The clipboard and binder may soon find a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame along with other dusty relics such as leather helmets and two-a-days. That’s because this year teams will have Microsoft Surface tablets on the sideline.
On Sunday night’s Hall of Fame Game against the Bills, in a city known for harboring football’s past, the Giants leaped into the future and got their first crack at using the new technology.
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"I thought it was really effective,” Giants wide receivers coach Sean Ryan said. “It’s a good teaching tool. The guys were able to see it, it’s a little bit clearer for them than the old photographs were. I thought it was really good and the guys seemed to like it. I think it’s going to be a really useful took for us down the road.”
The tablets replace the notebooks and binders of photographs that we are used to seeing players flip through on the sideline. Those were often grainy, black-and-white images that were hurriedly printed and collated and viewed.
Now, the images can be easily scrolled through, marked, put in order and even manipulated to show different angles. Saftey Cooper Taylor said the biggest benefit, besides the hi-def, full-color images, is that frames are automatically identified with down, distance and time remaining. In the past someone had to physically label the photographs with that information.
“They were definitely helpful,” backup quarterback Ryan Nassib said. “A lot more views. It was pretty neat … You get rapid shots of plays pre-snap and post-snap from all different types of angles which is helpful. And now you have four pictures on one screen instead of flipping back and forth.”
According to the Associated Press, the tablets will be locked in a temperature-controlled cart when not in use, and they operate on a secure network so no one can hack in and intercept the images. Coaches and players will be able to draw on the tablet as well.
“You can keep a variety of pictures up there if you want, you can highlight one picture,” Ryan said. “You can go through a play as it’s being snapped and then post-snap for a couple of frames so you see it develop a little bit down the field. Then if there’s a look you want to save and show them at halftime maybe, you can save certain clips, bring it back at halftime and remind them: The next time we get this look, expect this or expect that. It’s useful in a lot of different ways.”
The Giants’ coaching staff likely will find more ways to use the technology as they move toward the regular season. Prior to Sunday’s game they were just given a 10-minute crash course in using them.
“As the game went on you got more comfortable with it and I think it’s going to be a real good tool as coaches and players get more comfortable with it,” Ryan said.
The players had no previous experience with them.
“I wish we would have gotten them a day ahead of time so we could play around with them because we were kind of learning about them on the fly,” Nassib said.
The Bills complained that their tablets were not functioning properly at first, but eventually the bugs in the system were worked out. The Giants said they had no problems yet, although there is one potential issue that could be glaring. Literally.
When games are played at 1 o’clock in the regular season, seeing the images under the sun could become difficult, as anyone who has ever tried to read a digital book at the beach can attest.
"There are some reservations that they provide you with even before you start out,” Tom Coughlin said. “Things that have to do with the sun and that type of thing, but we didn’t have any issues in that first one.”
Besides that, the Giants think there are no real problems. At least not with the tablets themselves.
“Just getting more comfortable with it and being able to use the writing tools,” Ryan said of the challenges. “The biggest kink is probably me figuring it out. Once I did, the kinks were gone.”