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14 Things Every Football Fan Pretends To Understand

Of course I know what a zone read is. *Runs away*

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You may know what some of these terms mean. You may even know all of them. But at some point in your football-watching career, you definitely didn't, but you pretended you did, to try and look all smart.

1. The "Tampa 2" defense.

What you think it means: "It's when"

What it actually means: A 4-3 defense popularized by Tony Dungy and Monte Kiffin with the Buccaneers (hence the name). The defining characteristic is the pivotal, sitting middle linebacker, who drops back into a deep zone if he reads a pass play.

2. What a "non-reviewable play" is.

Getty/Jonathan Daniel/Staff

What you think it means: "I'm pretty sure it's just on scoring plays and...whenever it helps my team."

What it actually means: In fairness, it's pretty complicated. The Football Officials of America have a one-sheet on this you can read, which may or may not be a silly way to spent 10 minutes. Or you could just continue to take Jon Gruden's word for it.


3. What a "football move" is.

What you think it means: "It's when you move...upfield? In a natural way? Right?"

What it actually means: Mike Pereira, former Vice President of Officiating for the NFL, somewhat helpfully explained this on Twitter: "A football move = to perform an act common to the game like pitching, passing, or turning upfield." Pitching? Got it. Wait. What?

4. The "nickel package."

What you think it means: "I kinda remember that from Madden. Ummm, it's good against passing plays, I'm pretty sure."

What it actually means: An alignment with five defensive backs (five! nickel!) often played against a pass-happy team or on a pass-likely down.

6. The "West Coast Offense."

Getty/George Rose/Stringer

What you think it means: "Basically you pass a lot. And something about Bill Walsh."

What it actually means: Not too far from that? It's about establishing a short, quick passing game to open up space for longer passes.


7. What an "ineligible receiver" is.

What you think it means: "Linemen can't catch the ball. Except when they declare that they want to. I honestly don't even know."

What it actually means: Here's who is eligible, in a nutshell:

– Players at either end of the group at the line of scrimmage

– Players lined up at least one yard behind the line of scrimmage

– Player who receives the snap (college only!)

SO, if a slot receiver accidentally lines up at the line of scrimmage instead of a yard behind, you lose an eligible receiver. AND, in college, no player wearing a number between 50 and 79 can be eligible. *phew* Basically, read this wiki.

8. The penalty for "illegal shift."

What you think it means: "Oh that one's easy, it's the same thing as illegal motion." *backs away slowly* *is penalized for illegal backing-away*

What it actually means: Before the snap, you can have multiple players moving (shifting) both laterally and toward/away from the line of scrimmage, but they (as a group) have to come to a complete stop for at least a second before the play starts, otherwise ILLEGAL. It's illegal motion when more than one player is moving when the ball snaps and/or that player is moving toward or away from the line of scrimmage. This isn't arena football. Team Speed Kills has a helpful breakdown on this.

10. The "Zone Read."!prettyPhoto

What you think it means: "Is that when you read the zone blitz? It has something to do with Oregon, I think. And it's the future."

What it actually means: The "zone" comes from using some form of a zone blocking scheme (I KNOW) and the "read" refers to the QB's responsibility to either hand off, pass or run based on reading the defensive coverage. It is obviously a biiiiiiiit more complicated than that, but that's the gist.


11. The "Zone Blitz."

What you think it means: "When everyone rushes one zone? Like, an overload-type situation, maybe?"

What it actually means: When traditional pass rushers drop into zone coverage and unexpected blitzers (defensive backs) rush the QB. Chris Brown from Smart Football gave a great breakdown of zone blitz permutations for the New York Times. Apparently zone blitzing has "countless possible variants" and even announcers "both under- and overuse the term." So confusion is understandable.

12. "Stunting."

What you think it means: "It's the thing that goes along with blitzing in the sentence 'I can't believe we're not doing more stunting and blitzing to get some pressure on the quarterback.'"

What it actually means: It's when defensive players cross paths to confuse the offensive line/blockers.

13. "Prevent defense."

What you think it is: All DBs running full speed backwards. Ultimate surrender.

What it actually is: A containment scheme using seven-plus defensive backs to cut off long pass completion opportunities. It makes sense in the right circumstances, promise!

14. The "Wildcat offense."

What you think it is: When a quarterback runs. Usually Brad Smith.

What it actually is: A specific formation that rotates the skilled personnel on offense so that the receiver of the snap is a legitimate running threat, making for an 11-on-11 rushing scenario instead of 10-on-11, then incorporating a "jet sweep" by another runner as another option. The option to pass is always on, too.