How Much do NFL Quarterbacks Hear in Their Earpieces?

events 6th decemberWith very little information on the internet about earpiece’s, it is very rare when we get a chance to re post, with permission, an article from this industry.

In order to better answer this question, my first port-of-call was neither the Internet nor the local library. It was, in fact, my Dad.

Quite possibly one of the UK’s biggest ‘American Football’ fans, my Dad first discovered a love for the sport when I was just a little baby (I’m 28 this year). Getting up for late night feeds, nappy changes and so on, he found that the only thing on TV at that time of night was the NFL. Within a couple of months, he was an ardent fan (and I can’t prove this, but he possibly forced me awake just so he had an excuse to go downstairs and watch it). Within a couple of years, he was an expert.

Once I got this question, the time seemed right to make a quick call home.

“Well, they all wear helmet receivers” he said, “that way the coach can call in the plays that they want to Quarterback to run. However” he went on, “the home crowd makes as much noise as they can in order to make it hard for the visiting Quarterback to hear” I hurriedly noted all this down on a series of dog-eared ‘Post-It’ notes, “Overall, I think they can hear pretty well though” he concluded.

When I suggested that the Quarterbacks would all use different brands of earpiece, he suggested otherwise “No, it’ll all be one brand” he said assuredly. Following that, I put down the phone and headed out to the dark corners of the Internet in order to find out just what this brand might be.

The NFL actually upgraded its earpieces last year, it seems, replacing them with digital models after some teams complained that the signals were getting mixed up with those of local pilots. According to Taylor Bloom at Business2community.com,

“Ever since coaches and coordinators began using headsets in 1994 they have learned to put up with miscommunications during games. This explains why you sometimes see coaches on the sideline using hand signals to communicate plays to their quarterback”

A Lincoln, Nebraska-based manufacturer called Gubser & Schnakenberg LLC developed the new headsets, making special use of ‘push-to-talk’ capabilities. Since the new earphones are wholly digital, the Quarterbacks (and coaches) can now hear far better than ever before.

As for the firm, well, I looked them up as well. Matt Olberding of the duo’s local news source, the Lincoln Journal Star says,

“Mark Gubser and Jamie Schnakenberg aren’t household names. You’ve probably never heard of their company — Gubser & Schnakenberg LLC, or GSC for short — either. But some very important people know them very well. People like Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. That’s because Gubser and Schnakenberg designed a digital system that starting this year replaced the National Football League’s old analog system allowing coaches on the sideline to talk to the quarterback and defensive players on the field”.
When asked about the difference between the new headsets and the old, Gubser said, “We moved them (the NFL) into the digital world and by doing so, we vastly improved the audio that goes out to the player”

But what do the players think of these new earpieces? San Francisco 49ers QB Alex Smith was one of the most vocal opponents of the old system, saying, in an interview with Associated Press that,

“You expect more when you come in as a rookie. You’re thinking this is going to be some crazy high-tech stuff and then you actually look in the helmet and it’s not.”
Presumably, Smith (the first Draft Pick of 2005, I’m told) is much happier now.

Clearly, audio clarity is very important to the League’s Quarterbacks. As a slightly-related postscript, Tim Tebow of the New York Jets launched his own line of headphones (used for training, but not specifically for games) with Soul Electronics at this year’s CES trade show. He uses them, principally, to listen to music whilst warming up (he’s a Sinatra fan, apparently). Of the headphones, he says,
“I was so interested in having something that was comfortable that I could go run around and practice in before games, I could wear it on the field”.
So, in conclusion, since last year at least, I’d say that my Dad was right, the Quarterbacks hear things pretty well these days.

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