So what is Peyton Manning signaling when he yells "Omaha! Omaha!" at the line of scrimmage?
He joked about it this week when a reporter asked him to explain, saying it was a run call … or a pass call … or sometimes a play-action fake call, depending on which direction the wind is blowing, which way Denver's offense is heading and the jerseys the Broncos are wearing.
But, really, what is he doing with that call? He sure barks it out enough, at least 40 times in the divisional playoff game against San Diego.
While it's always tricky to try to decipher what a quarterback's cryptic audibles mean, particularly with a master of deception such as Manning, one quarterback expert has a logical explanation.
Rick Neuheisel, former quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens, said "Omaha" is typically a way of alerting the offense of when the ball will be snapped, especially in no-huddle situations when a quarterback can't relay the snap count to the group.
"When I say 'Omaha,' I'm telling the offense to go on the next sound," said Neuheisel, who played quarterback at UCLA three decades before he was head coach there.
But that's not always the case. Neuheisel said that Manning will have a code word — a "freeze" call that probably changes every week — that essentially tells the offense to ignore the upcoming Omaha. That way, he barks the freeze word, then "Omaha," in an effort to: a) get the defense to tip its hand on what it plans to do, and b) draw defenders offside.
"He gets in the huddle or he's at the line, and he gives some code word that means, 'We don't have a play. We're going with nothing. You're going to wait until I tell you what the play is,'" Neuheisel said. "So everybody lines up. Then he says, 'Set, hut! Omaha! Omaha! Hut!' and see if he can get them to move. If they won't move, then he knows they're in this defense, he'll get them into a play and say, 'Omaha — hut!' and get the ball."
Most of the time, it's best for a defense to do more looking than listening.
"All you have to do if you're on defense is watch the 25-second clock," said Neuheisel, an analyst for the Pac-12 Networks. "If that gets inside of three seconds and he's saying 'Omaha,' you go. Because he can't be freezing there. If it's outside, you've got to just watch the ball."