Wing pinching on goal line

Wing Imperatives: How to Officiate Near the Line to Gain

When the ball is downed close to the LTG (within 1 yard behind or beyond the LTG), the covering
wing should kill the clock, pinch hard to the ball, ask for the ball, and spot it.

We do NOT want the umpire spotting the ball if it is close enough to possibly measure. If the umpire places the ball on the ground relative to the wing’s foot position, the spot is not reliable for a measurement. By crashing hard and spotting the ball, the wings are “selling” their spot.

Wings Should Pinch Until They Meet Resistance

Wings should not go around, hop over, or push through players. The umpire, referee, or back judge can bring the ball to the covering wing.

The Line Judge MUST be Vocal and Active

The LJ is the official facing the chains so they must be vocal and active. When the ball is downed close to the LTG, after dead-ball officiating the referee will not look at the ball in relation to the LTG. The R will look at the LJ. The LJ should say one of three statements: “We’re short, X down” “It’s a first down,” or “It’s close, take a look.”

The LJ should indicate a first down with a clear arm motion toward the direction of the defensive goal line. The R needs an active and vocal LJ to keep the crew in rhythm.

Make It Short or Make It Long

When the ball is downed close to the line to gain, the wings will often definitively know the ball was
downed behind or beyond the LTG. This is especially true for the LJ who is facing the chains.

If the wing definitively knows the runner passed the LTG stripe or hash, he should pinch in, ask for the ball, then purposefully spot the ball so the nose is beyond the mark.

If the wing definitively knows the runner did not reach the line, he should pinch in, ask for the ball, and purposefully mark it short.

If the wing knows the runner passed the LTG or was short of the LTG, but puts the ball down at the LTG, he will compel the white hat to measure. It’s okay to measure occasionally, especially when the game is close or on grass fields, but the wings can do a lot to minimize the number of times the crew will measure for a first down.

When the Ball is Downed Close to the Goal Line

Wings should have the same sense of urgency when the ball is downed close to the goal line. The
wings need to SPRINT to the ball, ask for the ball from the umpire, and spot the ball.

In this video, neither wing pinches to the ball and sells the first down. Forward progress is marked right at the line-to-gain, and the line judge indicates the runner advanced far enough to award a first down. The game is being played on a grass field, and if I was the defensive team’s coach, I’d be ticked the crew did not measure. Also, notice the linesman looks back at the chains not once, but twice.

Here’s another example of wings not selling the first down. The runner is downed right at the line-to-gain on a grass field. Neither wing pinches to the ball. The LJ is indicating “first down” (but he’s not stopping the clock).

If the umpire places the ball on the ground and the defensive coach asks for a measurement, we’ve compromised the integrity of the spot. The proper mechanic is to have both wings pinch to the ball, one wing spot the ball, and then make a decision from there.

This is an example of what the correct sense of urgency looks like. In this video, the linesman races in, asks for the ball, and spots it. This “sells” his confidence in the spot. The only mechanic missing is the kill-the-clock signal.

Here is a big play in a big game. The runner is downed short of the goal line and the linesman “sells” his ruling.