Why Do Quarterbacks Yell Numbers Before The Ball Is Snapped?

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Blue 42, Blue 42 set hut! This number and color cadence can often be heard by a quarterback during a football game. What do the numbers mean? Let’s break it down…

Why Do Quarterbacks Yell Numbers Before The Ball Is Snapped?

The quarterback can often be heard yelling numbers before the ball is snapped. These numbers and words are part of the quarterback’s cadence. If you’re unfamiliar with a cadence – watch this video before you continue.

These numbers can relate to a multitude of things. For this article, we’re going to break down what each number could mean.

Keep in mind, every offense is different so the numbers could change based on the different systems. Each coach has their own flavor and could use the numbers or colors to dictate different things to different players. Below is simply a collection of calls we’ve gathered from different coaches. Let’s get started…

Timing Of The Cadence

Teams will often use a color and a number to time up the cadence. The offense is similar to a orchestra, everything must fire at the same time and be on the same tune. One messed up note can make the entire orchestra sound out of whack. It’s no different in football.

In the NFL, we’ll often hear the term “White 80, White 80 set hut!”. Quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton use this cadence to signal for the football.

Some may argue that using the same exact cadence every play hurts the offense. In retrospect, it actually helps them. For example, if the defense is used to hearing “White 80, white 80 set hut”, the quarterback is able to bluff the play call. Instead of going on “set hut”, the QB can change the call to on 2, and go on the second hut. This is where you’ll see Rodgers or Newton get a free play or get the opposing team to jump, because of their consistent cadence.

In the above clip we see Cam Newton use his cadence to get the Washington Redskin’s lineman to jump 5+ times throughout the game, simply by staying consistent


This is a newer concept to offenses, as the spread offense continues to evolve. When the quarterback says a number in the cadence, it could pertain to the coverage.

This is a mechanism used for youth, high school and college quarterbacks. Teaching them how to understand and break down defenses, will make their life easier.

For example, if the opposing team is in a cover 2, the quarterback may say “blue 32, blue 32 set hit!”. If the opposing team is in a cover 1, he might say “blue 31, blue 31 set hit!”.

The second number ( or first) depending on the system, can help the quarterback verbalize what he sees. It may not seem like a huge deal, but understanding coverages will help you understand what area of the field will be open.

Audibles & Checks

Another reason a quarterback may call out a number before the ball is snapped is to audible the play. Now that offenses are so diverse, the number system is a way to check the play at the line of scrimmage.

Most college and high school teams will go “no-huddle”, meaning all the plays are called at the line of scrimmage. Coaches have created systems where they simple yell “Yellow 18”, and it dictates the whole play.

Yellow = Formation

18 = Inside Zone Run

It’s that simple. The quarterback will then echo it to the entire offense and then run the play. This system has made it extremely easy for coaches to get out of the current play they’re in, and get to a play that’s best suited for them to score points.

Coaches who huddle and don’t have checks at the LOS, must live with the current play call. This is why it’s a good idea to have a check system in place at the LOS.

Identifying The Mike Linebacker

As mentioned here, the Mike linebacker sets the middle of the blocking scheme for the offensive lineman. Often times, we can hear the quarterback pointing to a number and identifying the Mike for the offensive lineman.

In the video above, Aaron Rodgers can be heard yelling “Green 19” before the ball is snapped, as he’s using that as a rhythm cadence.

We can also hear him talk to his center, to identify who is the mike. This is to make sure he’s on the same page as the center to ensure he’s protected in the pass game and the running back is protected in the run game.

Why Do Quarterbacks Yell Colors Before The Ball Is Snapped?

Similar to the number system, the colors are also used as a way to have a rhythmic cadence.

As mentioned in the video above, Aaron says “green 19” pretty much every play. The flexibility of this cadence allows Aaron to change it every week with a different color and a different number.

The term “Blue 42” is often used when people are trying to mock a quarterback’s cadence. There’s no significance to this cadence, just a string of words before the quarterback receives the ball.

If you’re creating a cadence, it’s good to have colors and numbers in the cadence for many reasons…

  • Instead of the quarterback just getting to the line of scrimmage and saying “GO!”, it allows the offense to prepare for contact
  • It allows the offense to make adjustments to blitzes at the last second
  • The cadence is flexible – can snap the ball on “hut”, first color, or even the first number to throw the defenses timing off


Adding a color and numbering system to your cadence can help with flexibility in both play calling and keeping the defense on edge. Make sure the quarterback is loud and consistent with the cadence. This will help your offense when you eventually want the defense to jump offsides.

How do you use colors and numbers in your cadence? Do you use them strictly for rhythmic purposes or does it mean something? We’d love to hear your strategies in the comments below!

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