A strategy used by a quarterback in which they will use a deceptive snap count in an effort to draw the defense offsides. Typically, a good hard count will rely on using a longer count to force an overaggressive defense to rush too quickly. A hard count can benefit the offense in two distinct ways. First, a team could be called for offsides and the offense could gain five free yards. Second, a team could receive a free play and have a chance to gain significant yardage risk free.
The hard count relies on a defense that attempts to anticipate the snap count. The quarterback must make a good hard count seem to be the actual snap so that the defense starts the play early. Some of the best quarterbacks at using the hard count can change the way they announce the snap count to keep the defense off balance. Even if a hard count doesn't draw a penalty flag, a good hard count can keep the defense from anticipating the snap and gaining an advantage.