Back in January of 2016, just before the AFCA Convention, we did an article highlighting the communication structure between Nick Saban and his assistant coaches on game day, courtesy of AL.com and it was wildly popular and a frequent topic of discussion with coaches that I ran into at clinics the rest of the off season.
To this day, sideline communication systems like that continue to be a hot topic with coaches that I talk to during the off season. Thankfully, just before the Super Bowl, Ben Volin of the Boston Globe put out an article on the communications relay system that the Patriots staff uses on game day.
Because NFL coordinators are able to communicate with designated players on the field, Belichick’s sideline communication system looks a bit different than Saban’s, but the two also have many similarities.
Each time the play clock resets to 40 seconds, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and director of personnel Nick Caserio begin their communication. From the article:
“Nick Caserio’s been talking to me for the better part of 10 years,” McDaniels said. “He tells me where the ball’s at, what hash it’s on, what’s the down and distance. He’ll say, ‘Left hash, second and 7 at the 33.’ Then sometimes I’ll call the personnel, then he’ll say, ‘Hey, they subbed nickel in.’ He’ll continue to communicate with me until the end.”
While that is going on, assistant quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski and coaching assistant Nick Caley are charting New England’s plays, their opponents’ plays, and relaying info to McDaniels through Caserio. McDaniels notes that there is sometimes coaches trying to talk over each other, but the more they work together, the less they run into that kind of stuff.
From there, McDaniels relays the play to his quarterback by pressing a button on his hip. Then he will let Tom Brady know what personnel is coming in, who needs to come out, and any other pertinent information. As the huddle breaks, McDaniels continues to relay in information on tendencies regarding bliztes and coverages they like in this down and distance scenario or area of the field, the defensive personnel, and other information along those lines.
With 15 seconds left on the play clock, McDaniels feels a buzz on his hip as the sideline to player communication system goes silent, per NFL rules. From that moment until the play clock is reset, the player receiving the info from the sideline is on his own, and at the end of the play, it starts all over again.
Someday, as both coaches, and fans, it would be great to have the ability to record, and revisit these game day conversations as you and your staff watch film to help make things as efficient and effective as possible. Imagine how cool it would be to have the ability to listen to New England’s box-to sideline-to field communication on their last few possession (and even early on in the game when they were struggling), and how beneficial that would be to other coaches.
Head here to read the full article, including how communication is handled on the defensive side of the ball.