If you’re new to watching American football (specifically the NFL), you might wonder why some Quarterbacks say “180” or other seemingly-random phrases before many plays start.
While it can sound like the Quarterback is saying “180,” the typical call is “White 80.” Saying a color and number combination is typically part of a team’s pre-snap routine, and depending on what the Quarterback says, it can mean a myriad of things for the other ten men on the field.
Let’s dig deeper to learn what White 80 and a few other phrases mean on the football field.
Why Is The Quarterback Yelling Before The Snap?
In the NFL, it’s rare that a team walks directly to the ball and runs a play without making any adjustments.
Before the ball is snapped, the Quarterback will scan the defense’s alignment to see if any apparent weaknesses can be exploited or if the play called in the huddle can succeed.
Many factors can determine if a play will work, including the alignment and number of defensive backs, which players are lined up in certain positions, and the number of players who appear to be blitzing on the play.
The Quarterback will use this information on any play to adjust his team’s strategy.
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Typically when he is yelling what seem to be random phrases, he’s telling his teammates how to change their assignments to best take advantage of what he sees in the defense’s alignment and communicating when the ball will be snapped.
What is an Audible?
These adjustments to plays made before the ball is snapped are called audibles, and teams have their vocabulary that determines the changes.
Sometimes one single route by a receiver is altered, or the offensive line’s blocking scheme is changed, and sometimes the entire play can be changed depending on different code words that are yelled out as the offense approaches the ball.
These calls must be easy to remember for the offense but too complicated to be decoded by the defense. Sometimes they’re simple, one-word phrases, and other times the Quarterback might have to signal instructions to several different teammates.
A simple example from my playing days was a pre-snap decision on whether a screen pass would be thrown to the left or right.
As the Quarterback approached the line of scrimmage, he would determine which side of the field was more conducive to success and then yell out to the team with either the name of a city or a state. If he yelled the name of a city, the pass would go to the left, and saying the name of a state would mean it was going to the right. So, “Chicago, Chicago!” meant left, and “Illinois, Illinois” meant right.
While most NFL teams use much more complex terminology, the idea remains the same for calling an audible or making a pre-snap adjustment.
Why is White 80 Different Than Other Phrases?
The reason people ask about “180” or “White 80” more often than other phrases is because, in today’s NFL, this is one of the most commonly used pre-snap phrases.
Aaron Rodgers, one of the NFL’s top signal-callers, uses White 80 before almost every snap, and many other Quarterbacks use the same term.
It’s used in every play because of its simple message. White 80 is meant to tell the team, “We aren’t making any more changes; it’s time to snap the ball.”
Because of its simple nature, the call doesn’t need to be changed often because deciphering the code doesn’t give the defense an advantage.
Other audibles are changed from week to week, but the reason you hear White 80 every week is that it’s a constant part of many teams’ playbooks that doesn’t change.
Other Common Pre-Snap Phrases
While White 80 is one of the most common phrases you might hear during a Quarterback’s pre-snap cadence, there are a few others you’ll likely hear multiple times in a game.
(Number) is the Mike
On nearly every play, either the Quarterback or Center will determine who the Middle Linebacker is. The Middle Linebacker determines everything about the offense’s blocking scheme, and each player plans their assignment around the location of this player.
The middle linebacker is known as the “Mike” in football lingo, so when you hear a player yell out “53’s the Mike,” they are identifying the number middle linebacker so that everyone is on the same page when the ball is snapped.
Kill, Kill, Kill
If a Quarterback approaches the line of scrimmage and does not like the play called in the huddle at all, he can change to a new play entirely.
When this happens, you will often hear him yell, “Kill, kill, kill!” which would signify to his teammates that he is going to call an entirely new play.
Usually, this call is followed by an audible as the Quarterback communicates new assignments to different positions on the field.
Peyton Manning’s “Omaha”
One of the most well-known pre-snap calls was made famous by just one Quarterback: NFL legend Peyton Manning.
Toward the end of his career, Manning began shouting “Omaha!” before almost every snap, drawing questions from sports pundits and fans alike.
Since Manning was one of the most popular players in the game at the time, the mystery of Omaha’s meaning was an interesting water-cooler topic.
After having some fun with it in interviews, Manning would reveal that Omaha was just his own version of “White 80” – a signal to his teammates that it was time to snap the ball.
4th & 10
The pre-snap adjustments by football teams are a fascinating part of the chess match between athletes. Putting players in the correct position and taking advantage of the defense’s weaknesses can be the difference between winning and losing a game.
Now that you know the meaning of White 80 and a few other key phrases, listen out in the future to see if you can further crack the code of your favorite team’s lingo before the ball is in play.