“What really changed the no-huddle — and Peyton was probably the first guy to master it — was the dummy snap count,” said former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer, now an ESPN analyst.
“It used to be, ‘Set HUT!’ and the ball was snapped. Or ‘Set HUT-HUT’ and the ball was going to be snapped. Now quarterbacks get up there in the no-huddle and go, ‘Set HUT-UT-UT!’ and it’s a dummy. And then the defense resets, you know what they’re going to do, and you go, ‘Set HUT-UT-UT!’ And it’s a dummy too. And now the defense is just sitting there in their stance, because they have to be ready for it.
“They let the quarterback read their mail. The quarterback has already opened the envelope and read the mail. Now they go, ‘OK, now that I’ve read your mail, we’re going to do A, B and C to get in the best play possible . . . ‘SET-HUT!’ and the ball is snapped.”
Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who was Manning’s first quarterbacks coach in the NFL, said the Broncos star simply outlasts an opposing defense, waiting until it no longer has time to disguise its strategy, then quickly dials into the ideal play.
“Teams defensively are getting taught so well they’ll wait till the [play] clock hits nine, some wait till eight, to leave their last disguise,” Arians said. “Then, as an offense, you have to have code words that are fast enough to get the right play and the snap count off in basically six seconds.”
That means one-word plays and hand signals that get all the offensive players on the same page.
“Peyton’s the master,” Arians said. “I don’t think too many people can do that. Brady’s doing a hell of a job with it too. They have a great hand-signal system. They can go fastbreak. It’s real good when the rest of your guys can handle it.”