Tonight as the NFL returns for its 95 season tonight (wohooo), a new addition of the digital technology is coming to sidelines. Instant replay was introduced back in the early 1960s for the viewers but it wasn’t brought into the game to officiate a game till 1986 in a limited role. The current NFL replay system (for officiating) wasn’t introduced till 1999.
But the digital age didn’t arrive in the NFL till 2011 when a certain select of teams introduced IPADs-Baltimore Ravens & Tampa Bay Buccaneers-as a medium to incorporate team playbooks, film study, scouting reports, daily itinerary and team meetings in one device for all 53 active players plus 7 practice squad members. By 2012, limited number of College football teams including Ohio State, and additional NFL teams (Rams, Lions, Colts, Cowboys, Redskins, Panthers, Seahawks and the Jets) added IPADs to their arsenal. By 2013, the Bears, Cardinals Chiefs, Titans, Dolphins, Saints and the Broncos joined the new digital revolution.
The days of lugging around thick binders and flipping through hundreds of pages of plays are over. Instead, players could swipe through their team issued tablets for “All-22” video clips, view the playbook and other learning apps on their tablets anywhere and anytime (not on gameday though). NFL coaches could set their game plans on Tuesday and it would automatically synch with the players IPADs.
By having all 60 players on the team on the same digital page, coaches could instantaneously make mirror changes to a play, add additional game film or tweak the aforementioned game plan instantly. The players could also take notes about their position and draw or adjust their routes (or blocking scheme-depending on the role of the player). If a player was cut or traded or the tablet stolen or misplaced, the team could automatically lock the players tablet out and wipe it with a push of a button. Overall, this allows NFL teams cut down on cost and time by reducing the usage of paper and manpower.
Back to present day, when the Bills and the Giants take the field tonight for their 1st preseason game, NFL is going to replace an outdated technology for a new digital one. Prior to the start of the 2014 season, NFL players and coaches have been using photocopies of pre snap, snap and post snap of plays to view the opposing team’s plays and schemes for decades. Now the NFL has partnered with Microsoft to use their Surface Pro tablets as a medium instead of the expensive and numerous photocopies that both teams print out.
Makes you wonder what other forms of digital technology the NFL will introduce in a few years. I think the next step would be the introduction of a light weight yet flexible LCD interface (prototypes are out there but nothing substantial) on player’s arm instead of paper wrist band (currently consist of Play calls) that they currently wear. This would allow every player on the field to know their role on a called play and reduce errors on the field. With players coming in and out of the field, backup players would automatically know their role instead of trotting out to the field while looking to the sidelines to their coaches for the play.
Here are two articles regarding this issue.