Peyton Manning is a long-time believer that halftime adjustments are a myth…
— NFL Films (@NFLFilms) February 8, 2024
Tune into an NFL broadcast and you’ll hear the same line whenever teams head to their locker rooms at the end of the second quarter: it’s an opportunity to make some adjustments at halftime. Coaches will grab a whiteboard and some markers and get into the X’s and O’s to explain what they’ll be doing differently after the break. Captains stand up and fire up their teammates with a passionate speech.
But there’s just one problem: this rarely happens. And there isn’t a bigger critic of the scene than Peyton Manning.
“I don’t think I ever made a halftime adjustment in my entire 18 year career,” Manning said during a recent appearance on the Monday night Manningcast with his brother Eli. “I think that’s the biggest myth in football. You go in, use the restroom, eat a couple of oranges, and then head coach says ‘Alright, let’s go.'”
And a lot of coaches and players agree with him. Logistically, there isn’t enough time to sprint from the field to the locker room and break down film or analyze big plays — if any coaches or coordinators are working from the booth eight or nine stories above the field, they have to hustle into an elevator and work their way through the stadium’s inner corridors to meet the rest of the team. Getting all of that done in 13 minutes is a tall order.
But you’ll find some peopole in football who feel differently, or at least they don’t agree with Peyton’s stance. One of them is New Orleans Saints head coach Dennis Allen, who told NFL Films: “Well I don’t know if I totally agree with ‘halftime adjustments are a myth,’ I think they’re overblown.”
Allen is known for coaching a strong second half. Last year his defense allowed 0.57 fewer yards per play in the second half, a difference of 447.8 yards over the course of the season. They gave up 10 fewer touchdowns after the halftime break than before it. Opposing offenses converted 45 fewer first downs in the second half against the Saints in 2023.
So if it’s not a big sit-down and film study during the break, what is it? Why are the Saints such a strong second-half defense with Allen at the helm? One of Allen’s mentors clarified the point — his predecessor Sean Payton says that while there isn’t a big shift at halftime, coaches are talking on headsets all afternoon. They’re consistently in each other’s ear sharing information and communicating about what’s working and what isn’t. That continuous flow leads to adjustments throughout the game, not just at halftime.
Unless they’re playing in the Super Bowl, anyway. Payton reflected on his and Allen’s win in Super Bowl XLIV, and the 30-minute halftime that came with it. He says that extra time gave players time to change into clean socks and shirts and, most importantly, it afforded him time to think over his approach to the second half. Which meant the iconic “Ambush” onside kick to start the third quarter and a designed drive ending with a Pierre Thomas screen play that saw the running back dive into the end zone for a touchdown.
And who did Payton, Allen, and the Saints beat for that Super Bowl victory? None other than Peyton Manning. Maybe he and his coaches should have spent more time going over their plans at halftime after all.