During games, often times before the play even starts, we’ll often hear the quarterback yell “53 is the Mike”. Why does the quarterback identify a defensive player as the “Mike”?
What Is The “Mike” In Football
The “Mike”, or as he’s often referred to as the middle linebacker on defense. He is the player that often aligns in the middle of the defense, behind the defensive tackles.
Other linebacker positions are the “Sam” and “Will”. The Sam is often referred to as the strong side linebacker, with the Will being the weak-side linebacker.
The Mike is often the captain of the defense and will call out the defensive play calls. In the NFL, these players are usually the star linebackers like Luke Kuechly and Leighton Vander Esch. The Mike linebacker is often referred to as the “quarterback” of the defense.
Why Does The Quarterback Call Out The Mike On Offense?
Although the Mike is usually one of the best defensive players/ the star linebacker, the quarterback calling him the “Mike” has nothing to do with his ability as a football player.
Identifying the mike (in offensive terms) helps the offensive line set the blocking scheme, whether it be for run or for pass. For instance, if it’s a run blocking scheme and the offense is zone blocking, they must identify who is doubling and moving to the second level. Instead of saying “53 is the middle”, it’s easier to just say “53 is the Mike”. Here is a visual for reference….
In a passing situation, the quarterback will call out the mike for the offensive lineman to determine who is the middle of the protection. This way the guards and tackles can sort out who they have. Below is a visual reference…
Is The Quarterback The Only Player To Call Out The Mike?
No, the center may make the calls as well. Often times, younger quarterbacks will focus on the coverage and checking the plays, while the center will focus adjusting the protection. This is where you’ll see a center point at a player as soon as he puts his hand on the football.
Masterminds like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are able to handle both. They will adjust the protection based on what they anticipate from the defense. Veterans with an understanding of defensive concepts are able to put their offensive lineman in the best possible position. This is why the center position is so valuable when the team has a younger quarterback running the show.
Quarterback’s who anticipate blitz coming off the edge, may move or slide the protection. For instance, let’s say Tom Brady calls the middle linebacker the “mike” for the play. During his cadence, he starts to see the defense start to blitz from the left side. He can then change the “Mike” (the middle) to the weak side linebacker and the whole line will shift that way.
This is very common in the NFL, where teams are consistently stunting and bringing pressure from the outside. In youth and high school games, teams rarely stunt and will bring 1 man or 2 man pressures. This is a lot easier for a quarterback and offensive lineman at those levels to block the man head up.
Different Variations Of Calling Out The Mike
Quarterbacks may just yell out a number and point. For instance, if the middle linebacker is the person they are designating as “the mike”, they may just say his number – 53! 53!
Another variation is a team may simply say nothing. With enough repetition, the players automatically know who the Mike is and will take the proper steps to block him up. At vIQtory we always emphasis that more communication is better. That way there’s no excuses for lineman to say “they didn’t hear” or “they didn’t know” who the mike is.
How do you identify the Mike linebacker? Let us know in the comment section below!