What is the Definition of Audible in American Football?

In the fast-paced and strategic game of American football, one of the key aspects for a successful offense is the ability to adapt and adjust to the opposing defense. An important tool for making these adjustments is the use of audibles. Audibles are verbal instructions given by the quarterback to his team, altering the initially called play to better match up against the defensive formation they are facing.

The purpose of an audible is to exploit weaknesses in the opposing defense or to counter a potential blitz. A quarterback must be able to read and analyze the defense’s formation and alignment quickly, then communicate the change effectively to his teammates. This requires not only a deep understanding of the game, but also clear communication skills and a strong rapport with the team.

Key Takeaways

  • Audibles in American football involve quarterbacks changing the play to counter the defense’s formation.
  • The primary purpose of an audible is to take advantage of defensive weaknesses or prepare for a blitz.
  • Effective use of audibles requires quick analysis, clear communication, and a strong connection with teammates.

Definition of an Audible

An audible in American football is a special verbal code that the quarterback uses to change the play or formation at the line of scrimmage after surveying the opposing defense. This communication method is essential when the original play called in the huddle may not be well-suited against the defense’s formation or strategy.

Audibles are mostly called when the quarterback has identified the defensive team being in a position to effectively counter the play or are about to execute a blitz. By changing the play on the field, the quarterback can adjust the offense to adapt to the defense’s tactics and potentially provide better chances of success.

When selecting an audible, the quarterback evaluates the defensive lineup and takes into account factors like the positioning of individual players, potential gaps in the defense, and the likelihood of a blitz. It is crucial to remember that not all audibles are major changes to the play; sometimes, they can be minor adjustments that help increase the play’s effectiveness.

In summary, an audible is an essential communication tool used by the quarterback in American football to adapt and adjust the offensive strategy at the line of scrimmage. By utilizing audibles, the offense is better able to respond to the dynamics of the game and exploit weaknesses in the opposing defense.

Purpose of an Audible

Changing the Original Play

An audible in American football is a verbal instruction given by the quarterback to modify the predetermined play, or to completely switch to a different plan. This mechanism allows the offense to adapt quickly and effectively to situations that warrant a change in strategy. The quarterback typically calls an audible when he doesn’t feel confident about how the offensive play called by the coach matches up with the defensive formation.

Reacting to the Defense

An important aspect of calling an audible is the ability to promptly react to the defense’s positioning and movements. Since the defense often tries to disguise their intentions or throw-off the offense, recognizing which defense they’re running helps the quarterback to determine if an audible is necessary. If the quarterback notices that the defensive team has shifted into a position where they can potentially counter the original play or run a blitz, he can communicate a different play via the audible. This allows the offense to exploit any potential mismatches or weaknesses in the defensive formation, ultimately increasing the chances of a successful play.

Types of Audibles

In American football, audibles are adjustments made by the quarterback at the line of scrimmage to alter the original play call based on the defensive alignment or other factors. There are two main types of audibles, which can be categorized as Run Audibles and Pass Audibles.

Run Audibles

Run audibles are called when the quarterback identifies an opportunity to switch from a designed pass play to a run play or wants to modify the original run play to better exploit the defensive formation. These audibles typically involve changing the direction of the run, the type of run play (such as zone or power), or the running back designated to carry the ball.

Some examples of run audibles might be:

  • Inside zone right: In this scenario, the quarterback may call a run play that targets the inside gaps on the right side of the offensive line.
  • Power left: This calls for a designed run play to the left side with additional blocking support from a pulling lineman or fullback.

The quarterback will use specific verbal signals to communicate the run audible, and the offensive unit must be familiar with these codes to execute the new play effectively.

Pass Audibles

Pass audibles come into play when the quarterback wants to shift from a called run play to a pass play or make an adjustment to the original pass play. This can happen when the quarterback identifies a mismatch in the defensive coverage or an opportunity for a big play through the air.

Pass audibles can change the primary receiver, the pass route, or the type of pass protection. They might include:

  • Quick slant: A quick, short pass to a receiver who runs a diagonal route towards the center of the field.
  • Fade: A deep pass to a receiver who runs a straight route towards the sideline, designed to beat the cornerback and stretch the defense.

Again, specific verbal codes are used to convey the new pass play to the offense. It is crucial for the entire offensive unit to be well-versed in these signals and react quickly to effectively execute the play.

Communication Methods

In American football, audibles are critical components of an offense’s strategy. The various communication methods used during audibles help the quarterback effectively relay necessary information to his team. In this section, we will explore two primary communication methods utilized during audibles: hand signals and verbal cues.

Hand Signals

Hand signals are a popular way for quarterbacks to communicate with their teammates in noisy environments, such as crowded stadiums, where verbal communication can be challenging. These nonverbal cues typically involve a series of movements or gestures that convey a specific message. For example, a quarterback may use hand movements to indicate changes in the formation, routes for receivers, or snap counts for the offensive line. Hand signals are often standardized across a team or created to be discreet, so opposing teams cannot identify the play being altered.

Verbal Cues

Verbal cues are another essential communication method for audibles in football. Quarterbacks use specific verbal codes to relay their intentions for the team to change the play from the line of scrimmage. These codes can vary from team to team and even from quarterback to quarterback, creating a unique language for each offense.

A typical audible process begins with the quarterback scanning the defensive formation before the play starts. If they identify potential issues or opportunities, they use verbal cues to inform their teammates of the desired changes. For instance, a quarterback may shout specific words or phrases indicating a change in the planned play. It is crucial for offensive players to be familiar with these verbal cues to properly execute the newly called play.

In summary, hand signals and verbal cues serve as vital communication methods for audibles in American football, ensuring the entire team is on the same page when a change in strategy is required. Careful use of these communication methods can greatly enhance a team’s offensive performance and give them an edge over their opponents.

Challenges and Risks


One of the challenges and risks associated with audibles in American football is the potential for miscommunication. When a quarterback calls an audible, they are yelling at the top of their lungs to ensure the message is heard by all players. However, the noisy environment of a packed stadium and the pressure applied by the opposing team can create confusion and misinterpretations of the play change. As a result, players may run the wrong route or execute the incorrect blocking assignment, leading to a failed play or even a turnover. It is essential for the quarterback and the team to establish clear and concise verbal codes to minimize the chances of miscommunication while calling audibles.

Time Management

Another challenge associated with audibles is managing time effectively. In American football, each team has a limited amount of time to execute a play before the play clock expires. When a quarterback recognizes that the defensive alignment doesn’t match up well with the play that was initially called, they need to quickly and efficiently call an audible to adjust the play. This process takes valuable seconds, and if not performed swiftly, can lead to costly delay of game penalties, negatively impacting the team’s progress and field position.

Performing an audible efficiently requires excellent observational skills, quick thinking, and the ability to communicate effectively under pressure. It is crucial for the quarterback and the team to practice and master this skill to overcome these challenges and successfully execute plays when faced with unfavorable defensive alignments.