Fans watching Sunday's National Football Conference championship game may want to whip out their cell phones to berate the coaches for boneheaded plays or to give them an "attaboy" for a great call.

Proteus Inc., a Washington software and Web design firm, has built a wireless application for Motorola Inc. that will allow those with Internet-ready cell phones to call in their opinions during the game in response to questions broadcast by Fox.

Fans will be able to second-guess plays called by Philadelphia Eagles and St. Louis Rams coaches and vote for or against strategy during the game. The "Virtual Coach" technology will also be used during the Super Bowl in February, said Ross Levinsohn, general manager and senior vice president for Los Angeles-based

Fox will broadcast questions during the game that will prompt viewers to either cast votes at's Web site or with their cell phones, Levinsohn said. Most of the questions will be simple, with yes or no answers that will be easy for viewers to type from a cell-phone keypad. The results will crawl across the bottom of the TV screen as the votes are tabulated.

"It's definitely showcasing new technology," Levinsohn said.

Motorola and Proteus are betting that football fans watching the game will be more likely to use a cell phone to make online votes, rather than going to a Web site. A cell phone might be more accessible than a computer for fans watching at home or at a sports bar, said Patrick McQuown, president of Proteus.

"The real value is you don't have to get off your couch" to vote, said Craig Shapiro, Proteus project lead. began online voting during the World Series, Levinsohn said, and more than 250,000 people voted. In a test of about 10 interactive polls during three NFL football playoff games over the past few weeks, about 75,000 people voted online. This weekend will be the first time that Fox viewers can vote with cell phones that have an Internet browser, Levinsohn said.

The service will be free, except for the caller's per-minute charges, and open to any brand of phone, said Bo Pyskir, director of product management for infotainment and mobile shopping for Motorola, based near Chicago.

Proteus, a privately held firm with about 50 employees, has been working on the project for about six months, and it will do other wireless projects with Motorola, Shapiro said. Proteus, founded in 1996, counts VoiceStream Wireless Corp., Exxon Mobil Corp. and Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive (a unit of The Washington Post Co.) as clients. The company received an undisclosed amount of venture capital last spring from Pittsburgh-based Lycos Ventures, affiliated with global Internet portal Terra Lycos S.A.

The venture marks Motorola's movement into the software application business as the cell phone becomes more than just a device to make calls on, Pyskir said.

The deal is "very much a trial," Pyskir said. If the interactive polls are a hit for football fans, Motorola might look at using the technology for polling viewers of awards shows, reality TV shows and other entertainment events, he said.

Neither Fox nor Proteus has ventured into the next natural extension of the technology. Coaches have access to television on the sideline and could see the viewers' reactions if they wanted to. Theoretically, coaches even could vote on their own moves during the game if they had an Internet-ready cell phone and the time. Coaches do tend to be busy during a game, though, but there's nothing to stop bench-warmers from voting for plays that would get them on the field.

But they, and all callers, can vote only once on each question.