Sunday’s loss to Miami was ugly for the Jets. Perhaps the ugliest play came in the fourth quarter when an errant shotgun snap turned into a safety.
How does something like that happen?
On the road, teams frequently go to what is called a silent count to execute the snap. The crowd noise gets so loud that not everybody can hear it when the quarterback says something like, “Hut, hut,” to snap the ball. So the snap is determined by a bunch of nonverbal signals.
The most common one the Jets use has Brian Winters looking back at Sam Darnold.
Darnold then lifts his leg.
After seeing this, Winters sticks out his arm for everybody to see.
Everybody, even the receivers are looking in for the signal.
Once the signals are made, the ball is snapped.
When you hear about homefield advantage in the NFL, this is one of the major parts of it. Going to the silent count adds an extra challenge for the offense, especially the linemen.
This is why false starts can be prevalent in difficult road venues. If linemen have their eyes on the ball until it is actually snapped, pass rushers can get a quick jump on them. If they turn away after the signal, they might move before the actual snap and commit a penalty.
Of course, the Jets have to mix things up a bit. If they used the same set of signals on every play, defenders could just watch for them, time the snap, and fire into the backfield.
Sometimes Darnold just gives a hand signal.
Other times the Jets snap it after the second Darnold leg lift/Winters hand motion. The first one is a fake.
This was likely the root of Sunday’s errant snap. Brian Winters and Jonotthan Harrison thoguht the ball was to be snapped on the first leg lift/hand motion. Darnold thought the ball was going to be snapped on the second and thus wasn’t prepared to receive the ball.
The television announcers couldn’t tell who was to blame. Without being in the huddle and knowing what was actually supposed to precede the snap, neither can we.
No matter the guilty party, miscommunication like this is ugly and costly.