The myth of “halftime adjustments”

It’s a long held belief that when a team comes out for the second half of a game and plays significantly better, that the coaches made some great “halftime adjustments”. In actuality, most of the time, there are few major adjustments being made at the half. Several NFL players have pointed this out.

Last year, I was tuned in to a “Manning cast” broadcast on Monday Night Football, and both Peyton and Eli made it clear that halftime adjustments are mostly a myth based on their collective experiences in the NFL. I’ve also heard Troy Aikman say that many times. Former Ravens coach Brian Bilick was quoted in a 2018 article in the LA Times (sorry can’t link it because of paywall):

“In all my years in the NFL, I can’t think of a single ‘Let’s go win one for the Gipper’ halftime speech,” said Super Bowl-winning coach Brian Billick, among the more eloquent speakers in the game. “It’s certainly more about, ‘Here’s what happened. Here’s what we’re going to start out doing in the second half.’ It’s the same way with people saying these teams make these brilliant halftime adjustments. I’ve never seen it. I’ve seen people make adjustments during the course of the game. I’ve seen people adjust during the second half. But I’ve never heard of anybody at halftime getting this flash of divine inspiration: ‘Oh, let’s do this!’ ”

Here are some of the reasons why halftime adjustments are mostly a myth:

  • First and foremost, adjustments are actually being made the whole game. The best HCs and coordinators are adjusting game plans, plays and noticing what the other team is doing throughout the game. Most coaches say if you wait until half to make adjustments, it’s too late.
  • Many coordinators are up in the press box- by the time they get to the locker room and take a restroom break, there’s no time for big speeches or charts. Sometimes position coaches may circle up a few players, but big halftime speeches or adjustments usually aren’t happening.
  • By the time players get to locker room and take restroom breaks, there is very little time for much else. I recent heard Dak say in an interview there’s not a lot said at the half. NFL halftimes only last 15 minutes. By the time players get off the field, there’s just not much time.

So the next time you hear the old saying, “They made some great halftime adjustments”, just know that’s mostly a myth.

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