The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' game against the Tennessee Titans last week lasted 185 minutes, from kickoff to the final whistle. Only a dozen of those were devoted to halftime, and they were far from the most important minutes of the night.
The Buccaneers will suit up again Friday night to face the New England Patriots, and since it's the third week of the preseason it will feature the most important tune-up work for the team's projected starters. It is also a critical dress-rehearsal for Tampa Bay's new coaching staff, which is in the process of learning how to make successful in-game adjustments with its young roster. On Thursday, Head Coach Greg Schiano stressed that such adjustments are a constant process from pregame through to the last play, and not the result of a rousing speech between third and fourth periods.
Schiano has stated, on more than one occasion, that the concept of the magical halftime adjustment is, as he said Thursday, "overrated in a big, big way." In fact, his team might end up making more corrections on the fly during a long offensive drive than it would during a halftime trip to the locker room.
"If you’re a defensive player and you sit down on the bench and your offense goes out and has a 12 or 14-play drive, with clock stoppages and real time," he said, "it’s a heck of a lot longer than what you have at halftime."
Teams are given 12 minutes for halftime from the moment the second-half clock runs out until the third-quarter kickoff. That includes the time needed to walk to and from the locker room, possibly grab something to eat or drank and take care of any other pressing needs. Most locker rooms have a chalkboard and coaches occasionally use them to scribble down a few notes or play adjustments, but there simply isn't enough time for an extended teaching session.
In contrast, the sidelines of an NFL game are a constantly-updating wealth of information. Part of every team's in-game video production is a system on the sideline that produces snapshots of every play right before and right after it begins (the latter to show in what directions the players headed after the snap). These are quickly printed and distributed to very interested players and coaches in the bench area.
This picture system is much more sophisticated in the NFL than in college football, and it's one aspect of the pro game that Schiano has enjoyed getting back to. It's also an important part of that never-ending process of in-game adjustments…of which halftime is almost an afterthought.
"In between every series it should be an ongoing meeting throughout the game," said Schiano. "So the fact that you’re in a locker room [for halftime] is just that you don’t have a crowd yelling and you’re not sitting out in the open air. Other than that, to me, it's just one ongoing teaching session."