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.

Fines & Appeals

The NFL's schedule of infractions and fines, and a process for appeal.

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. 

Gameday: 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 136 computers and four NFL executives to create the NFL's 256-game masterpiece.

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 the NFL and its partners provide to help every player before, during and after his football career.

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 command 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. 

Behind the Stripes: Timeline

Starting the next week’s work when this week’s final whistle blows.

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.

2016 NFL Rulebook

Explore the official rules of the game.

NFL Video Rulebook

NFL SVP of Officiating Dean Blandino explains NFL rules with video examples.

2016 Rules Changes and Points of Emphasis

NFL Overtime Rules

Signals Intelligence

The NFL's familiar hand signals help fans better understand the game.   

Stats Central

Stats Central

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

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.

Behind the Stripes: Timeline

Starting the next week’s work when this week’s final whistle blows.

Every NFL game features a third team on the field: the officials. Fans are familiar with the hard work the players put in to prepare for each season, each game and each play. But many are unaware of the efforts by the league and its officials to also perform at the highest level possible. The NFL’s Officiating Department continuously evaluates performance, trains and mentors personnel, and reviews film to make sure its officials are in position to succeed week after week.

Meet The Officials

Dean Blandino

NFL vice president of officiating

Bio Needed.

Al Riveron

Senior director of officiating, 9–year NFL official

Bio Needed.

Art McNally

Supervisor of officials, 1968-1991

Bio Needed.

Garth DeFelice

West Coast Region supervisor of officials, umpire supervisor, 16–year NFL official

Garth DeFelice became the supervisor of officials in the NFL’s West Region in 2014 and also oversees the league’s umpires. His 16-year NFL career as an umpire included being named to the officiating crew for Super Bowl XL.

Gary Slaughter

Central Region supervisor of officials, line of scrimmage supervisor, 12-year NFL official

Bio Needed.

Jim Tunney

31-year NFL official

Bio Needed.

Mike Singletary

Former NFL head coach and current NFL Operations consultant

Bio Needed.

The league’s 119 officials spend hours each week studying film, meeting with their crews and reviewing evaluations by their supervisors. League officials, supervisors and former coaches grade each of the seven officials in a crew on every play of every game from Art McNally GameDay Central at NFL headquarters in New York. All of this ensures that the third team is as prepared as the players with one goal in mind: officiating consistency across the league.

Each official has a career outside of football — teachers, dairy processors, managing partners at law firms and more. As the officials leave the stadium after a game, ready to board a plane for home, a video review technician hands each one a flash drive with the network broadcast of the game they just worked. Preparation for next week begins now.

Al Riveron

Senior director of officiating, 9–year NFL official

The easiest time for a referee is on Sundays. The tough part is what you do from Sunday night to next Sunday morning. Forget about those three hours on Sunday.

Garth DeFelice

West Coast Region supervisor of officials, umpire supervisor, 16–year NFL official

It’s a lot of work. But if you want to be elite, you have to put in the time and effort.

Al Riveron

Senior Director of Officiating

When people look at officiating, sometimes they feel that we come in on a Saturday night, have a nice dinner and then go work the game on Sunday and it’s all over. Officials don’t just go out and work the game on Sunday. It’s a demanding job. It takes them probably 30 to 35 hours a week to prepare.

Garth DeFelice

West Coast Region supervisor of officials, umpire supervisor, 16-year NFL official

When I was flying back home, the first thing I did was plug my flash drive into my Surface and watched my game. I wanted to see how I executed against what my mind remembers. You look at your game from a number of aspects: Was I in the right position? Was I looking at the right stuff? Did I go through my progressions? Was I a good dead-ball official?

Gary Slaughter

Central Region supervisor of officials, line of scrimmage supervisor, 12-year NFL official

You have to know what you’re getting right and what you’re missing. And if you’re missing some calls, you need to know why: Is it positioning? Is it judgment? Am I really watching what I have to watch?

Officials also can download the All-22 footage of their game about three hours after it ends. All-22 footage compiles sideline and end zone angles and is available to every official on the NFL Vision cloud server. The proprietary software allows officials to review an entire game or isolate specific plays with the click of a button.

The Evaluation

As officials begin to review their performance, the crew inside GameDay Central begins analyzing every play using state-of-the-art technology.

Dean Blandino

NFL vice president of officiating

We are evaluating every play from every game each week, looking at not only the calls we made, but also the calls that should’ve been made. We’re trying to make sure our officials are trained and prepared properly.

Al Riveron

Senior Director of Officiating

They are evaluated on every single play, whether they pull a flag out of their pocket or not. Everyone thinks you evaluate it when you throw your flag. No. You have a lot more situations during a game where you don’t throw the flag. And those are really the hardest ones to call.

Dean Blandino

NFL vice president of officiating

We're evaluating talent and trying to put the best team out there.

Officiating proficiency is not the only aspect of the game thoroughly analyzed at GameDay Central. Officiating assistant Greg Nelson compiles a playlist of potential injuries, logged throughout the day by either the in-stadium injury review system or the GameDay Central replay technicians. This playlist is sent to John Madden, who oversees a safety committee.

