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Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

NFLers Cannot Figure Out How To Use Tablets

Illustration for article titled NFLers Cannot Figure Out How To Use Tablets

Beginning last year, NFL teams started using Microsoft Surface tablets for things like their playbooks, medical records, and concussion testing. This year, the program expanded to include things like replay on the sideline. And now, the WSJ has a very predictable yet still quite funny story about everyone hating them.

Here are two passages from the WSJ's piece:

But a problem kept occurring. [Danieal] Manning would show up at team meetings, ready to work, tablet in hand. "I open it, I'm ready to go and then…" he said, staring straight ahead, "the battery is at 33%." In one instance this summer, Manning panicked when he saw the low battery. He started feverishly working to get as much in before the battery went dead all while not tipping off his teammates of his crisis. "I [thought], 'Man, I've got a little bit of battery!' I'm trying to jam as much in as I can," he said. "I'm drawing plays down and I'm doing it as fast as I can."

Manning couldn't find any sockets nearby. His productivity for the rest of the meeting was negligible.



Indeed, coaches can be even more confused than veteran players. Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid said he keeps younger assistants around to figure out the technology. New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick—who is famous for being on the cutting edge tactically—admitted that he hasn't figured it out.

OK, the first problem basically breaks down to, Charge your fucking tablet. But the battery issue is really more of a hardware problem. I used the original Surface Pro, and it sucked, especially on battery life. The Pro 2, which is the version on NFL sidelines but not the most current version (though the most current version would also be crap for this type of thing), was not much better. These guys are probably getting about two-ish hours on a full charge, give or take. An iPad will get you much better battery life, probably enough to watch film all day if you spring for new models—but power is still a problem unless you've invested in the appropriate tonnage of portable chargers.

The other is actually a stronger argument against tablets for coaches in general. On one hand, sure, Andy Reid and Bill Belichick should be able able to use a tablet without leasing a teen. But Reid and Belichick are actually two interesting edge cases. Reid's system is notoriously complex, with tiny little permutations of route clusters and formation shifts and feints, eventually expressed as something like, "shift to halfback twin right open, swap 72 all-go special halfback shallow cross wide open." Belichick's, meanwhile, needs enough space in the ledger to accommodate in-game notes and adjustments that used to be just scribbled on a paper faxed down from the assistants' box. If you're thinking, That sounds PERFECT for a tablet with a stylus! you haven't used many Windows 8 apps, specifically the ones being used by the NFL.


(The under-handwrung thing in all this is offloading things like concussion baselining and team medical records to janky devices that are locked down by the same guys who post their Wi-Fi passwords on the walls.)

The lesson here is probably just that tablets are fine for a lot of stuff in sports—watching film on flights, a portable, downloadable playbook, etc.—but are crap once the NFL, like plenty of other big, dumb corporations, forces everyone to use whatever piece of junk its corporate partnership mandates, and use it for everything.



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