Working with the NFL as an official

There are seven officials in a NFL game that are responsible for overseeing the game, enforcing the rules, and maintaining order while the game is being played. Becoming an NFL official is about as intense a career path as becoming a baseball umpire. However, since there are actually seven of these officials on the field, that means that there are seven different career positions to look at. If you want to look at numbers, on any given Sunday during the regular season there is 16 games going on during the day meaning that there are 112 different officials working that day.

The seven different officials are as follows:

  • Referee --- responsible for the supervision of the game and has final say in all rulings, referred to as Head Referee and is considered the crew chief of the officials
  • Umpire --- stands behind the linebackers and observes the defensive and offensive front lines for illegal movement and play, and since he is on top of the start of every play, he is considered the most dangerous of the NFL officials
  • Head Linesman --- stands at one end of the line of scrimmage (usually facing the press box) and watches for fouls that occur before the ball is snapped; he is also responsible for marking the forward progress of the ball and assists in the measuring for first downs
  • Line Judge --- assists the Head Linesman and is positioned at the other end of the line of scrimmage and is responsible for plays along his sideline of the field
  • Field Judge --- is positioned behind the defensive secondary on the same side of the field as the Line Judge and is also responsible for plays occurring near his side of the field
  • Side Judge --- works downfield behind the defensive secondary on the same side of the field as the Head Linesman and is similarly responsible as the Field Judge on the opposite side of the field
  • Back Judge --- stands deep behind the defensive secondary in the middle of the field and monitors plays that develop in front of him

So there you have a crash course on the seven different NFL officials responsible for the game.

The regular NFL season is only 17 weeks long and because of this, American football officials are paid on a contractual basis and are not full-time salaried employees. One of the biggest advantages to this form of compensation is that if an official doesn’t make the grade, so to speak, you simply don’t renew his contract.

As a result of this, these officials actually have career jobs in other areas. In fact some of them are even CEO’s, owners, and Presidents of corporations. Though critics of the officiating employment system argue in favor of full-time officials because it would eliminate distractions of a second job, the NFL would lose several of their top officials because of their positions and titles in these corporations. Let’s see. What would I rather do --- be the CEO of the Coca-Cola Company or McDonald’s, or have a job for only 17 weeks as a NFL official? There’s not much of a decision there is there?