Playcalling in football refers to the selection of which plays are going to be used throughout the game. Both the offense and defense will call a play on each down. Playcalling duties are usually done by the head coach, offensive coordinator, or defensive coordinator.
How it works
To have the ability to call plays in football the team and the coaches must first have a good grasp of the playbook. In the offseason and during the preseason the coaching staff will provide the players with plays they plan to run.
Players must then memorize the playbook so that they understand their assignments. It is not necessary that the players know all the responsibilities of every play but they need to be sure of their assignment.
On top of the play itself, the player needs to memorize the vocabulary. Oftentimes the vocabulary used in the play’s name will let the players know what the play entails.
This makes it much easier for the players to know what to do in each play.
Calling plays in game
Playcalling in the game is a fairly interesting topic. What makes playcalling in this sport unique is that a player on the field is going to be able to communicate with their coaching staff via radio.
One player on the offense and one player on the defense are going to have radios that allow them to receive information before a play. But once the play clock ticks down to ten seconds the radios will turn off.
This gives the coaching staff enough time to tell the quarterback which plays to run and not much more. The quarterback will then tell the offensive players in the huddle the play they are running and the snap count.
On the defensive side of the ball the middle linebacker is the player that usually has the radio in their helmet. They will receive defensive plays calls and will then spread that information to the rest of the defense via hands signals and verbal communication.
Typically this play-calling will be done by the offensive and defensive coordinators. Oftentimes the offensive coordinators will be sitting in a booth high in the stadium which allows them to get a better view of the field.
This makes the radio system especially handy as otherwise, players have to use the sideline phone if they want to communicate with coaches.
Audibles and hot routes
Another interesting factor about play calling is that it is not always going to be the play on the field. Both middle linebackers and quarterbacks have the ability to call audibles and hot routes in football.
This means if they get onto the field and realize the play call is not going to work they have the ability to change the play themselves.
This will usually happen when they realize the other team’s formation is likely going to result in a bad play call.
In these moments quarterbacks and middle linebackers can call out audible signals to their teammates telling them the new play call.
This is why you will often see players frantically communicating with each other and moving around shortly before the ball is snapped.