Football For Dummies book cover

Football For Dummies

By: Howie Long and John Czarnecki Published: 06-12-2019

Are you ready for some football?

New stadiums have been built, new stars have been born, and records have been broken since the last edition of Football For Dummies. This new edition is the fan's ultimate, up-to-date guide to all things pigskin. Perfect for new and veteran fans of the sport alike, it covers everything you need to be the most knowledgeable spectator in the stadium. 

With deep explanations of every position, analysis of offense and defense, and detailed strategies for play, football legend Howie Long and established analyst John Czarnecki present the nuts and bolts of football for fans of all ages and experiences. 

  • Tackle football basics and enjoy America’s favorite sport
  • Grasp the rules and regulations, positions, plays, and penalties
  • Appreciate the different aspects of the game at the professional and college levels
  • Learn about the latest NFL stadium technologies

Football For Dummies has something to offer fans of all ages, from peewees to the pros and everything between.

Articles From Football For Dummies

5 results
5 results
Football For Dummies (USA Edition) Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet / Updated 03-10-2022

American football is about trying to make points by passing, carrying, or kicking an oblong ball (with two pointed ends) into your opponent's end zone. Football is a rough-and-tumble game with its own jargon, including some terms that are just plain odd. For example, a strong safety is a defender, and a regular safety is a play that scores two points — go figure. But knowing the lingo (including the fun slang) and the players, not to mention common penalties, can take you a long way toward getting a handle on this popular American sport.

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Fun Football Slang: Get a Handle on the Terminology/Terms

Article / Updated 08-20-2019

Every sport has its own words and phrases to talk about what’s happening in the game and football is no exception. Football is wildly popular in the United States, but that doesn’t mean everyone understands the lingo. To better follow along, get to know some of these unique football terms and what they mean. Audible: When the quarterback changes the play at the line of scrimmage by calling out prescribed signals to his teammates. Coffin corner: The area between the opponent’s end zone and five-yard line. Punters try to kick the ball into the coffin corner so that the offense takes over the ball deep in its own territory. Count: The numbers or words that a quarterback shouts loudly while waiting for the ball to be snapped. The quarterback usually informs his teammates in the huddle that the ball will be snapped on a certain count. Draw: A disguised run that initially looks like a pass play. The offensive linemen retreat like they’re going to pass-protect for the quarterback. The quarterback drops back and, instead of setting up to pass, he turns and hands the ball to a running back. Hail Mary: When the quarterback, usually in desperation at the end of a game, throws a long pass without targeting a receiver with the hope that a receiver will catch the ball and score a touchdown. Neutral zone: The area in football between the two lines of scrimmage, stretching from sideline to sideline. The width of this area is defined by the length of the football. Other than the center, no player can be in the neutral zone prior to the snap; otherwise, the official calls an encroachment or violation of the neutral zone (offside) penalty. Offside: A penalty caused when any part of a player’s body is beyond his line of scrimmage or the free kick line when the football is snapped. Option: When a quarterback has the choice — the option — to either pass or run. The option is gamerunners. Pick-six: When a defender intercepts, or picks off, a pass in football and runs it back for a touchdown, thereby scoring six points. Pigskin: A slang term for the football, which is actually made of leather, not pigskin. Pocket: The area where the quarterback stands when he drops back to throw the ball. This area extends from a point two yards outside of either offensive tackle and includes the tight end if he drops off the line of scrimmage to pass-protect. The pocket extends longitudinally behind the line back to the offensive team’s own end line. Red zone: In football, the term “red zone” refers to the unofficial area from inside the 20-yard line to the opponent’s goal line. Holding an opponent to a field goal in this area is considered a victory by the defense. Roll out: When the quarterback runs left or right away from the pocket before throwing the ball. Scramble: When the quarterback, to gain time for receivers to get open, moves behind the line of scrimmage, dodging the defense. Spiral: The tight spin on the football in flight after the quarterback releases it. The term “tight spiral” is often used to describe a solidly thrown football. Sweep: A fairly common run in every football team’s playbook. It begins with two or more offensive linemen leaving their stances and running toward the outside of the line of scrimmage. In football, the ball carrier takes a handoff from the quarterback and runs parallel to the line of scrimmage, waiting for his blockers to lead the way around the end. Takeaway: How a defense describes any possession in which it forces a fumble and recovers the ball or registers an interception. In football, any turnover that the defense collects is called a takeaway. Weak side: The side of the offense opposite the side on which the tight end lines up. To learn more about football terms, check out Ten Terms American Football Announcers Use.

