Why The New Orleans Saints Aren’t Embracing The Microsoft Surface
Have you even seen Drew Brees sitting on the bench after a series and peer down into a binder full of black and white overhead images? If you didn’t catch it before the cameras panned away, those images were snapshots of the defense before the snap and after the quarterback takes a snap. The system has been around in place since the 1970’s. Team have someone to take two aerial pictures of the line, print them out, and have them ready for the quarterback to review after the play to evaluate what happened. Images have always been printed out in black and white because it’s faster and cheaper than printing them out in color.
Last year, the NFL and Microsoft made a deal that would introduce technology to the sideline of football games and move away from the black and white printouts. The NFL would shell out $400 million to equip all 32 teams with thirteen Surface 2 tablets on the field and twelve in the coaches’ box called the Sideline Viewing System. These tablets would allow pre and post snap images to be transmitted to players and coaches in full color. Coaches could draw on them, pinch, zoom, and tag them for later reference. Microsoft has setup a closed wireless network to prevent from anyone tampering or hacking the devices. All tablets are locked in a controlled tempered laptop cart until game day. The tablets have been called crippled because they don’t allow teams to do much. No video, no Wifi, no tweeting, and no collaboration tools. So what’s the benefit of using tablets instead of paper? According to the NFL, the paper based method takes about 20 to 30 seconds but the new Sideline Viewing Systems reduces that down to 4 to 5 seconds. “That’s a tangible amount of time that players and coaches can look at these images, find out key aspects, and make adjustments to the game before they go back on the field. I really think [it's] going to change the competitive landscape in a good way” said Ryan Luckin, Microsoft Public Relations Manager. Translation to a Saints fan: That shaves off the amount of time it’ll take for Drew Brees to get back on the field and take it to the end zone.
The Saints Use of Technology
I’ve always believed that the Saints were a forward thinking organization and not afraid to use technology to give them a competitive edge. In 2010, the Saints used a system called I.C.E. (Interactive, Collaboration and Evaluation) that allowed them to compress reams of information and video on hundreds of players. This system was put to use during draft week so the Saints could evaluate players for potential trades or picks.
But when it comes to the new Sideline View System, the Saints aren’t embracing it because of the hiccups that usually accompany early adopters of technology. There have been reports that drawing on the screen is an issue and the tablets are hard to work with when they get wet, get sweat on them, or players grab them with moist hands. Currently, the Saints are still using the paper system along side with the tablets.
Ultimately, when Microsoft figures out how to overcome some of the issues that plague the tablet and sideline system I think we’ll start to see them used more on the field and with players. Remember the fame picture of Peyton Manning looking at video of plays with his helmet on while in the pool? There’s no reason why Drew Brees (or any other Saints player for that matter) shouldn’t use every single tech tools that is available to them. So while they aren’t integrating this new system as much as I would like them too, I believe they are walking the line of innovation and dependability.