The NFL’s iPad Revolution

Whatever it takes to get an edge.

In professional sports, as in business, people are always looking for those extra little advantages; the details that make a difference. Tweaks to practicing regimes, personalised changes to helmets and even adapting meal times to change players’ biorhythms for games in different time zones could be the difference between winning and losing. So when a revolutionary piece of technology comes along there can be no hesitation by teams in the NFL, not when a special shiny ring is at stake …

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Tuck’s facemask is a terrifying thing to behold, specially designed to rip your fingers off if you try to use your hands on his face.

I’m a huge fan of the NFL, mostly because American Football perfectly appeals to my own sensibilities. It’s the most contrived and complicated sport that humans have yet invented, and it’s fantastic! I can’t think of a single other sport that is both as physically demanding and mentally taxing as American Football.

And this is where the iPad comes in. While it can’t help you grow six inches in height or put on 100 pounds, it can certainly make learning several hundred pages of intricate plays that much easier.

Learning the playbook is an essential part of becoming a professional football player (not that I know from personal experience), but using the word book to describe this sacred text is a misleading understatement.

More often than not the playbook is a weighty tome.

They can run to 800+ pages and, depending on your position, you may have to know all of it.

A typical playbook, in paper form.

Imagine how much the iPad improves the learning of such a comprehensive document, making it more portable and allowing you to search through easily for the plays you’re struggling with. Not only that but many NFl teams, such as the Atlanta Falcons (who were early adopters), also send game tape to all of their players less than three hours after the game has finished. Players no longer have to wait until Monday to watch their humiliating mistakes on repeat.

Spygate II

Interestingly, because Apple has designed the iPad as a consumer device through and through, it’s actually quite difficult for teams to get the system working the way they desire. Security is an issue that always comes up, mostly due to the cat and mouse nature of the modern game and the fear that a rogue playbook in the wrong hands could spell embarrassing defeat. NFL teams are having to turn to sports software companies who provide them with a secure way to manage all of their iPads and send out game tape.

A single play, easy right?

In the long run, however, iPads could be a vastly more efficient and secure way for professional sports teams to manage and work with their players. The fact is that a lost paper playbook is at the mercy of the finder, whereas a lost iPad can be secured with a password or remotely wiped if needed.

Knowledge is Power

While adoption of iPads in the NFL is still patchy at the moment, over time I believe that every team will see fit to equip their players with the latest technology in pursuit of clockwork play calling and those glorious moments when you completely outwit your opponent. The only issue I can see is that an iPad playbook is surely much less useful than a gigantic paper tome when it comes to intimidating rookies.