Peyton Manning has played in 266 regular season games and another 26 in the postseason, but it's possible that his start in Super Bowl 50 could be the last of his career. If it is, Sunday will be the last time we hear Manning's famous "Omaha" call.
Manning yelling Omaha has taken on a life of its own and first gained notoriety during the Super Bowl run for the Denver Broncos two years ago. The Denver Airport has switched its arrivals and departures boards to say "Omaha!" and there was even a betting line (27.5) for how many times Manning would say Omaha during Super Bowl XLVIII in 2014.
But the call may have originated with Manning's quarterbacks coach back when he was a rookie in 1998. According to former Detroit Lions and New England Patriots quarterback Lee Saltz, "Omaha" was the audible call created by his college coach in 1983, Bruce Arians.
The Arizona Cardinals head coach, who was the quarterbacks coach for the Indianapolis Colts for Manning's first three NFL seasons, was in the first year of his first head coaching job at Temple when he gave Saltz the option to punt or pass in fourth and long situations. Via Conor Orr of NFL.com:
If the deep safety ended up dropping back to return the punt, call an audible which would direct an outside receiver to run a 15- to 20-yard in route right where the safety was supposed to be. And if the deep safety stayed in to guard the 15-yard in, kick the ball over his head and get the type of field position Temple could only dream of otherwise.
The code word on the audible? "Omaha."
"I haven't seen anybody do it since," Saltz told Around The NFL this week.
Of course, Manning isn't using Omaha to make a decision of whether or not he should punt. While Manning has thrown over 10,000 passes in his NFL career, including the playoffs, he has never once punted. Instead, he uses Omaha to get a snap before time runs out on the clock.
With so many pre-snap calls coming from Manning, Omaha essentially tells the offense that the play clock is running out and it's time for the snap. That would seemingly make the snap predictable, so Omaha is often followed by a hard count to get the defense to jump or, at the very least, think twice about timing the snap based on Manning's calls. Whether the offense is keyed to a hard count by the cadence of the word Omaha or a trigger word that comes earlier is something that is switched often.
Former Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne told NFL Network's GameDay Morning that Omaha used to mean flipping the play from one side to the other, although he added there was "no way" it still meant the same thing. Former Houston Texans and New York Giants quarterback David Carr was quick to say that Wayne's description of Omaha isn't accurate.
When Manning was out of the lineup while dealing with a torn plantar fascia, Brock Osweiler called Omaha when leading the Broncos offense, and Eli Manning has used it with the New York Giants, too. But if Sunday is the last time that Peyton Manning yells it, it will be the end of an era and a trend that is uniquely Manning's.
* * *
SB Nation presents: Peyton's "Omaha" call prompts a comical false start