This happened in the Cowboys game versus the Giants. Romo stepped to the line to identify the Mike Linebacker.
Romo: “53 is the Mike!”
McClain: “No, I’m not the Mike! I’m not the Mike!”
Not all teams use this system. It’s something that I did not start using until I coached at the college level, but it is a simple tool to help the offensive line block different fronts on both run plays and pass plays.
Procedurally, we had both the center and the quarterback identify the Mike linebacker. The center would not say anything unless he disagreed, at which point we instructed the quarterback to use the center’s call. The helped some of our younger quarterbacks. We moved to the quarterback using this system because it allowed him the flexibility to marry protection with his hot routes which became important at times.
In the run game identifying the Mike allows the line to determine their assignments, especially when determining who is being combo blocked or double teamed, and which linebacker that double team is working to. Here is a slide from our playbook in which we are running a two back power concept. In this play, our rule is to declare the #2 second level defender as the Mike. The rule is that the combo on the 3 technique is working toward the linebacker past the Mike to the backside. The Fullback will kick out #1 and the pulling guard will be pulling for the Mike. Note that the defender the offense identifies as the Mike may not be the true Mike in the defense’s scheme, though they will typically not try to argue with the quarterback as McClain did with Romo.
In the passing game, we used a man side and a slide or zone side. This was called by giving an Roger (right) or Louie (left) call and identifying the Mike linebacker as being in the slide side sort.
Last season, my 10 year old son asked me, “Why does the quarterback say ’52 is the Mike’.” I explained and taught him, and then pulled up some plays on Hudl and had him declare the Mike. He picked it up pretty quickly, so I know this is a concept that can be used at the high school level. More than anything, this keeps the quarterback and the offensive line on the same page and helps give any play success because every defender is accounted for.
Coach Bill Mounty shared this information on designating the Mike. It lays out the procedure.
Learn more about Identifying the Mike in the videos below:
For protection in the West Coast Offense
Brian Billick with Mike Solari explaining Identifying the Front by Identifying the Mike
Brian Billick with Chris Foerster on how the Redskins identify the ‘Mike.’