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Football Trivia: Answers to Questions You May Be Too Afraid to Ask

Article / Updated 08-20-2019

Football has wedged itself into the American culture, but it can be an intimidating sport to follow if you don’t know much about it. The widespread popularity of the sport has made many afraid to ask questions about football basics. Not to worry; here are the answers to a few questions you may be too afraid to ask your friends or family about football. How big is a football field? Football fields are 100 yards long and 53 1/3 yards wide. Each end zone is 10 yards deep. Consequently, all football games are played on a rectangular field that’s 360 feet long and 160 feet wide. How many players are on the field in football? Each football team has 11 players per side: 11 on offense and 11 on defense. Football teams are allowed to play with fewer than 11 players (why would they want to do that?), but they’re penalized for having more than 11 players on the field during play. How do you score points in football? There are five ways to score points in football: A touchdown is awarded six points. An extra point, also known as a point after touchdown (PAT), is awarded one point. A two-point conversion, attempted after a touchdown, is awarded two points. A field goal is awarded three points. A safety scores two points (for the defensive team). What is a safety in football? A safety, worth two points, is scored by the defense when they tackle an offensive player in possession of the football in their own end zone. What is targeting in football? Targeting is when a football player lowers his head and uses the crown of his helmet when tackling a defenseless receiver, running back, or quarterback in the head or neck area. College football has strict rules on this 15-yard penalty. The game officials use replay officials in order to consider intent, and if replay shows the defender struck the offensive player in the head or neck area, it results in an automatic ejection of the football player who commits the foul. What is a blitz in football? A blitz is a defensive strategy in football where a linebacker or defensive back vacates his customary position or responsibility in order to tackle the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage (also known as a sack) or force the quarterback to hurry his pass. (Prior to World War II, this defensive strategy was called a red-dog, but the name was changed to blitz after the German Army’s blitzkrieg tactics.) What is a “hail Mary” in football? A hail Mary is when the quarterback, usually in desperation at the end of a football game, throws a long pass without targeting a receiver with the hope that a receiver will catch the ball and score a touchdown. Why is Super Bowl Sunday such a big deal? The main reason Super Bowl Sunday is so popular is that pro football is the only major professional team sport with a single-elimination playoff system. Other major sports declare their champions after a team wins four games in a best-of-seven series. And it isn’t just the game itself that attracts viewers. Watching the big game to see the commercials has become a part of what makes Super Bowl Sunday so special. Is a football really made of pigskin? It may be referred to as a pigskin, but, don’t worry, footballs today are actually made from cowhide. Why are footballs called a pigskin? Footballs resemble a toughened pig’s skin, and in the game’s early days, they were swollen like a chubby little piggy. Where are the best seats in a football stadium? The really good seats in every football stadium are near the 50-yard line, 25 rows up, where you can scan the entire field. The end zone can also be a good place to watch a game. Which NFL stadium is the best? There’s no better setting in pro football than Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. With its circular seating and lack of an upper deck, Lambeau is a fan-friendly stadium. Every seat offers a good view of the action. Lambeau is also a player-friendly stadium. To improve their field in freezing conditions, the Packers installed SportGrass in 1997. The old field, by the way, was packed into “Frozen Tundra” boxes and sold to fans to help pay for the new field. Which is a better field in football; natural grass or artificial turf? There’s no question that natural grass is the best surface for football on any level from Pop Warner to the NFL. Natural grass is green, soft, and beautiful, but it needs to be mowed, watered, and replaced (after all, football cleats can rip up turf). Artificial surfaces are made from synthetic nylon fibers that resemble very short blades of grass or tightly woven fibers that give the feel of a cushioned carpet. They are cheaper to maintain, but you may notice that many football players wear elastic sleeves to protect them from turf burns. How do football coaches decide whether to kick or attempt a two-point conversion after a touchdown? Coaches have a universal chart