NFL testing new sideline tablets in preseason
NASHVILLE – Adjusting to new technology just isn’t easy for some people, even in the NFL where everyone is trying to find that winning edge.
Even in a pouring rain, Titans assistant coach Louie Cioffi flipped through soggy black-and-white printouts reviewing the opening series with his defensive backs. A couple times players shielded assistant coaches with towels to study photos of the Green Bay Packers.
So much for the NFL’s new tablets only a few steps away.
Teams wrapped up the first full preseason test of the new Surface tablet from Microsoft for NFL sidelines with mostly good reviews and some glitches to fix. And yes, they were designed with a protective case to survive rugged weather conditions.
Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt said Sunday he only heard positive feedback on the tablets and the photos available, especially upstairs in the coaching booth. He thinks the key now is only getting accustomed to using the tablet.
“One of the concerns that you had was the rain and how that would affect that, but it didn’t affect it last night,” Whisenhunt said. “And the players seemed to like it too. I mean the ability to zoom in and out to see those looks is a pretty neat thing. I think as the preseason progresses we’ll get more involved with those because it is a tremendous tool.”
The tablets also come with one very big difference from the black-and-white photos.
“It’s colour,” Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III said, laughing. “We went from black-and-white to colour.”
The tablets had their biggest weather test in Nashville where a couple inches of rain fell Saturday night during the Titans’ 20-16 win over the Packers.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy also gave the tablets a rave review.
“It’s really convenient as far as having every series on the iPad as opposed to having a book for each series,” McCarthy said. “Very convenient and nice to not have to leave the sideline and go to the bench is something I haven’t had in a long time.”
Washington defensive backs coach Raheem Morris loves having the entire game right at his fingertips only a swipe away. That keeps him from scrambling for another batch of papers to find a pre- or post-snap look of what an opponent did earlier.
“It just helps coaches be more efficient, and anytime you help a coach be more efficient and save time, that’s ultimately what we’re all looking for,” Morris said.
Coaches did run into some issues.
In Washington’s 23-6 win over New England, one tablet was missing a play from the first series of the game that was on other tablets. That was corrected quickly.
Coaches also had to figure out which direction to swipe for the next picture. Usually, that involves dragging the finger left. This tablet requires a swipe right. Washington coach Jay Gruden called that a little weird, taking time to become accustomed to the difference. Still, count him among the converts to quickly check coverages or blitzes.
“Those tablets do come in handy and I think it’ll take some getting used to by the coaches, but I think they were good,” Gruden said.
Falcons coach Mike Smith called the tablets a “work in progress.” His coaches had better luck with them upstairs than on the sideline of their 16-10 win over Miami, and they also used the tablets at halftime. The tablets include no video, so their use currently has its limits.
“On the sideline it wasn’t as clear and as smooth as he would’ve liked it to be,” Smith said. “I think that can contributed to a number of things. It could be some tweaks we have to do in terms of software, but there’s also the possibility of the user not being familiar with all of the ways that you can move around on that tablet.”
Some coaches are sticking with the black-and-white printouts the NFL will use all season as a backup like Arizona coach Bruce Arians. He joked he will “let Tom handle the high-tech stuff,” 75-year-old assistant head coach Tom Moore.
As for the players, the tablets are just another tool.
“They’re all tech-savvy,” Morris said. “They’ve got iPads, they walk around with these iPhones and all this stuff.”
© 2014 The Canadian Press