When watching our favorite teams, we always notice the players, refs, and the fans, but a lot of us overlook the people who fill the sidelines. You have the rest of the team, the coaches, the press, and the chain crew. Out of all of those people, the chain crew plays the biggest part in the game. They are the ones who are responsible for keeping track of the downs and marking the ball. While they are not able to make the final decisions or calls, many people rely on them to determine the spot of the ball.
So before we explain the chain crew in detail, let’s go over how the downs work. The offense has four chances to move the ball 10 yards. This is known as a first down. Second down means that it is the offense’s second try at moving the ball 10 yards—and so on for third and fourth down.
The chain crew is made up of three people: (1) the rod man, (2) the box man, and (3) another rod man. The first rod man is the one who holds the rod that marks the beginning of the current set of downs. In other words, that person holds the pole where the offense first attempted to move the ball 10 yards. For example, let’s say it is first and 10 (the first attempt for the offense to move the ball 10 yards), and the ball is placed at the 50-yard line and the team runs the play but only makes it to the 47-yard line. The rod man will remain standing at the 50-yard line until the down is made. The box man is responsible for marking the ball and holding a pole that indicates what down it is. He stands in-between the two rod men. The second rod man is responsible for marking the end of the down. Going back to the example we used for the first rod man, the first rod man stands at the 50-yard line, and the second rod man would stand at the 40-yard line.
A chain connects the two rod men’s poles. The chain is 10 yards long. The reason for this is that when a ball looks like it crossed 10 yards but it’s pretty close, the refs call the two rod men out onto the field to mark the 10 yards the ball had to move. We see this a lot during games. Next time you are watching a game, take a look at the sidelines. You’ll realize that it’s not just filled with players and coaches exhibiting many emotions, but it is filled with people who keep the game going.
Article Written by: Courtney McGuigan