that tells them when to kick and when to attempt a two-point conversion. They like the chart because they dislike being second-guessed by football players and the media for making the wrong choice. Here’s what the chart says: If you’re behind by 2, 5, 9, 12, or 16 points, attempt a two-point conversion. If you’re ahead by 1, 4, 5, 12, 15, or 19 points, attempt a two-point conversion. If you’re behind by 1, 4, or 11 points, you have to make the dreaded judgment call—it can go either way. Why does the NFL have a salary cap? The salary cap was designed to put all the NFL teams on equal footing when competing for free agents and signing their number-one draft choices. The cap is based on football players receiving a certain percentage of the defined gross revenues of the NFL teams, which include revenue from network television contracts, ticket sales, and product sales. The salary cap for the 2019 season is $188.2 million, a 40-percent increase from the 2014 salary cap. Why do professional football players make so much money? Salaries in the NFL have risen dramatically since the late 1980s. In 1988, the average salary of an NFL player was $250,000. It jumped to almost $800,000 in 1997, to $1.5 million in 2005, and to $1.9 million in 2014. These increases came about because of the financial impact of the league’s television contract, which in the years 2006 to 2011 amounted to $3.1 billion per year (the largest portion of a team’s revenue). Can they use just any football for game day? Of course not! In the NFL, the football must be a Wilson brand, bearing the signature of league commissioner Roger Goodell. It must weigh between 14 and 15 ounces, inflated to between 12-1⁄2 and 13-1⁄2 pounds of air pressure. How big are football players? Well, it depends on the position. On average, football players range in weight from 150 to 360 pounds and in height from 5’5” to 6’9” tall. The ideal quarterback is six feet five inches tall and weighs 225 pounds. The ideal linebacker is at least six feet three inches tall and weighs 240 pounds (the bigger and taller, the better). The ideal cornerback is at least six feet tall and weighs between 180 and 190 pounds (and can run the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds). Why do I see so many coaches on the sidelines in a football game? Almost every football team has more than one coach. Some football teams have two coaches monitoring special teams: One coach handles the punter and placekicker, and the other coach handles coverages and kick protection. The typical NFL team averages 20 assistant coaches. What is the most common penalty in football? Holding is the most common football penalty called against the offense when it’s attempting to pass. What are the harshest penalties in football? Some penalties cost 15 yards—the stiffest penalty there is (other than ejection or pass interference). Here are just a few of the actions that will earn this penalty and, sometimes, an automatic first down: A tackler using his helmet to butt, spear, or ram an opponent. When a tackler twists, turns, or pulls an opponent by the face mask. A punter, placekicker, or holder simulates being roughed by a defensive player. When the captains for either team fail to show up (or fail to show up in uniform) in the center of the field for the coin toss three minutes prior to the start of the football game. What does “unnecessary roughness” mean in football? It’s a 15-yard penalty that has several variations. Examples include tackling the ball carrier when he’s clearly out of bounds or throwing the ball carrier to the ground after an official has blown the whistle. Why do some football players wear towels? Quarterbacks and wide receivers often wear towels to wipe their hands clean of mud and moisture between plays. Towels can be only eight inches long and six inches wide and must be tucked into the front waist of the pants. Who is the Heisman Trophy named for? John W. Heisman, a Brown University (and later University of Pennsylvania) player. Heisman was also a member of New York’s Downtown Athletic Club, where the award was presented every December until the building was damaged in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Why do some football teams wear throwback jerseys? In 1994, to mark the 75th anniversary of the NFL, the league started permitting teams to wear throwback jerseys. A few teams (the Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints, and Cleveland Browns) have worn the same uniforms (check out the NFL uniform codes for more information), more or less, from the beginning. Why don’t we see drop kicks much anymore in football? Current rules still allow drop-kicking, but the football’s tapered design stops most players from trying it. The last successful drop kick in the NFL occurred on January 1, 2006, when Doug Flutie drop-kicked an extra point in the final game of his career. Prior to that, no one in the NFL had succeeded in making a drop-kick since the 1941 championship game.

