Peyton Manning yelled “OMAHA” before 44 of his team’s 70 plays last week against San Diego, and he’s back at it in today’s AFC championship game.
No one knows exactly what it means. When asked about it at his press conference, Manning gave a sarcastic anti-answer.
But over the past week, a bunch of different people from the NFL world have offered explanations that give us a rough idea of what Manning means when he says “Omaha.”
Traditionally, “Omaha” lets the offence know that the ball will be snapped on the next sound.
Manning isn’t the first person to use “Omaha” has a pre-snap call. Tom Brady used to yell it all the time, but started saying “Alpha” instead after other NFL players decoded the meaning of the word from watching film. Eli Manning famously used it so often in a 2009 game against Dallas that NBC’s Chris Collinsworth said he was “tipping” the snap during the broadcast.
It’s simple. Manning yells something like, “Omaha … hike” and the ball is snapped on “hike.”
But Peyton doesn’t always use “Omaha” in this way.
As Deadspin noted, there were several plays last week where “Omaha” came right before a hard count — where Manning tries to draw the defence offsides by yelling “hut” over and over again, and acting like he’s about to snap the ball.
He drew San Diego offsides five times last week using exactly this strategy.
Ex-UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel told the LA Times this week that Peyton is using “Omaha” to get more information out of the defence:
“Neuheisel said that Manning will have a code word — a “freeze” call that probably changes every week — that essentially tells the offence to ignore the upcoming Omaha. That way, he barks the freeze word, then “Omaha,” in an effort to: a) get the defence to tip its hand on what it plans to do, and b) draw defenders offside.”
So sometimes “Omaha” means the snap is coming, and other times it means nothing at all.
While this is the most popular theory, it’s not the only one.
On Fox Football Daily last fall, Brian Urlacher and Randy Moss did a segment on what random code words typically mean. They said “Omaha” tells the offence to run the play to the opposite direction.
“Omaha means you’re going opposite, ” Moss said. “So wherever the play was [originally], they’re going the opposite.”
If you’ve ever played the Madden video game, “Omaha” is essentially the “flip play” button, at least according to Randy Moss.
In the end, it’s often a signal that the snap is coming. But it could be anything (or nothing) at any different time.
Patriots defensive back Devin McCourty probably had the best take out it (via The Boston Globe):
“As a defence we can’t be out there saying, ‘We heard him scream this, it must be that play,’ because they have different plays off the same word, that same track. So for us it will be kind of sticking to what we have planned, what we’re doing or whatever particular play we’re in or whatever defence we’re in and sticking to that and not trying to outsmart ourselves and guessing things and doing our own thing.”
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