Opinion and EditorialSports

A Dummies’ Guide to Football

Are you looking to impress a certain man in your life or are you looking to find something in common with a new group of friends that love football, but you really don’t have a clue what it is? Do you live under a rock? Just kidding (kind of).

First off, let me explain to you that football is king in America. What is the number one show this fall, you ask? Sunday Night Football.

The National Football League consists of 32 professional football teams who compete during a regular season of 16 games in hopes of reaching the super bowl, which is the NFL championship. The NFL grossed north of $9 billion last season and will ultimately make more than that in 2015. The NFL is also made of Teflon; over the past year there have been numerous scandals that many thought would sink the league. However, that just hasn’t happened. Offenses have ranged from domestic violence to a drunk driving hit and runs, and the NFL has looked bad in each case decision but has escaped unharmed. Why? People are obsessed with football.

Now, how about the actual game? Here’s an extremely simple explanation of football so you can sort of understand what you are watching on your screen every Sunday, Monday and Thursday.

Each game starts off with a coin toss, whichever team wins the coin toss decides whether or not they want the ball to start the game or after half time. The losing team of the coin toss decides which way the other team will receive the kick.

After the coin toss, a kick off ensues and a team usually elects to take a touchback, which means they will start their first play at the 20-yard line. The offense then has four downs to move the ball 10 yards. If they complete this, they keep moving down the field until they either score (touchdown or field goal) or get stopped by the defense.

Teams can choose to either throw or run the ball down the field. The quarterback is the one that throws the ball. He throws the ball to his wide receivers, tight ends or running backs.

Wide receivers are the guys lined up on the outside of the field. Tight ends are lined up right next to the offensive line- they are the group of men protecting the quarterback. The running backs are lined up either beside the quarterback or behind the quarterback. They will also run the ball if handed off to them, hence their name.


If the offense gets to their fourth and final down, and are not within field goal range, they will usually elect to punt. A punter kicks the ball as far as possible down the field so that the opposing team’s offense has a larger area they have to move the ball, meaning more chances for the punter’s defense to stop the other team.

If the offense moves the ball down the field but does not score a touchdown, which is when a team gets the ball into the end-zone at the end of the field, a team will elect to kick a field goal if they feel as if their kicker is close enough to make it through the posts. Field goals can range from 60 yards away to as close as 17 yards.

A touchdown is scored if the ball crosses the plane of the end-zone. This results in six points whereas a field goal is three points. If the team scores a touchdown, they will have the choice to either kick an extra point or go for two more points. An extra point is a 35 yard field goal for one point. If a team elects to go for two, they will get the ball on the two-yard line with a chance to punch it in the end-zone (by running a normal play) for two more points on top of the six from their touchdown.

On the defensive side of the ball, a team usually has three tries to stop the opposing team before the other team will need to punt the ball, unless they are within field goal range.

On defense, there is the defensive line, which lines up on the opposite side of the offensive line. These two will battle in the trenches all game. It is their job to sack the quarterback, which means to tackle him before he has a chance to get the ball to a receiver.

Behind the defensive line are the linebackers. These guys have two options, drop back into coverage against the receivers and try and stop the offense from passing the ball, or rush the quarterback and put pressure on him in hopes to sack or disrupt his throw. The job of the defensive line and the linebackers is to disrupt the quarterback just enough so that he will throw an interception or possibly fumble the football.

An interception occurs when the quarterback throws the ball and the defense picks it off. The quarterback, running back, wide receivers or tight ends can make a fumble. These occur when the player has possession of the ball and the defensive team knocks it out of their hands.

Finally, behind the linebackers is the secondary. The guys in the secondary are usually tasked with handling the wide receivers and tight ends of the offense. They try and guard the receivers so they cannot get the ball and are usually the ones that will intercept the ball from the quarterback. These guys will also help in run defense.

The secondary is made up of cornerbacks and safeties. The cornerbacks are the ones that are usually lined up against the wide receivers. Safeties will help the cornerbacks in coverage and will be behind them when everyone is lined up. They also help to defend against a run.

Now, you’re ready to join the rest of Americans who hail to this game. So, go impress your crush/friend group with all of your new football knowledge. Maybe now that you understand what all of the men in tight pants are doing, you can enjoy the game as well. Who knows, this could be the start to a whole new obsession; but no worries, obsessed football fans are never alone. Just choose your team wisely.