KC’s Dumb Football Factoid of the Day: What The Hell Does “Omaha” Mean?

Oct 4, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) calls out in the first quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

One of the refreshing things about the XFL has been the ability to actually hear what plays the offensive coordinators are calling in to the quarterbacks. Unless you’re Jon Gruden, Sean McVay, or occasionally Sean Payton, offensive coordinators guard their gobbedly-gook mishmash of words like a sacred text, the thought being that if they expose their random set of words, some defensive coordinator will key on to what they’re doing and their entire playbook will be ruined.

Seattle Dragon’s head coach Jim Zorn apparently didn’t know his calls would be broadcast live to millions(ish) of people, and while Pep Hamilton did know, he admitted to feeling “exposed”.

““I think everybody in D.C. knows by know that ‘even’ is [running] to the right and ‘odd’ is to the left. So 3.3 million people know whether we’re running to the right or running to the left,” Hamilton said on a Washington, D.C area sports show, according to Sports Illustrated.

The thing about football terminology is that almost everything that coaches try to hide is easy as balls to understand, and any defensive coordinator worth his salt would understand that “even” is right and “odd” is left. If any defensive coach has ever cracked a look at the legendary Bill Walsh’s West Coast Offense, and any of the numerous permutations, from Mike Holmgren to Steve Mariucci to Mike Shanahan, Jon Gruden, Sean McVay, and even the Super Bowl contenders Kyle Shanahan and Andy Reid, everyone who plays football, even on a pee-wee level, knows that “even” (or even numbers) mean right, and “odd” (or odd numbers).

This is all a long preamble to say that football isn’t a complex as coaches make it out to be, and so I’m going to break down one word that took the NFL world by storm that really is not as big a deal as anyone pretended or made it out to be.


Back in the twilight years of Peyton Manning’s playing career, Peyton would often times yell “OMAHA!” as part of playing in a hurry up offense. Phil Simms and Jim Nantz picked up on it, and for the entire rest of the season, the league was rampant on speculation on what “OMAHA” meant.

“Sometimes it means it’s a run, but other times it means it’s a pass! Sometimes it means to snap the ball, other times it does! Sometimes it’s play action, sometimes it’s 3 steps, sometimes it’s 5! WHAT DOES OMAHA MEAN!”

Well, this has been bothering me for years, so I will finally, at long live last, reveal to the world, what “OMAHA” means.

Ya ready?

…All “Omaha” means is “I’m done changing the play, snap the ball on the next sound”.

Literally. That is it. It means “I’m gonna shut up, hike the fuckin’ ball.”

“Omaha” in and of itself is not actually a playcall. It’s simply a means of a quarterback informing the center and the rest of the offense that he’s read the defense and he’s done making adjustments. It’s a signal that the play is set.

“But how can it just be that!” you may be asking. (Or you could just be smart and realize this makes perfect sense if you’ve watched more than 5 minutes of American football.) “If it’s not a play, then how does the offense know what to do!”

Probably by what the quarterback does before he says “Omaha”.

So, let’s say I get to the line of scrimmage. I, the quarterback, will start my playcall with something like “RED 80!”. In some (not all, but some) offenses, a call like “RED 80” or “BLACK 88” is a call made to signify to the center and the offensive line to NOT snap the ball (red being the color you’d see on a stop side, “don’t move when you’re walking in the dark” being the kind of thing you’d teach a kid when they’re learning their cadence that would link it to the color black). By starting my cadence, I’d be trying to draw the defense offsides, or to try and get a snap shot of the defense.

If I come to the line and see that the defense is sending a run blitz to the offense’s left, naturally I might want to change that call. This again, is simpler than it sounds; offensive coordinators often use words that start with or contain the letters “R” or “L” to signify whether a change is coming to the right, or the left. So in the case of a blitz coming to the left, I would say something along the lines of “easy easy easy, RIC FLAIR! RIC FLAIR!”. The first letter being “R” would indicate to the offensive line and the running back that we’re now going to be running left.

Then, to signify that I was dumb calling audibles, I would say “OMAHA! OMAHA SET HUT!”. The ball would be snapped, and the play would go from there.

The cadence altogether would sound something like “RED 80! RED 80 SET HUT! Easy easy easy, RIC FLAIR! RIC FLAIR! <wait for everyone to be set> OMAHA SET HUT!”.

If it’s not “Omaha”, you’ll hear Tom Brady use the word “ALPHA!”. Some offenses says “DELTA” (“D” meaning “Done”), or “RHINO” (“R” meaning “READY”). But they all mean the same thing; I’m done shouting weird shit at you, guys, time to move.

“But what about when you see the quarterback say ‘Omaha’ and the ball isn’t snapped!” you ask again.

Again, it’s pretty simple; somewhere in the word vomit a quarterback is shouting, he’ll say something that signals that “Omaha” isn’t the word the ball is to be snapped on.

So if you were going to call a dummy audible, you might say something like “RED 80! RED 80 SET HUT! Easy easy easy, BIFF TANNEN RIC FLAIR! BIFF TANNEN RIC FLAIR! OMAHA, OMAHA SET HUT!” Then, to signify the ball is to be snapped, you’d probably go back to the opposite of red; green, signifying go.

So to recap; the next time you’re watching the Jets, wondering what the fuck you’re doing with your life and how Adam Gase is still employed, and you hear Sam Darnold shout “OMAHA!”, all it means is “snap the fucking ball”. That is it.

Now you know. And knowing is half the battle. (Against insufferable football knowers pretending football is 3D chess when really it’s checkers.)

About KC Complains A Lot 135 Articles
KC Complains A Lot is another refugee from Deadspin. He enjoys writing and not caving to pressure from herbs.


  1. “53 IS MIKE!! MIKE 53!!”

    good post!!

    As someone that knows I did find myself enjoying all the talking heads that thought the play calls were too much for them. I could tell who was confused by the call routes and position designations for recievers.

    Most playbooks I had counted holes 1 to 7 left to right, where 1 was OT-L and 7 was OT-R. Odds and Evens is tough for most handeggers I know 😉

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