If you've watched any football coverage over the last minute, or just paid attention to media, you've heard about Peyton Manning yelling Omaha. He used the call dozens of times in the divisional round, scaled it back against the Patriots a bit, and likely will be heard screaming OMAHA in the Super Bowl. But why is Peyton Manning yelling Omaha?
To understand the call, there's a bit of context to understand. Manning is known for gesticulating and yelling at the line of scrimmage. His specialty is lining up, seeing what the defense is giving, then changing around the offense to exploit what he sees. Sometimes it's for show. Sometimes it's not. And trying to decode him as a defensive player is futile.
But we do know a few of the things Manning does at the line of scrimmage. At times, he'll walk up and go through the motions with a show-me hard count (watch him walk up, get under center, and yell "hut-hut."). It doesn't really mean anything, other than buying some time to see what the defense is showing, and perhaps get lucky and pull a guy offsides.
He'll then call out the middle linebacker -- you'll hear Manning say XX is MIKE (in Seattle's case the XX is 54) to set the protection. Everything typically pivots off the middle backer, thus the call.
Manning, like other quarterbacks, also uses code words to change the play. Some flip it, some change it completely. An example here is "FAT MAN" from the AFC Championship. Chris B. Brown smartly posited that this was likely a change to a belly run (fat man … belly). These codes change every week.
By the time Manning is done bouncing around the line of scrimmage, waving his arms, and checking the play, time may be running out. Thus you get OMAHA. Simply, Omaha is a hurry up and go call. He'll call out OMAHA (sometimes stretched out as O-MA-HA), and the next sound signals to snap it.
The curveball here is Manning's hard count. Everyone knows Omaha. It's not an uncommon call. But every once in a while, and sometimes more frequently, Manning will yell Omaha, then another word (set, hit, whatever), in an attempt to get the defense to jump. Whether it's triggered by an earlier word or the cadence of Omaha, or something else completely like a call in the huddle, can change every week too.
Manning's former receiver on the Indianapolis Colts, Reggie Wayne, had a different explanation for Omaha, but also admitted that there was "no way" it still had the same meaning so many years later.
You'll also note that Omaha is not unique to Peyton Manning. See his little brother:
You can bet on the number of times Manning will say OMAHA during the Super Bowl -- the line was set at 27.5 -- and there'll be plenty of talk about his love for the Nebraska town. But the word serves a very functional purpose, just as any other quarterback's cadence (Russell Wilson will use Blue or White and a number, for instance) tells a story.