NFL Coaches to Swap Printouts and Playbooks for iPads?

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Apparently a few NFL teams are considering the benefits of tablet devices such as the iPad over plain old paper.

CNET reports that the Dallas Cowboys, in particular, have determined that going digital “could save them as much as 5,000 pages of paper printouts per game.” It’s an intriguing idea but it’ll likely face quite an uphill battle.

While not having to deal with paper printouts would be a huge timesaver and coaches could theoretically animate routes and assignments for all the plays in a digital playbook, think of all the potential downsides.

Tablets crash, their batteries run out, they’re not good in direct sunlight, they’re not good in cold weather, they’re not good in rain, they’re not rugged enough to withstand the hit from a 250-pound fullback being shoved out of bounds, they’re not rugged enough to withstand being thrown around by irate coaches, they’d rely on some sort of wireless system to pull down pictures of previous plays, and—perhaps most importantly—some coaches would just be flat-out resistant to using them, as CNET points out.

A lot of those shortcomings could be addressed with some sort of custom-built, rugged tablet with a screen that’s readable in direct sunlight—either e-ink or maybe a high-contrast monochrome display.

And there may very well be certain paper-based tools that could be easily replaced with a tablet, provided those things aren’t critical elements of a coaching plan during game time. Just don’t expect to see the iPad (or the more appropriately-named BlackBerry Playbook) replace the trusty paper playbook any time soon, though.

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