The Washington Post

NFL coaches allowed to use Microsoft tablets this year, but only for still photos

(Associated Press)

The NFL is dipping its toe into the world of technology, one still photo at a time.

As you may have noticed if you were watching Sunday night’s Hall of Fame Game between the Giants and Bills, coaches now get to look at tablets during games on the sideline. But these tablets will be equipped to look at still photos of game action — the kind that formerly were printed out on the sideline — and nothing else. No apps. No stats. And, most crucially, no video replay. Because that would be way too advanced.

It’s all part of an effort to give coaches clearer photos — “You’d get them back and you’re like, ‘Man, what is this?’ ” Jets Coach Rex Ryan said about the old paper-printout system, according to the Associated Press — in a more timely manner without going so far as to give them actual replays.

Here are some other rules and regulations involved with the NFL’s tentative foray into tablet computing, per the AP:

— The NFL signed a five-year, $400 million deal with Microsoft last spring to provide the tablets. Microsoft will provide NFL teams with specially designed Surface tablets that can withstand heat, cold, rain, snow — anything that Mother Nature throws at NFL teams. The tablets will be in a protective case and feature an attached grip to make holding them easier.

— There will be 13 tablets on the sideline during games and 12 in the coaches’ box. They are stored in a temperature-controlled box during the week before games and will operate on a secure wireless network during them.

— The old paper-printout system will remain in place in case something goes wrong, as happened to the Bills during the first half on Sunday night.

— The tablets will be shut off for both teams only if they malfunction before the game. If they malfunction for one team during the game, the other team will continue to be allowed to use them “to prevent coaches from pretending that the devices aren’t working in an attempt to gain an advantage in a game that’s not going well,” the AP reports.

— It bears repeating: Unlike nearly everyone else at the stadium with a smartphone, the coaches will still have to look up at the JumboTron for video replays. “The purity of the game has always been not having video,” Tennessee Titans Coach Ken Whisenhunt told the AP. “So when you’re looking at pictures you have to sometimes guess, or a lot of times the pictures aren’t what really exactly happened. That part of it is still coaching, and I kind of like that.”

After spending the first 17 years of his Post career writing and editing, Matt and the printed paper had an amicable divorce in 2014. He's now blogging and editing for the Early Lead and the Post's other Web-based products.



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