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Official Football Writers' Dictionary

By Noah Stern & Spencer Armon:

The business of writing about professional football often proves to be monotonous and repetitive. As such, it serves various writers to come up with new, professional-sounding terms to describe the same things they’ve been writing about for 30 years. Sometimes these terms can take on connotations and implied meanings that seem completely different from their explicit definitions. For example, to the average reader, calling a wide receiver a “crafty veteran” might seem like a compliment when in reality it means that he can’t run very fast anymore.

With this in mind, we have compiled a dictionary of football writing terms to aid readers and writers alike in decoding their favorite articles or selecting terms to spice up their lackluster analysis.

First, a list of things to call a quarterback:

Direct Synonyms:

Field General

Man Under Center

Signal Caller

Loaded Definitions:

Athletic- an African American QB

Sneaky Athletic- a White QB that can run


Strong Arm

Can make every throw in the book

Commands the huddle


Next, let’s look at the rest of the offense:

Direct Synonyms:

Halfback- Running Back

Wideout- Wide Receiver

Pass Catcher/Target- a Wide Receiver or Tight End

Blindside Blocker- Left Tackle

Loaded Definitions:

Bellcow/Workhorse- a good Running Back who gets most of the carries

Reliable- a Running Back who is over 31 years old

Swiss Army Knife- a Running Back who can open a can and file your nails at the same time

Diva- a Wide Receiver that is either tearing the locker room apart or asking for more money

Red Zone Threat- a tall Wide Receiver

Jump Ball Specialist- a tall, slow Wide Receiver

Home Run Hitter- a very fast Running Back or Wide Receiver

Tight End- a TE that can’t block

Blocking Tight End- a TE that can’t catch

Swing Tackle- an Offensive Tackle who can’t play well on either side of the line

Hog Molly- a term coined by Giants GM Dave Gettleman meaning a big, strong interior lineman

Now, in the rare event that you want to talk about a defensive player, here are the appropriate terms:

Direct Synonyms:

Front Seven- the Defensive Line and Linebackers

Secondary- the Cornerbacks and Safeties

Loaded Definitions:

Run Stuffer- a particularly hefty Defensive Tackle

3-4 Linebacker- a Defensive End

Raw- any rookie pass rusher taken between picks 3-32 in the first round

Rangy- a lanky Cornerback

Lockdown- a Cornerback who doesn’t get caught for pass interference

And finally, let’s take a look at some general terms in order to round out your vocabulary:

Gridiron- football field

Veteran- any player in the league for 2 years or more

Project- a player with “off the field issues”

Off the Field Issues- does any sort of drug

Generational Talent- the most athletic player in a draft class

Canton Bound- A fancy way of saying future hall-of-famer.

(As a side note, knowing the names of the cities where things are located makes you sound very smart! For example, mentioning that the Cowboys actually play in Arlington, Texas is sure to win over the intellectual crowd)

Mr. Irrelevant- a mean way of saying someone was the last pick in the draft

Cap Hit- what it will cost to keep a player on the roster

Cap Casualty- a player cut from the roster because their cap hit was too much

Cap Wounded- a player who wasn’t killed by the cap; will receive a Purple Heart

Front Office- whoever makes trades

Hot Seat- where a coach is unless they have made the playoffs in the last two seasons

You may ask, “how could I ever be expected to utilize this massive database in a coherent manner?” The good news is, your writing barely has to be coherent! Just shove as many words as you can in there and you’ll be fine. Here are some examples.

Boring Sentence:

Patrick Mahomes II and the Chiefs’ offense will put their skills to the test in the upcoming away game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Football Sentence:

Kansas City’s strong-armed signal caller and his cast of electrifying offensive weapons will be put to the test against the rangy secondary operating a veritable “no fly zone” in the City of Brotherly Love.

Notice how the second sentence required infinitely more background knowledge and mental gymnastics to understand. This is good! The longer it takes the reader to comprehend every metaphor and nickname in your sentence, the smarter you seem!

Boring Sentence:

Chase Young is an outstanding pass rusher and the Redskins would be ecstatic to select him with the number two pick in the draft.

Football Sentence:

NFC East Quarterbacks beware! Young is a generational talent at edge rusher who will be wreaking havoc in burgundy and gold for years to come. Our draft experts claim that Young may be on the fast track to Canton when he hangs up his cleats.

Pow! What an adrenaline rush that a Football Sentence puts you on! An ominous warning followed by insanely idealistic speculation. A self-respecting writer would never use drab words like “Hall of Fame” or “retire.” Notice how this author never actually mentions the Redskins by name! Rather, he shows how smart he is by stating their division and jersey colors. Excellent work!

1 Comment

Zach Zeaman
Zach Zeaman
Apr 26, 2020

This ain't it, chief

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