A silent count occurs when a team opts to use hand signals or physical motions to alert the center to snap the ball as opposed to yelling the snap count to his teammates.
Silent counts are most commonly done when playing in loud stadiums on the road. This is because a silent count will allow you to communicate effectively despite the noise level.
How Do Silent Counts Work
So as we already established a silent count works by using hand signals or physical motions to start the snap. This means there is no verbal communication between any of the offensive players to initiate the snap of the ball.
This may leave you wondering how exactly all the players know when to start the play. There are three common strategies teams use when using a silent count.
Guard Tapping The Center
One way to start a silent count is to get the guard to tap the center on the shoulder. Once the guard and center have decided their blocking assignments for the play the guard will raise his arm and tap the center on the shoulder.
This will alert the center to snap the ball. This is also right in the quarterback’s line of vision so he will see the guard tap the center prior to the ball being snapped.
In order to keep the defense on their toes, the offensive team may set an amount of time to wait after the tap to snap the ball. This ensures that the defense won’t jump the snap.
When watching a football game you may have wondered why quarterbacks stomp their feet before the play. Though not always the case the quarterback stomping his foot is often a part of a silent count.
As the center is in his position he can look between his legs and see the quarterback. Once the quarterback is ready and stomps his foot this alerts the center he is ready for the ball.
This is only the case if the quarterback is lined in the shotgun formation.
Let The Center Know
The final example of how to start a silent count involves the quarterback reaching right in between the center’s legs. When you are “under center” the quarterback can simply place his hands in the position to receive the ball. This will let the center know he is ready to start the play.
Though there are many more signals you can use on a silent count these are some of the most common you will see in the NFL.
How Does The Rest Of The Team Know When To Start?
What many fans don’t realize about football is that many of the players simply watch the ball to determine when to start moving. In these sorts of silent counts all the players are able to start the play on time by watching the ball or their teammates.
The center and the quarterback start the play right as the ball is snapped. The guards will look inwards towards the center and once he moves they will start the play.
The tackles will look at the guards for a sign of movement. Once the guards take a step the tackles know they can move as well.
The receivers are typically lined up on the outside and simply look at the ball to start the play. Often times in loud stadiums you cannot hear the count either way. Staring at the ball to start your route is the standard way for many receivers to start a play.
If you are a tight end depending on where you are lined up you will either watch the ball or react to the tackle moving.
Why Use A Silent Count?
There are two main reasons that teams tend to use silent counts. The first being stadium noise, if you watch NFL games on Sundays you will find the majority of teams using silent counts are doing so due to crowd noise.
The other reason to use a silent count is for the element of surprise. Defensive players aren’t stupid, they work hard to understand counts as a slight jump of the snap can provide huge benefits to their game.
For this reason, NFL teams must work hard to keep the defense on their toes. A silent count allows them to catch the defense off guard, especially on plays like QB sneaks or short-yardage conversions.
Crowd noise can play a massive factor in football games. With big rivalry games, it is not uncommon to see players pointing to the ear holes in their helmet indicating they cannot hear anything.
This is the exact situation in which a team would use a silent count. If your fellow players cannot hear your count then the timing of your play will likely be thrown off. Not to mention you will not be able to call audibles.
Using the silent count will allow you to communicate more efficiently with your teammates as they will not be expecting any verbal signals.
Element Of Surprise
This reason for using a silent count is both to give yourself the element of surprise and take knowledge of the snap count away from the defense.
As we stated earlier defenses can become quite skilled at reading snap counts which can be a nightmare for an offense. By swapping to a silent count you are going to make it much more difficult to read.
The silent count will also allow you the element of surprise. Think of a 4th and 1 in which you need one yard. If you are lined up for a qb sneak calling out your cadence is going to let the other team know you are about to snap the ball.
By using a silent count you may be able to catch the defense napping. This of course does not always work but there is a reason you will see NFL teams utilizing silent counts in short-yardage situations.