Romo and McClain argue about who is “Mike.” – Identifying and Declaring the Mike Linebacker

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.

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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.

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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.’

On USA Football: Tempo tools for any offense

Please check out my interactive books:  101+ Pro Style Pistol Offense Plays and The Zone Offense:  Create a Structured System.  Both are available for the iPad and Mac.  You can purchase them by chapter or section as well.  The play action chapter from 101+ Pro Style Pistol Offense Plays is available for the iPhone now as well.

On USA Football:

Many teams view tempo as something that is used exclusively for no-huddle teams. In many coaches’ eyes, tempo is only for the team trying to run 80 plays a game. On the other end of the specturm, a ball-control team looking to win time of possession doesn’t need to use tempo. With times I consult with whether huddle or go no huddle, I have tempo tools that I suggest for a team operating under either procedure. These tools are effective in any type of team’s attack.


Having the ability to communicate to your team to get up to the ball and run the exact same play again is an effective way to continue to exploit a defense when you feel you have them exactly where you want them. The procedure for us is simple: We have a code word that is signaled in to the entire offense and relayed to everyone. It tells them to align in the same formation and run the exact same play as soon as the ball is spotted. If the previous play has motion, the player who went in motion simply aligns in the spot that he motioned to…read more

Be a more efficient and effective coach with this innovative tool:

Football Play Card

Football Play Card

The Uptempo Huddle

One of the objectives of an uptempo offense is to force the defense to play vanilla because the speed at which the offense is getting up to the ball does not allow for the defense to make very many checks or get in calls.

Uptempo does not have to exist in only in no-huddle operations.  While watching the 2013 SEC Championship on DVR, I noticed that Auburn used a huddle very effectively at different points throughout the game.  In fact, following a big gain ripped off after aligning and snapping the ball in 10 seconds from the previous whistle, Auburn changed personnel and huddled.  This is of course the team whose head coach is in the process of trying to get a trademark for the phrase “Hurry Up No Huddle.”

I’d suggest that Auburn’s use of the huddle is perfect to use each time personnel is changed and tight ends, h-backs, or fullbacks are coming into the game and will align somewhere in the box.  Again, one of the purposes of going fast is to not allow time for defensive communication of their calls or checks.  The rule is that if personnel is changed, the defense is also allowed time to change personnel.  Most times an official will stand over the ball and not allow the offense to snap the ball while the defense is adjusting their personnel.  Unfortunately, unless the offense is shifting (Boise State does this frequently), the defense gets a chance to see the formation and begin making their calls and adjustments without the pressure of the ball being snapped quickly.

For those of you who never have used a huddle, I realize this applies to some of the younger coaches out there, the procedure was the quarterback calls the play once with the snap count, the receivers leave the huddle to get a head start to get to their position, then the quarterback repeats the cadence (some teams would repeat the whole call) and says “ready” and the remaining players say, “Break” while clapping their hands and getting to the line of scrimmage.

There’s a slight twist on Auburn’s huddle which allows them to get in motion and snap the ball within four seconds of breaking the huddle.

In the video below, the quarterback, Marshall  calls the play in the huddle and lets his receivers deploy.  Notice that the line is only about two yards away from the ball.  Marshall strategically waits until his receivers are in position, then breaks the huddle with himself and the remaining seven players aligning quickly.  After about two seconds a receiver is put in motion and the ball is snapped at about four seconds after the huddle was broken.

uptempo huddle

While the previous whistle to snap wasn’t 10 second like the previous play, the defense was still left with very little time to recognize, align and adjust. This is a tool worth considering for all offenses.


Get my iBook 101+ Pro Style Pistol Offense Plays.  It provides concepts that can be utilized in any offense, not just the pistol. I have received some great feedback from coaches who adapted all or some of those ideas in 2013. Get 101+ PRO STYLE PISTOL OFFENSE PLAYS for your iPad or Mac from the iBookstore

Peyton Manning No Huddle Run Check

In the AFC Championship game while operating from no huddle procedures, Peyton Manning checked to the run against against a two high safety look with man coverage underneath.  The check at the line both times sounded like “Bash Montana Batman.”  Both checks occurred during touchdown drives.

The first was in the 2nd quarter on a 3rd & 10.  The play resulted in a 28 yard gain and put the Broncos in the Red Zone.  The Patriots definitely left themselves exposed inside and Manning took advantage of it.  The blocking scheme and the play can be seen below.

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broncos zone1

The second time Manning checked “Bash Montana Batman” was in the 3rd quarter on a 1st & 10 against the same coverage but a different front.  This time one linebacker was in the box, but the blocking angles and numbers favored a run inside for the Broncos.  Again, Manning recognized the defense and made the check resulting in a 7 yard gain.

photo 1

Broncos zone2 tight Broncos zone2

The point in illustrating these checks is not necessarily show how to attack cover two man, but rather to discuss the procedures that are being used.  No huddle dominates offense at every level now.  A popular procedure is for the offense to align and go through a false cadence to elicit any movement or rotation by the defense, and confirm what the defense may be trying to do.  The offense then looks to the sideline for a signal telling them to stick with the original call or change the play.

