NFL Teams Want To Replace Paper Playbooks With iPads



During last night’s Super Bowl Sunday, I was surrounded by a multitude of passionates for that noble game, fans who felt every impact of muscle and cartilage as gods collided upon the field. While friends around me pumped their firsts and said, with great authority, things like: “”Expect the Packers to try to tie a bow on this baby by running out the clock in the second half,” I nodded sagely and pretended to understand the game.

My secret, of course, is that I don’t. In fact, my understanding of professional football’s rules are almost entirely gleaned from this 1944 theatrical Goofy short that I watched on my iPhone on the car ride to my friend’s house for “the Big Game.”

One thing I do know, however, is the sanctity of the playbook: that secret tome of symbolic crosses and circles ascribed strategic meaning by arrows and squiggles. It’s always seemed to me that the average playbook would make a good app.

Ignorant as I may be of the way professional football is conducted, it looks like I’m not alone, as Dallas Cowboys technology director Pete Walsh has begun to push his team to start using iPads as their playbooks.

Although the iPad is great at interactivity, the reason Walsh wants the switch is environmental. Walsh argues that the team would shave about 5,000 sheets of paper each game if they could use iPads instead of tree flesh. Additionally, changes in plays could be more quickly distributed through email.

Playbooks are highly secret documents, so it’s no surprise that while Walsh isn’t alone in wishing for the NFL adoption of iPads, security is the biggest obstacle to that actually happening right now. Imagine how incredible an iPad playbook could look, though, as those circles and crosses come to life on the screen to not just represent, but to emulate a play. I might not know anything about football, but even I can see that that would be dreadfully neat.