Last August, former Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris was one of the first in the NFL to completely embrace the idea of putting his team's entire playbook on the iPad. The advantages were obvious. Not only could you update playbooks on the fly, but teams could also tie play diagrams to videos of those same plays. The simple mechanics of running a play over and over on film, which happened on prehistoric Betamax machines just a decade ago, was also made easier and more efficient by tablet technology.
"You'd have to use your general remote to fast-forward or rewind," Morris told the Tampa Bay Times of the outdated systems. "With this iPad, I can just flick through, and if that play doesn't apply to me, I just touch it and get out of there and go here, and there's third down. Get out of there, and let's go to the red zone. OK, there's the nickel. It's a different deal now."
The ability to easily collate red zone packages, or blitz reels, for example, made things more present and immediate in the minds of the players. The NFL is preparing fans for an entirely new set of multimedia experiences, as well. This season, you can subscribe to Game Rewind packages that put coach's tape on your iPad. You'll be able to telestrate screencaps and save the pictures to your hard drive or iCloud. In effect, you'll be ahead of some NFL teams in the use of their game tape.
"It's crazy how much technology has changed the game," safety Cody Grimm said before the 2011 season started. "Back in the day, I think probably the whole team had to sit down with a projector and a reel, and watch the film together. They'd have the whole offense in the same meeting room. Now we all have our own iPad. Stuff that we used to come in here to see, we can sit on our couch at home and have access to it 24-7. It's awesome. It's convenient. It's fast. I was snacking out on the couch and watching some film, and realized I was, like, two quarters through [a] game already."
Morris is gone now, replaced by Greg Schiano. And while Schiano's new culture of accountability has been preached ad nauseam, there appears to be a few problems with the iPad idea at One Buc Place -- the players aren't charging and updating their tablets, and there might be a bit too much inappropriate web surfing going on. As a result, rookie linebacker Najee Goode recently said that he's been using only paper playbooks. From ex-Bucs running back Earnest Graham, via JoeBucsFan.com:
"I think the concept of the iPads was excellent but at times a bit too much for players and coaches alike. The problem was that at times guys would forget to charge them overnight or to update them when they came into the building because everything needed to download before meetings. That would cause problems. Also the fact that it's an unnecessary distraction with being able to access the Internet, games, and so on.
"I thought the idea was great but it was definitely more negatives than positives with a young team. I enjoyed being able to access the opposing teams' cut-ups and video of that day's practice, but in my opinion most guys did not use them. If you keep it simple and do your installations using your [paper] playbooks, you don't have to guess whether a guy is on Facebook or not. Based on that experience I would never use them if I went into coaching."
Well, that's a shame. There are benefits to going "old-school" in approach and demeanor, but NFL teams that decide against iPad usage for whatever reason (even stupid ones) could find themselves at a disadvantage as the game moves forward. More and more teams are embracing the technology -- Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning has remarked that the addition of iPads in his team's facility eliminates any excuse for lack of preparation (not that Manning would accept one, anyway), and Broncos head coach John Fox is behind the idea 100 percent.
"I think if you look around, the comfort level with young people now and particularly football players, they are pretty adept [with] it and understand it pretty well," Fox said in late May. "If it's been a growing experience, it's been for guys like me. I think everything is kind of moving in that direction and we're trying to save some of the trees, too."
"Actually, I do," Fox said, when asked if he already owned a personal iPad. "And even in this current situation, [players] are going to need their own personal iPad, because there are a lot of security things involved in ours that you aren't going to have the freedom to go to iTunes and add your playlist or movies you may look at on the flight. Everybody will have two iPads."
"Even us older guys, we're kind of becoming more comfortable with it."
This is the way of the new NFL, Bucs. So get to those charging stations -- they're called electric outlets, and unless you're in an airport, there are enough of them just about everywhere -- and get with the times!
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