Huddle Tempo

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In and out of the huddle is a term i heard from Steelers head coach Chuck Noll time and again. Increase the tempo, pick up the pace or just flat out “Move it!” are other short quips i’ve heard used to describe the importance of getting with it in-between plays.

Why is that so important? Just take a look at the San Francisco 49’ers. They are an offense that uses various groupings of personnel to confuse a defense in an attempt to create a mis-match. So they shuttle a lot of people in and out of the huddle on plays.

So what’s the big woo about that? Everybody does it right? It potentially creates a time-lag whereby a quarterback is rushed getting to the line of scrimmage and doesn’t take advantage of the all important “7-yard walk.”

After a quarterback breaks the huddle and starts toward the line of scrimmage, this is the period of time where a quarterback can download the most information and set the stage for a successful play. As the QB walks towards the line of scrimmage, he looks over the defense starting with the safeties and moves forward to the defensive line. All the while he is taking in the personnel on the defensive side of the ball and the defensive formation being lined up.

If you are late into the huddle with the personnel groupings, then you will be rushed getting to the line of scrimmage. That gives your QB less time to assess what’s in front of his eyeballs, and less time to communicate an audible should he need to move out of a called play in the huddle. It also can confuse a young offensive line in pass pro pick-ups, creating a situation where a high velocity defense such as the Ravens can smoke you for 9 sacks because of confusion and a lack of communication. Or the Ray Horton-led defense of the Cardinals (a Dick LeBeau disciple) can lay 5 sacks on you.

In the 49’ers last game against the Arizona Cardinals, because of a slow huddle tempo, the 49’ers burned two timeouts in the first quarter, and then got called for a delay-of-game penalty coming out of the second timeout. All because the huddle tempo wasn’t on pace.

So when you sit down to watch the monday night to watch the Steelers have at it with the 49’ers, watch the huddle tempo, more of the “game within the game.”