The crew prepares an additional compilation of plays that may require disciplinary action for Blandino’s review. If the play warrants further review, Blandino passes it to NFL executives, who determine and hand out fines or suspensions.

The Officiating Department makes sure that its eight supervisors — four full-time and four part-time — have what they need to grade their games. As Sunday night wraps up, supervisors can download video from the NFL’s cloud to assist them with their evaluations. Most weeks, supervisors grade two games, one of which they attend in person.

Dean Blandino

NFL vice president of officiating

Our position supervisors are former NFL officials. They are extremely experienced. They were very successful on the field. It’s very important that we have the right people in these roles because they are not just evaluators — they’re teachers.

Al Riveron

Senior Director of Officiating

In a typical week, we have 16 games. So Monday and Tuesday, those games are evaluated by a supervisor.

Dean Blandino

NFL vice president of officiating

We want to get that expertise because we want to be consistent and accurate in our evaluation.

The league's four full-time supervisors – DeFelice, Slaughter, Neely Dunn and Bill Leavy — are responsible for a specific position: umpire, line of scrimmage, downfield and referee, respectively. Each supervisor has significant experience at his position. In addition to mentoring their officials, supervisors create position-specific training videos.

Dean Blandino

NFL vice president of officiating

We actually have position coaches, just like teams do. They have a wealth of experience at different positions. When we go through a holding call at the line of scrimmage, I’ll ask my umpire supervisor [DeFelice]: “What do you think?”

Gary Slaughter

Central Region supervisor of officials, line of scrimmage supervisor, 12-year NFL official

Our job has a lot of responsibilities. We work diligently with the guys at our positions to make sure they’re all at the same level. We’re looking at every play of every game to see that it’s officiated as correctly as we can. And if it’s not, then we point that out to the crew and try to work on better understanding the coverage of the play.

Dean Blandino

NFL vice president of officiating

Each crew, over the course of Monday and Tuesday, will get a preliminary report of all the calls they made, and the things that we want to bring to their attention. We focus a lot on teaching, training, positioning and mechanics. And that goes into their overall evaluation.

Al Riveron

Senior Director of Officiating

If officials have any issues [with their evaluation] they want to discuss with their supervisor, they can do so.

Making The Grade

Once supervisors submit grades, referees hold conference calls with their crew to discuss their evaluations. They talk about what went right, what went wrong and where they can improve. With aspirations of working a conference championship game or Super Bowl, officials know that their grades ultimately determine if they work in the postseason.

Art McNally

Supervisor of officials, 1968–1991

We’re going to strive for perfection, but we’re not going to get it — I know from experience. I’ve never seen a perfectly officiated football game. But our officials are the finest group of officials in the country, and I’d put them up against anybody.

Garth DeFelice

West Coast Region supervisor of officials, umpire supervisor, 16-year NFL official

You go through [your film], and you’re commiserating with your fellow officials. You’re calling them and asking, “What do you think? Why don’t you look at this play?” You watch your game all week.

Jim Tunney

31-year NFL official

I’ve never met an official who made a bad call and was happy.

Garth DeFelice

West Coast Region supervisor of officials, umpire supervisor, 16-year NFL official

The biggest critics are the officials themselves.

Al Riveron

Senior Director of Officiating

We have to have some kind of system to categorize our officials for the playoffs. And the evaluation process is keen to what we do at the end of the year.

Jim Tunney

31-year NFL official

As an official, my No. 1 goal every season was to work the Super Bowl.

Garth DeFelice

West Coast Region supervisor of officials, umpire supervisor, 16-year NFL official

You want to work the playoffs. You want to work the Super Bowl. One downgrade can change that — one incorrect call, one no-call, one mechanical problem.

Officials can request clarification on their grades for any play. Those plays are reviewed on Wednesdays when Blandino, Riveron and the supervisors meet to review every play together. The meetings usually take place via videoconference; four times a season, the supervisors meet in person at GameDay Central.

Dean Blandino

NFL vice president of officiating

On Wednesday, we go through all the calls as a group for consistency purposes to ensure we are applying a consistent standard in our evaluation system.

Al Riveron

Senior Director of Officiating

We categorize every single foul. We go over the games by fouls. So we review all holdings together. We look at each holding. We say, “It’s a foul,” “It’s not a foul” or “Was the flag thrown?”

Garth DeFelice

West Coast Region supervisor of officials, umpire supervisor, 16-year NFL official

It’s a collaboration with everybody. It’s a lengthy day, but it’s good because it helps us be consistent.

Today's Technology

Crews haven’t always had cutting-edge technology to use when they review games. At one time, hotel linens were a key part of the process — a far cry from the NFL Vision software, cloud storage and flash drives of today.

Jim Tunney

31-year NFL official

Our games were sent to us on rolls of 60 mm film. Each crew would have to pick up that film and a projector that the league sent at the front desk of the hotel. We’d go up to one of our rooms, take a sheet off the bed and hang it on the wall with adhesive tape. And that was our screen.

