DENVER (AP) — Whether Pete Carroll meant it as a barb for Russell Wilson or a bouquet of flowers for Geno Smith, the Seattle Seahawks coach has made armbands a hot topic in the NFL during a tumultuous season that has rocked the longtime quarterback order.
Carroll spoke about the Seahawks’ surprise success in 2022 after stepping away from Wilson when he mentioned Smith’s willingness to wear an armband to help Seattle’s play-calling.
“If you notice Geno losing the bracelet and that’s a big help”, Carroll told Seattle Sports 710 AM earlier this month. “It smoothed things out, sped things up. And that’s part of it. We’ve never done that before. There was resistance to this. So we didn’t do that before.”
replied Wilson with his own subtle dig, reminding that he “I won a lot of games there without one on my wrist. And I didn’t know that it matters whether you wear the bracelet or not, whether you win or lose.”
Coincidentally, two days before Carroll’s comment, Wilson first wore an armband featuring the Broncos in a win over the Jaguars in London, and he’s since used it in games and practice as the Broncos attempt to mount a stuttering offense.
He even wore it on the podium on Wednesday.
“Yeah, I guess I’m rocking this bracelet right here.” said Wilson with a chuckle.
Roughly two-thirds of NFL quarterbacks rock the bracelets every weekend. Tom Brady has used one throughout his career. But some QBs and coaches prefer memory skills for their more complex plays.
The bands that hug the quarterback’s non-throwing wrist and forearm contain dozens of plays with corresponding numbers or codes. They are often just as beneficial to the play caller as the QB, since he can only bid a single number rather than the entire play sequence with all its protections, checks and other nuances.
“As a game designer, sometimes you want to get a little creative, and those things can get a bit wordy,” Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett said.
Calling out a number rather than the entire game sequence saves a few ticks before the quarterback’s listener shuts off when 15 seconds remain on the game clock. The QB can then redirect play and break the huddle faster by getting to the scrimmage line with a few extra seconds to monitor the defense for needed adjustments.
Hackett said the wristbands are especially handy for people on the go and especially helpful with the increasingly complex game calls.
“This is how the crime developed” said Hackett. “…we’re getting more sophisticated with our game designs.”
Not all plays on the coaches’ call sheets are listed on the quarterbacks’ wristbands. They’re often limited to those complex calls or to Red Zone games that get installed later in the week, meaning players have had less time to practice them.
However, bracelets are not for everyone.
Some QBs, like the Titans’ Ryan Tannehill, have tried them but don’t wear them all the time like Brady.
“Last year when we went to Seattle I wore one” because of the noise at Lumen Field, Tannehill said. “Not too often. I like hearing the call and visualizing it in my head as it comes in. It just helps me get a picture of what’s going on. When I hear it and need to visualize the piece, it helps me communicate with my boys instead of reading a line on a bracelet.”
Vikings QB Kirk Cousins doesn’t typically wear an armband, and that has something to do with Rams coach Sean McVay, who was Cousins’ Washington offensive coordinator from 2014-2016.
Cousins recalled telling McVay, “These pieces are long and I could use a bracelet.”
“Sean would say, ‘I don’t look at the call log to call the play to see what the bracelet number is. I’m just calling the game out of my head.’” cousins told. “So he said, ‘We can’t do that because I’d have to look for the piece and then give you the number.’ I learned from Sean that I just have to memorize these pieces and I can’t afford the luxury of a bracelet.”
“There are so many different ways to do this, and I think there are positives and negatives to every single way.” cousins said. “There are times when I like having a lot of words because you can paint the picture better, but there are other times when you ask for two to three games and it can just become a lot. One move, one shift, one alarm and you have the music box, so there’s a lot going on.”
Cousins said he picked up a ploy from backup Nick Mullens as he digested the Vikings’ new offense this summer.
“In late August and early September I was really struggling to really get to a place where I could spit out the games with just complete ownership.” cousins said. He remembered Mullens telling him “I just record the tricky plays on my phone and instead of listening to music or the radio on the way to and from work, I just listen to the theater calls.”
“I started doing this and my rides are a bit more boring.” cousins said “But I come home to the garage feeling a little bit better with the game plan and my mastery of the game plan.”
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