New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick using Microsoft Surface last season
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick using Microsoft Surface last season

Published: November 10th, 2016

Many football fans saw New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick spike his Microsoft Surface tablet like a football when his team beat up on the hapless Cincinnati Bengals.

Belichick, a six-time Super Bowl champion as a head coach and assistant coach, confirmed during a press conference that he hates the Surface tablet.

In an epic five-minute plus rant, Belichick said he was “done with the tablets.” He was careful not to mention the device by brand, but its well-known that Microsoft has a technology sponsorship deal with the NFL that equips all teams with Surface devices protected with light-blue coloured cases.

Belichick who is known for providing the press with short answers went on an all-out attack on the Surface device. He called the tablet various things. They include:

  • Undependable;
  • Inconsistent;
  • A failure on a regular basis;
  • A problem;
  • It doesn’t work; and
  • It’s too complex.

There are many CIOs who have heard that one before.

But for Belichick getting rid of the tablets was nothing more than a personal decision. “For me…it’s a personal decision. I’m done with the tablets. I’ll use the paper pictures from here on because I’ve given it my best shot. I’ve tried to work through the process but it just doesn’t work for me and that’s because there’s no consistency to it,” he said during a mid-week press conference.

Both Microsoft and the NFL responded to Belichick’s comments about the Surface device.

Microsoft said it continues to receive positive feedback from NFL coaches and players. However, the software giant turned device maker respects Belichick’s decision not to use the Surface, but still stands behind the reliability of the device.

Meanwhile, the National Football League, who made a $400 million pact with Microsoft to use Surface’s on the sidelines and in the press box, said Microsoft is an integral, strategic partner of the league. And, the Surface tablet has improved the speed of collaboration between coaches and players. The NFL, in the statement, did promise to work with all of its partners to ensure the best systems are in place.

According to Belichick, there are multiple communication systems on the sideline and up in the press box during a game. The coaches on the field and up in the press box use tablets along with wireless communication that relay signals down to the coaches on the sideline and then to the quarterback whose helmet has a radio receiver.

“Those fail on a regular basis. There are very few games that we play, home or away, day, night, cold, hot, preseason, regular season, postseason, it doesn’t make any difference; there are very few games where there aren’t issues in some form or fashion with that equipment. And again, there’s a lot of equipment involved, too. There are headsets in the helmets, there’s the belt pack, that communication, there’s a hookup or connection to Internet service or that process and so forth with the coaches and the press box. So, there are a number of pieces of equipment, there is a number of connections that are on different frequencies. Again, not that I know anything about this but as it has been explained to me there are a lot of things involved and inevitably something goes wrong somewhere at some point in time,” Belichick said.

He added that the Patriots IT person Dan Famosi does a great job of handling all the technology. But despite pre-game testing, Famosi too has to deal with multiple failures during the game and he tries to fix them as fast as possible, Belichick said.

Part of the problem is that the Patriots IT staff has to first figure out what the problem is before they can fix the issue. Belichick stated that sometimes it’s the battery, other times it’s the helmet itself, or the coach’s communications pack. “It could be one of 15 different things. So, I would just say there are problems in every game. There were problems last week but there were problems the week before that, too. Some are worse than others. Sometimes both teams have them, sometimes one team has them and the other doesn’t have them,” he said.

When that occurs the NFL has a policy rule if one team is having a technology breakdown then the opposing team is forced to shut down its entire equipment to ensure fairness.

“Overall there is a lot of complexity to the technology. There is complexity to multiple systems and there are a lot of failures,” Belichick went on to say.

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