Bengals’ Joe Burrow says he was forced to call his own plays following headset malfunction in win over Titans

There’s been a lot of firsts this month for Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals. The month started with a win over the Chiefs that gave Cincinnati its first division crown since 2015. January has also included the Bengals’ first playoff win in 33 years as well as the franchise’s first-ever road playoff win. 

Last weekend’s win over the Titans also marked the first time that Burrow called his own plays in an NFL game, although it was not by design. Burrow said Wednesday that he was temporarily thrust into the role of play-caller after his headset went out. 

“Never been in that position before,” Burrow said of his headset malfunction, via Paul Dehner of The Athletic. “That was kind of exciting for me. Zac always jokes don’t pretend like the headset goes out so you can call your own plays. All of them worked. That was fun.”


Burrow got a taste of what life was like for NFL quarterbacks from a bygone era who called their own plays. While coaches and coordinator have primarily called their team’s plays for the past 40-plus years, former Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw and former Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler called their team’s plays during the 1970s. Stabler called plays during the Raiders’ 32-14 win over the Vikings in Super Bowl XI. Bradshaw won Super Bowl MVP awards while calling plays during each of Pittsburgh’s four Super Bowl wins during the decade. 

While Burrow had success Saturday, former Giants Super Bowl MVP quarterback and current CBS Sports NFL analyst Phil Simms said that today’s quarterbacks are better off not having the responsibility of calling plays. 

“I called plays for a half my rookie year in St. Louis,” Simms recalled during an interview Wednesday. “Of course, I wasn’t ready to do that. … I’ll tell you, I ran out of ideas really quick. Now a days, with three, four receivers, tight ends, all that, it’s impossible for a quarterback to be a play-caller. There’s no way. … Every quarterback could call a couple of plays, and of course they’re going to call their favorite ones, but I don’t see that day coming and I don’t think any quarterbacks would actually want that responsibility.” 

Simms, who compared Burrow to former 49ers great Joe Montana during the regular season, believes that the Bengals’ young quarterback will have to play “really well” if Cincinnati is going to upset the Chiefs in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game. Burrow threw for 446 yards and four touchdowns during Cincinnati’s 34-31 win over the Chiefs back in Week 17. 

“I think he’s throwing the football better this year than he threw last year,” Simms said of Burrow. “A good thrower, accurate, just a great feel for the game. Knows how to move in the pocket. Better athletically than we all probably think he is, and a sneaky, really good thrower of the ball. … He knows how to play the game. He’s been taught very well, and Zac Taylor and Brian Callahan have done a great job with Cincinnati’s offense.” 

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