GameDay Central creates several compilation videos to clarify specific plays. Blandino strongly believes in using video to train officials, and the technology inside GameDay Central allows his team to prepare three different weekly instructional videos — each for a specific audience:

  • Training video: Roughly 20 minutes long, this video — intended for the league’s officials — normally covers a specific topic, such as player safety or defensive pass interference. It is distributed only to officials on Friday afternoon.
  • Coaches’ video: Every head coach can submit up to nine plays each week for GameDay Central to review. The department compiles some of the plays into a video that clarifies, for the coaches, the plays in question. All 32 teams receive the video on Thursdays, and coaches usually review the video with their players during their Friday team meeting.
  • Media video: The officiating media video clarifies the previous week’s controversial calls for the media and fans. Released on Fridays, every media video of the current season is available here.

Dean Blandino

NFL vice president of officiating

Other than getting reps on the field, video is the next best thing. We have position-specific training tapes. We have overall training tapes. We have rules tests that have a video component to them. And this happens throughout the entire season.

A video officiating “test” is posted on the NFL cloud for download on Wednesdays. Blandino narrates the video, which covers a few tough plays and tests the officials on how they would handle the calls. The quiz is a teaching tool and is not graded.

Just as a coach scouts opponents to discover their strengths and weaknesses, Blandino and Riveron use video to show officials what they can expect from the teams they’ll be seeing at their next game. Video helps prepare officials for teams that rely on certain formations, run no-huddle offenses or use other specific tactics each week.

Al Riveron

Senior Director of Officiating

We scout plays. Dean and I actually sit down and send out anywhere from five to 10 plays that will benefit officials in reading formations and seeing tendencies to better officiate the game.

The NFL’s popularity means that each official’s every move is scrutinized — so Blandino feels that it’s important to communicate to the public how and why the game is called the way it is. That’s why he records his “Official Review” segment for the NFL Network’s “NFL Total Access” every Tuesday during the regular season. Using an 80-inch touch-screen monitor in GameDay Central, he breaks down the week’s toughest calls and clarifies the league’s rulings.

A Fresh Perspective

To get a different perspective of the league’s officials, Blandino includes former and current NFL coaches in the evaluation process. Their unique point of view on each week’s games allows the Officiating Department to hear feedback from other football experts.

Dean Blandino

NFL vice president of officiating

We are bringing in offensive and defensive coaches to help us in our teaching process. It bridges the gap between how the game is officiated, how the game is being coached and how it’s being played.

Mike Singletary

Former NFL head coach and current NFL Operations consultant

I come [to GameDay Central] early Monday morning and start watching film. I’m looking at things I can see from a former player or coach’s standpoint and bring to Dean and Al’s attention. I’m taking them into the world of the coach or player.

Dean Blandino

NFL vice president of officiating

It’s very beneficial because it increases the dialogue between officiating and coaching. We feel we can gain knowledge from the coaches on “What can our officials look for when they present that formation?”

Mike Singletary

Former NFL head coach and current NFL Operations consultant

I'm trying to feed them information from my view. And I’m constantly looking for feedback from them to sharpen my point of view. It’s iron-sharpening as we go, and learning from each other.

Dean Blandino

NFL vice president of officiating

And the coaches then can take [what they learn] back onto the field. They have knowledge of how the game is being officiated.

Gameday Central Consult

In the 2014 season, in an effort to get calls right, Blandino and Riveron began communicating in real time with the on-field referee, consulting on plays under challenge or review.

Al Riveron

Senior Director of Officiating

This year, we’re consulting in replay situations in GameDay Central. We’re consulting with the replay official. Now that Dean and I are involved, we can see the play live and actually review the play as a referee is going over and talking to the coach. By the time the referee gets in the booth, we’ve had an opportunity to look at it, show him the best angle and come up with the best solution.

Dean Blandino

NFL vice president of officiating

We are able to analyze all of the video and make a decision based on definitive evidence, not just a feeling.

Al Riveron

Senior Director of Officiating

When there’s a replay situation, either Dean or myself get on and listen to the replay official and the referee. We already have a heads-up on what we’re going to look at. So we examine the play and go over it with the replay official. And again, it’s all about consistency. We try to be consistent across all 16 games on Sunday.

Officiating will never be perfect, but the Officiating Department always tries to get as close as possible. The dedication to continuously evaluating, training and mentoring the league’s officials is an ongoing commitment. The process continues to evolve, and the thoroughness, preparation and expertise involved are indispensable.

Fans, coaches and players may not always agree with every call, but when the curtain is pulled back on the process, the league’s commitment to excellence, consistency and clarity is revealed. Blandino, his GameDay Central team and the 119 on-field officials strive for perfection more than the public eye can see, ensuring that the players — not officials’ calls — decide the outcome on the field.

Art McNally

Supervisor of officials, 1968–1991

If it can improve a crew, then it’s all worth it.

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