Besides the referees, there are other helpers on the field who assist in the game flow such as clock operators and ball boys. But one group that doesn’t get enough props is the “chain gang” crew.
The chain crew is made up of 3–4 and operates what is called the “chains.” The “chains” are the tools to indicate where the ball is spotted, and the distance the offense has to achieve for a first down.
The chains are made of two metal rods which are connected by a metal chain (rather thin) that’s 10 yards in length. The top of the rods are usually orange in color. One stick is placed at the original spot of the ball and the other is extended until the chain is tight.
A clip is attached to the chain where the first yard line is perpendicular to the chain to ensure on-field measurements are accurate. There is a third metal stick and at the top of the stick is a rectangular box. This box shows numbers which indicate the down the offense is currently on.
Often you will see the chain crew leave their designated area on the sideline and come out on to the field for a measurement. This means the ball’s spot is very close to the first down but it is too difficult to make a judgment with the first down marker being 30–50 yards away. After this is determined “Third and Inches” is usually stated instead of “Third and One.”