So they can better answer this question, my first port-of-call was neither the Internet nor the area library. It had been, in fact, my Father.
Quite possibly one of several UK’s biggest ‘American Football’ fans, my Father 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 several months, he was a dedicated fan (and I am unable to prove this, but he perhaps forced me awake just so he had an excuse to travel downstairs and watch it). Within a few years, he was an connoisseur.
Once I got this question, the time seemed right for the quick call home.
“Well, all of them wear helmet receivers” he said, “that way the coach can call in plays that they want the Quarterback to run. However” he went on, “the home crowd makes as often noise as they can to be able to ensure it is hard for the visiting Quarterback to listen to” I hurriedly noted all this down on the number of dog-eared ‘Post-It’ notes, “Overall, I’m sure they can hear pretty well though” he concluded.
When I suggested that the Quarterbacks would all use distinctive brands of earpiece, he suggested otherwise “No, it’ll all be one brand” he said confidently. Following that, I put down the phone and headed out to the dark corners in the World-wide-web so as 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 how the signals were getting mixed up with the ones from local pilots. As outlined by 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 designed the new headsets, making special use of ‘push-to-talk’ functions. Since the new headsets are wholly digital, the Quarterbacks (and coaches) can now hear much better than ever before.
As for the business, 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 regarding the difference between the brand new headsets and also the old, Gubser said, “We encouraged them (the NFL) into the digital world and by doing so, we hugely enhanced the audio that goes out into the player”
But what do the participants 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 meeting with Associated Press that,
In all probability, Smith (the 1st Draft Pick of 2005, I’m told) is far happier now.
Obviously, audio clarity is essential to the League’s Quarterbacks. As a rather-related postscript, Tim Tebow of the New York Jets launched his own line of earphones (used for training, but not particularly 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, evidently). Of the earpieces, he states,
So, in deduction, since last year at least, I would say that my Dad was right, the Quarterbacks hear things as good as these days.