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New Offensive Plays for Football: Fly Sweep, Run-Pass Option, and Bubble Screen

Article / Updated 08-20-2019

Good offensive football coaches try to get into the head and minds of the defense. When calling a specific play, offensive coaches want to not only beat you, but also make you look a little foolish. Football coaches work hard to develop new offensive plays to accomplish those goals. Some new offensive football plays include the fly sweep, run-pass option and bubble screen. Take a look to learn about these offensive football strategies. Fly sweep This offensive football play has become common in the last decade as teams with versatile receivers use them as runners. As you can see below, the receivers line up in their normal positions, and one of them goes in motion toward the quarterback. After the ball is snapped, the quarterback simply flips the ball to receiver as he passes in front of him. The play is blocked like a typical sweep run. Teams that use this play a lot, like the Los Angeles Rams, can also use the fly sweep design as deception, faking the handoff and then either throwing to the receiver as he runs downfield or to another receiver. © John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Run-pass option For a quarterback to run this offensive football play, he must possess the skills and toughness of a running back. But he also must correctly read the intent of defenders. The beauty of the play, if performed correctly, is the stress it puts on the defense. Not only can the quarterback pull the ball back from the running back and take off running, but he can step back and throw to a receiver running a slant pass. In high school and college, teams with exceptional athletic quarterbacks can have a high-scoring offense because defenses at that level generally don’t have enough speedy defenders to stop this offensive football play. As you can see in the image below, the quarterback reads a second-level defender and decides whether to pass the ball or hand it off based on the defenses post-snap movement. If he doesn’t like either of those options, the quarterback can elect to run where the blockers planned to block for the running back or make a split-second decision to find his own running lane. If the “read” defenders attacks the line of scrimmage to help against the run, the QB throws to the WR running a slant. The WR should be open with the defender vacating his area of the field. If the “read” defender decides to defend the slant pass, the QB hands the ball off to the RB. Now the offense has as many blockers as the defense has run defenders in the tackle box. © John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Opt for possession passes with the bubble screen Possession passes offer another option for an offensive play in football. Most of the time, a possession pass is a short throw, between 8 and 10 yards, to either a running back or a tight end. The intent isn’t necessarily to gain a first down but to maintain possession of the ball while gaining yardage. Often, teams call possession passes several times in a short period to help the quarterback complete some easy passes and build his confidence. One high-percentage pass is the bubble screen pass in which three potential receivers align to one side of the offensive formation, allowing the quarterback to throw to one of them while the other two receivers block on the play against whatever defenders are aligned to that side. Often the play can pick up big yardage if the blocking receivers do their job effectively. Also, with such a formation, overloaded to one side, teams have been known to run or even throw in the oppostive direction, kind of a misdirection play. © John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Here’s something you should know about offensive plays in football: No perfect play exists for every occasion. In strategy sessions prior to a game, a play may look like it will result in a long gain, but in reality it may not succeed for various reasons. It may fail because someone on the offensive team doesn’t execute or because a defensive player simply anticipates correctly and makes a great play. Things happen!

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Rules for Football Helmets and Face Masks

Article / Updated 08-20-2019

Football helmets and masks play a very important role in player safety. The football helmet and face mask are designed to protect a player’s face and head from serious injury. Many players also wear a mouth guard to protect their teeth and prevent themselves from biting their tongues. A few players even wear another protective cap on the outside of the football helmet for added protection. Football helmets are equipped with chin straps to keep them snugly in place. To prevent serious concussions, many helmets have air-filled pockets inside them. A player tests his helmet by sticking his head inside it and then shaking it for comfort, also making sure that it’s snug. If it’s too tight, he simply releases air from the air pockets. Player safety is an increasingly important issue with concussions and other head injuries becoming a major concern. The NFL and the NFL Players Association, the union that represents all players, have worked together for years on uniform and football helmet improvements to better protect players from injury. As part of the NFL’s “Play Smart, Play Safe” initiative, the league allocated $60 million toward the development of better protective equipment, including helmets. Because of the increase in concussions, the NFL reached a one-billion-dollar concussion settlement in 2017 with former players and their dependents. Families of all football players, from Pop Warner to high school, to college to the NFL, should be aware that many constructive and valuable helmet designs have been made in the last few years. The NFL has worked with the players and its biomedical experts to assess 34 helmet models made by six companies that were worn in the 2018 season, determining which was best at reducing head impact severity experienced by players on the field. The VICIS ZERO1 helmet ranked number one. However, 15 other helmets from Schutt, Xenith and Riddell are listed in the top performing group after laboratory testing. The NFL went so far as to ban 10 helmet models, although four of those designs were permitted to be worn by veteran players like Tom Brady and Drew Brees who were comfortable with the older football helmets and didn’t want to change. However, rookies were forbidden to wear similar models to what Brady and Brees use. When you're watching a game, you may notice players wearing football helmets of slightly different shapes and designs. Players are allowed to choose the helmet design that works best for them as long as the helmet design is certified by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment. All football helmets are equipped with face masks. The rounded metal material that composes all face masks can’t be more than 5/8-inch in diameter. Most linemen wear a face mask called a cage, which has a bar extending down from the middle and top of the football helmet to below the nose area. There, this bar joins two or three bars that extend from both sides that completely prevent an opponent’s hands from reaching inside the face area and under the chin. However, few quarterbacks and receivers have a face mask with a bar coming between their eyes, because they want to ensure they can see clearly; many also leave the chin exposed. Twenty years ago, some quarterbacks wore a helmet with a single bar across the face. Today, you may see a punter or kicker with a helmet that has a single bar, but players who encounter more contact during games want more protection. Some football helmets also have a sunshade across the eyes to prevent sun glare from interfering with the player’s vision. This sunshade also keeps opponents from seeing the player’s eyes, which may give the player an advantage because opponents can’t see where the player is looking. Regardless which football helmet design you choose, it is very important to take the necessary precautions to keep players safe and protected.

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