This is a procedure we used frequently in the 2010 season.  The entire year I kept waiting for the defense to change their call when we changed ours.  It never happened that season.  Defensive coordinators must not have been comfortable in changing a call at that point.  The following season, more defenses began to change their calls when the offense peeked to the sideline.  The call being audibled to by the offense wasn’t necessarily the ideal call anymore.  Fortunately, we had installed a tool which put the check on the field with the quarterback.  The idea was that our players could see a few key indicators that we were looking for from the press box as well or better than we could upstairs.  The quarterback would false cadence, make a quick call to let the rest of the offense know to run the called play, or he could change it based on the parameters of the game plan.

This is exactly what Manning is doing with “Bash Montana Batman.”  An argument can be made that there isn’t the time necessary to do those things at the lower levels or that it’s too complicated.  First of all look at the still shots and the end zone view of what Manning is seeing.  The weakness of the defense is pretty obvious to anyone who has a basic understanding if the game.   Again, like the Broncos audible, these should be simple checks which can be shown to the quarterback and the offense on film, and easily executed on the field.  It’s all relative.  The defenses being played against at the lower level don’t have the sophistication of an NFL defense.

Recently, while talking to a high school defensive coordinator, he indicated that facing “look” or “peek” tempo teams, he had a much easier time making his calls and checking when the offense checked.  He would much rather face that than a team that just went fast or a quarterback who was making the checks on the field.

Thought Process for Quarterback on field checks:

1.  Have a procedure that allows this.  There may be times when you don’t want the quarterback to check anything.  Be having a procedure that puts him in a “check” mode, he know he is looking for a simple indicator or two to put the offense in a certain play.

2.  Find the obvious and most expected looks that you will face in the game and utilize something already in your offense to attack it.  Checking to a special may cause confusion on game day because the play being checked to isn’t that familiar to the players.

3.  Script in enough of those situations during the week that the offense understand the checks and can execute them.  If you don’t have time to practice it, then it shouldn’t be a part of what you do on game day.

When the players can learn the why and know it as well as the how, they can effectively attack the weaknesses of the defense.

Get my iBook 101+ Pro Style Pistol Offense Plays.  It provides concepts that can be utilized in any offense, not just the pistol. I have received some great feedback from coaches who adapted all or some of those ideas. Get 101+ PRO STYLE PISTOL OFFENSE PLAYS for your iPad or Mac from the iBookstore


One Stop for Your Offense Resources

Coaches Edge Game Planning System.  Save time and be more effective.

Coaches Edge Technologies. The Best Coaches. The Best Content. Interactive.

I’ve shared my notebooks of online resources over the past few months. As you spend the last few days of preparation before the season, you may be looking for a coaching point or video to help with your installation. This post provides a link to all of the resources I’ve posted. There are hundreds of links to presentations, analysis articles, clinic articles, forum threads, and videos. All links take you to information that is free.

If you haven’t done so yet, get a copy of 101+ Pro Style Pistol Offense Plays. It’s something that you will use as a reference both in and out of season because it’s loaded with offensive ideas and strategies. Get it here.

My articles on Pistol Running Game

Pistol Offense Resources

Diamond Pistol Resources

Power O Scheme Resources

Zone Running Game Resources

Play Action Resources

Coaching the Tight End Resources

Four Vertical Resources

Quick Game Resources

Tempo and No Huddle Resources

Game Planning Resources

List of my Clinic Articles
Creating an Offensive System gives you ideas for ow to go about putting together your system with specific regard to the language and terminology to create it. Discussion on all components needed for well rounded attack and fitting together all components for a fluid system is discussed.

Tempo and Procedures Part I. Setting up procedures to attack a defense. Gives ideas of how tempo can be used in an offensive attack. Details a procedure for sideline substitution.

Tempo and Procedures Part II. Discusses slowing down tempo at times to manage the game. Details no huddle procedures to slow it down, as well a purposes for huddling.

Tempo and Procedures Part III – Speed it up. Discusses ideas for multiple uptempo procedures as well as suggestions on how to become an uptempo offense.

A Multiple Run Game with Zone Schemes. Illustrates, with plenty of video cut-ups, different ways the zone game can be used. Gives a method for simply incorporating both read game and traditional hand off into your offense.

Methods for Teaching and Practicing Your System. Discusses how to make your practices and drills fit the needs of your concepts and schemes. Coaching the tailback in the stretch play is used as an example of how to set up drills and practices that give you direct game application.

Don’t Get Jumped in the Alley. Gives detailed technique with still shots, diagrams, and video on how receivers release an alley defender. Illustrates the importance of this technique in proper distribution and spacing of routes.

Using Tight Ends in Your Offense. Discusses many different ways a tight end can be utilized in your offense. Loaded with video. Quotes from Chris Brown and Andrew Coverdale. Details how to incorporate and coach the TE. Lists the Benefits and advantages of using a tight end.

The Basics of Creating a Multiple Pass Concept. Discussion of concept based teaching and its advantages in creating a multiple passing game that extends across multiple formations and personnel groups. Lists specific steps to conceptualizing a pass play. Naked/Play Action Concept is used to illustrate concept passing.

