football. Always finding new ways to make life complicated.

There are 3 “teams” – called units – on each football team. There is the offense, the unit with the quarterback that tries to score points. There is the defense, the unit that is trying to stop the offense from scoring points (though their main job is to do this by scoring points themselves through interceptions, forced fumbles, safeties, etc). Then…there is special teams, the unit that gets the least respect.

Special teams is the unit that takes the field in any kicking situation. More often than not, most of the members of the special teams unit are members of the offensive or defensive unit as well. The main exceptions are the punter and kicker (or sometimes just one punter/kicker), who only has kicking responsibilities.

Q: Why would a team choose to go for a field goal instead of a touchdown?

A: It would seem like a team would always want to opt for the touchdown because it’s worth more points, right? But field goals are most often kicked on 4th down, a team’s last chance to earn a new first down. Coaches will opt for a field goal from kickable distance (anywhere from 20-50 yards, depending on the kicker) and go for the sure points rather than taking a chance on “going for it” and potentially failing and then having to turn the ball over to the other team right then and there. A good kicker has a better chance of kicking the football through the uprights from 47 yards away for 3 points than a good quarterback does of successfully throwing it into the end zone – in one try – from 47 yards away for 6 points (7 plus the point after).

The decision to kick or go for it on 4th down is all about strategy: what’s your field position, what’s the time on the clock, how badly do you need the points, and how confident are you in your kicker as opposed to your quarterback?

Q: How many players are allowed on the field at a time?

A: Eleven! You can have less if you choose (although no team would willingly choose that) but you can’t have more – if you do, it’s a 5-yard penalty.

Remember the “12th man” in Seattle? This is a term their fans usually use to describe their influence on the game; their boisterous, deafening presence is like having a 12th man on the field.

Alright, that’s a wrap for this week. Go forth in confidence, rookies!