Adding a Wrinkle: Strategies for Movement. Using motion for specific purposes: changing gap responsibility, changing defender responsibility, taking advantage of a defensive adjustment, and creating total confusion.

A Process For Adding a Wrinkle. Adding wrinkles throughout he season in order to stay ahead of the defense.

Adding a Wrinkle: Attaching a Screen to Your Best Concepts. Adding a wrinkle by creating screens off of your most successful plays and concepts.

A Bag of Tricks. Specific thoughts on installing and using gadget plays. Video on different categories of gadget plays.

Stick-Draw Concept. A variation of the popular stick draw with the quarterback as the runner. Discusses the advantages of using the QB to run the draw.

Our Evolution of the Pistol Set. Details on how the use of the pistol has evolved for us and the advantages we have found in ball handling and footwork in the run game that have led to a more effective play action game.

Pin and Pull Sweep. Why we use the pin and pull and how it has become a very multiple scheme for us. Illustration with video of the different variations and applications of the scheme. Two important considerations when adding any play to an offense.

Adding Multiplicity with a Flexible Run Scheme: The Counter Play. Illustration of how the counter play can fit into a multiple personnel, multiple formation offense. Illustration of scheme with diagrams and video.

Sweep Action to Enhance the Inside Running Game. Illustrates different types of receiver sweeps that can be used with the inside running game. Points for how to incorporate receiver sweeps.

Supplement to magazine article: An Evaluation System For Your Quarterback. Make your QB evaluations objective by focusing in certain performance criteria. Use the system to help you make decisions on exactly what need to be done in practice to get your QB performing at his best.

Multiple Passing Attack with the Spacing Concept. How you can incorporate several concepts that many offenses teach separately into one teaching concept with variations to one player. The spacing concept can be used to create horizontal stretches of the defense and is high percentage.

Distort and Displace with Double Teams. Specific illustrations of ow to create powerful double teams in both zone and gap concepts. Includes teaching progression and drills.

Just Wing It. The advantages of using a wing in any offense. Includes plenty of video of the multiple of a wing.

Four Keys to Successful Four Verticals. Explains how concept based teaching, detailed route running, a consistent progression, and simple adjustments make this a powerful passing concept.

The Play Action Pass: Tying Runs to Pass Concepts. Shows how to create a more effective and multiple play action passing game by combining components of your offense in a simple way.

More For Less: Creating Drills to Maximize Practice Time. Receiver and QB Drills are used to show how to improve multiple skills within a single drill. Discussion of setting up drills to remedy certain technique errors.

Maximize Practice Time – Coaching the Big Skill Positions: QB, RB, TE, FB, H-Back. Different thoughts in getting more out of the big skills practice time and incorporating timing for the play action pass. Drills to work these positions on video.

Evolution of the use of he quick passing game. Discussion of the quick passing game and how it is being paired with other components of offense for a more powerful attack. Examples from Dan Gonzalez, Dub Maddox, Chris Brown and others. Plenty of video examples.

Using The Proper Tool: Pulling Technique. Explanation of what different types of pulls should be used for and specifics on techniques and drills for each.

More Bang For Your Buck with the Power Scheme. Illustrates how the traditional I formation blocking scheme can be used in multiple ways.

Up Tempo Play Action TD

From a discussion on Coach Huey:

In my opinion, the one word or picture calls are best for packaged plays like stick-draw or zone read-bubble. Some pre snap indicators and a post snap key make you right. Takes the stress off making sure you have the right look for the play. The other thought would be to use it with a protected play action shot. I will try to post a clip on my blog. I have one where we were run, run, run at a fast pace, and then aligned very quickly and threw a play action double post. The corner and safety were taking steps to run fit. You mess with the psyche of the defense with properly set up tempo plays.

Read more:

Learn more about our play action passing game in 101+ Pro Style Pistol Offense Plays.  It can be downloaded to your iPad from the iBookstore by clicking this link:


But did they call it NASCAR?

At 2:15 of this video from the 1903 Princeton and Yale game, the offense aligns and snaps the ball within three seconds of the official spotting it. I didn’t see any picture boards on the sideline. Obviously they had ways of communicating and running plays quickly back then.

The game has made so many advances over time, and it constantly evolves and changes. Things that were popular before come back in different forms. Innovations aren’t always new plays or concepts, just concepts that have been repurposed and repackaged. Tiger Ellison did this in the early 60’s when he brought the no huddle and a more fluid of style back into play with the lonesome polecat which later became the run and shoot.

I recently read an article with Paul Brown’s innovation of “wig wagging” (hand signaling) plays in to his quarterback. Prior to this the QB just called the play on his own without input from the coach. The commentary in one article discussed if coaches were becoming too big of a part of the game.

We are able to share and learn football now with technology in a way that coaches even a decade ago couldn’t have imagined. There are certainly advantages to gain by harnessing the use of technology properly. I was excited to learn the technology that I used to create a coaching resource for the iPad. The dynamic format makes this a great way to learn and share football knowledge. It’s something I plan to use in the near future to create more iBooks and also to coach my players.

101+ Pro Style Pistol Offense Plays can be purchased on your iPad through the iBookstore here: