Wired.com: NFL Teams Embrace iPads

27 12 2011

When I decided to write a story about the effect iPads are having on the NFL, I knew at least four or five articles about the topic would come out in other publications before mine. I was spot-on.

My research on the subject began in early September after I read an article in the St. Petersburg Times about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ use for the tablets. I knew the way I would start it was by contacting each team in the NFL. It was necessary to run team-by-team to see who was putting their playbooks on iPads, who was using them to watched edited video and to see who was and wasn’t using iPads, or other tablets, in the first place. It’s a responsible thing to do when writing a national story, as I intended this to be for Wired.com.

Given that I didn’t have a particular locale to cover, it was better for the story that I cover all my bases. So, I contacted each team. As you might suspect, that is a lengthy process. Some teams respond immediately; others doesn’t. For those who do, it then takes awhile to coordinate interviews with those willing to talk and it takes time to convince other teams to discuss things. But this was just one part of what I knew had to be a well-rounded story.

By October, I noticed the New York Times had a story of their own. In it, they detailed the Bucs and the Baltimore Ravens creating digital playbooks via iPads. The story also incorporated information from the NFL on how the league monitors security issues. Contacting the NFL was a given, but this story made it that much more of a priority that I included it in my story.

I recognized that my goal for the story had to encapsulate as many aspects of the NFL’s relationship to tablets as I could find. That meant embracing teams which use them for more than just playbooks, as the two stories I had seen represented only that part of it. Which led me to contact the software companies which make applications and programs that make it possible for teams to view playbook information, scouting reports, video edits and other stuff on their tablets. (I discovered early on that iPads were the only tablets relevant to this story.)

So, I called and emailed XOS Digital and DV Sport, two software companies I already knew of. Through speaking with people there and with more teams which were getting back to me, I became aware of Hudl and Coach’s Office. Then I found out about Ironworks Sports through an email the founder of that company sent my editor.

Player quotes weren’t a valued asset for this story. They’re in the newspaper stories I mentioned above as well as subsequent stories in the Baltimore Sun and Los Angeles Times, which each outlined only the Ravens’ incorporation of their playbook into iPads. (A CNN.com story shined a light on how iPads were revolutionizing several sports, including basketball.) While those newspapers likely included player’s quotes on iPads because fans are intrigued by what they have to say, I avoided players for their lack of specificity. I did make an exception when the Bills told me they would rather offer a player to speak with than someone in their front office; I relented.

By and large, I wanted this story conveyed by the several teams I spoke with and then the software companies to explain what they’re focused on developing. The NFL interview would play a supporting role in it. That’s how this story came together.

Click on the link below to read the story:

For NFL Teams, iPad Is Valuable Playbook

Raiders or L.A.

11 10 2011

Hopefully, the Raiders move to Los Angeles and solve my dilemma. Ever since 2008, when I officially dropped the 49ers as my favorite NFL team, I’ve been in this weird fan free agency in which I’ve sought a new favorite club. My dilemma exists primarily because my hometown, L.A., doesn’t have a team.

I’m a supporter of people rooting for teams from their hometown. The Dodgers and Lakers are my teams and have been since I was 5 or 6, whenever I started paying attention to sports. The 49ers became my team around that time mostly because I was a frontrunner. Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott, Super Bowls. I was all in. Plus, the L.A. teams didn’t do anything for me.

The Rams played in Orange County. For those not in the know, Orange County is NOT in Los Angeles. The Raiders were a natural fit since they played at the Coliseum in downtown L.A. But my Dad didn’t like them and the association with the Raiders wasn’t great. Yes, they had Bo Jackson in the late ’80s/early ’90s. Yet they played in the rundown Coliseum. The neighborhood surrounding that stadium when I was growing up in L.A. wasn’t good; it’s different today.

Of course, I regret not rooting for the Raiders. Now that they’re back in the Bay Area, I wonder if I could root for them. It would violate essentially every reason I had for dropping the 49ers. For one, they were a Bay Area, specifically, San Francisco team. Given that I’m a Dodgers fan, San Fran is the last city for which I want to cheer for a team. Second, the 49ers aren’t in L.A., which goes against my belief that people should support hometown teams.

I’m considering waiting out the situation to see what develops in Los Angeles. Two viable stadium projects are set up for potential NFL landing spots. The Chargers, Jaguars, Bills, Vikings and even the Rams and Raiders are considered teams which might make a move to L.A. How long a wait there is before a team makes a move is undetermined. I hope it happens sooner than later because I’m tired of being without an NFL team. If I get impatient, I may just bite the bullet and do what I really want: to become a Raiders fan.





Rams can learn from the Raiders

27 02 2010

Ay yi Yi yi Yi…here we go again with another NFL team making a simple decision infinitely more complex and potentially damaging than it needs to be. Reports have been flowing in that the Rams are considering Sam Bradford for the No. 1 pick instead of Nebraska’s Suh or Oklahoma’s McCoy. Oye.

According to John Clayton, the Rams’ logic comes down to this: Given the hefty cost of a No. 1 pick’s contract — roughly $12 million per year by Clayton’s reasoning — the Rams feel their payment would be more justified if it was spent on a quarterback than a defensive tackle, since quarterbacks can have a bigger impact on wins and losses than a defensive tackle. Plus, quarterbacks traditionally make a lot more cash than d-tackles, so the contract would be more justifiable by the Rams’ rationale. How that makes sense to an organization is something I will probably never understand.

If the Rams have any doubt about whether to go with Bradford or one of the defensive tackles, both of whom are considered much more pro-ready than Bradford, all they need to do is to look at their former Los Angeles mates.

The Raiders’ drafting of JaMarcus Russell No. 1 overall in 2007 has been an utter disaster — only the Raiders were seemingly the only ones at the time who couldn’t read the writing on the wall. They chose Russell because they didn’t have a competent quarterback, Russell fit the mold of a traditional big-armed, big-body pocket passer, Al Davis thinks chicks dig the long pass and every team knows they need a very good quarterback to reach the playoffs. But that doesn’t mean a team should opt for the quarterback over other players who are clearly better.

My theory of how to build a quality NFL team begins with always drafting the most pro-ready players. Not projects, not guys who look good at the Combine and certainly not guys who seem to fit a “need” position. Just draft the best player available, the guy who looked great in games during college, and move along.

Before the 2007 Draft, I thought the Raiders should have drafted tackle Joe Thomas. He was considered pro-ready and he’s proven that by reaching All-Pro status. He hasn’t had a great effect on the Browns winning games but he’s a huge building block, literally and figuratively. He’s another good player to plug into the roster. That’s what the Raiders lost as they stupidly wasted a pick and tens of millions of dollars on a guy who matched a need position but who possessed qualities that made him a project instead of close to a sure-thing pick.

As the Rams look at Bradford, who is coming off shoulder surgery, they must ask themselves whether it’s worth it to give tens of millions of dollars to a guy who isn’t a clear favorite at his position over any of the guys even projected for the second round. On the other hand, they could have either defensive tackle, who are interchangeable with one another in many expert’s minds as the best or second-best player. To spend lots of dough on a player who has a very good shot at becoming a great player or to spend it on a guy who has spotty grades at a notoriously difficult position. It seems like it should be an easy decision but the Rams look as if they could screw it up.

MLB’s Greatest Player debate

16 02 2010

Ever since the Great Manning Debate began before the latest Super Bowl, in which his critics argued he couldn’t be considered one of the greatest all-time quarterbacks until he won multiple Super Bowls, I started wondering why the same debates aren’t held for Major League Baseball players.

We obviously hear the Super Bowl talk with NFL quarterbacks. And any NBA fan is accustomed to debates of the league’s greatest players revolving around a player’s number of titles. (Russell won 11, Michael and Kareem won six, Magic captured five, Kobe and Shaq have four and Bird got lucky thrice. Wilt went the distance only twice. This is common NBA knowledge.) So why aren’t championships included in the debate for the greatest MLB players? How many World Series-based arguments have you heard in favor of one MLB player versus another?

For instance, do you know how many World Series Babe Ruth won? You know Jordan won six NBA Finals and that Montana won four Super Bowls. Many of you can pinpoint 14 as the number of Majors won by Tiger. If not, you can probably come close. But what about the championship banners for one of the most legendary athletes ever?

The answer is seven. Ruth won seven out of the 10 World Series in which he played — three for the Red Sox and four with the Yankees. He was “just” 4-3 in the World Series as a Yankee. That pales in comparison to Jordan’s 6-0 NBA Finals record or Montana’s 4-0 mark. However, it’s Ruth who is the man of legend, probably because he played when most of our grandfathers were still punk kids. Yet most baseball fans today aren’t aware of Ruth’s championship list. And he ranks well behind the number of titles won by the other great Yankees.

Mickey Mantle, who some baseball historians believe had the talent to become the best ever, won seven of 12 World Series, all with the Yankees. Joe DiMaggio won nine of the 10 championships in which he played, also with the Yanks. And then there’s the greatest living ex-Yankee — Yogi Berra. The catcher, who often trails Ruth, Lou Gehrig (six World Series titles), DiMaggio, Mantle and Derek Jeter (five WS) on the list of Greatest Yankee, won 10 of the 14 World Series in which he played. If you track his career from his first WS (his rookie season in 1947) through 1963 (basically his last season since his official last year was a four-game stint with the Mets in ’65), Berra played in a World Series in 14 of 17 seasons. Compare that against Russell, who won 11 of the 12 NBA Finals in which he played during his 13-season career.

That all the World Series championships are linked with the Yankees might make you wonder if the team’s dominance in MLB history, specifically from the ’20s-’60s, makes it fair to use titles as a fair argument for the Greatest Player Ever tag.

After all, Willie Mays was just 1-3 in the World Series. Hank Aaron was 1-1. Ted Williams was 0-1, as the 1946 World Series represented the only postseason appearance of his legendary 19-year career. Barry Bonds was 0-1. Ken Griffey Jr., who at one time in the late ’90s was on his way to becoming a top 10 all-time player, has been in just one League Championship Series and has never making a World Series appearance. It took until Alex Rodriguez’s 16th season — his 14th in a full-time role — for him to appear in a World Series, which he obviously won.

Of course, with the Sosa-McGwire-Bonds generation eligible for the Hall of Fame, performance-enhancing drugs will be the topic on everyone’s tongues. And home runs and hits will continue to be the lead statistics people use to gauge a player’s greatness. I don’t have a good idea for how to include World Series titles in the greatest-ever debates. Maybe we can just start by remembering that the Sultan of Swat was also a Titan of Titles.

Super Bowls don’t determine greatness

9 02 2010

For all you Peyton Manning critics who claim he can’t reach NFL immortality now that he’s lost a Super Bowl, take a deep breath, relax and chew on the following few paragraphs. As much as credentials for quarterback greatness might have once swung too far toward statistics, the argument for who’s the best has pivoted too much to the other side of the pendulum, the one that looks at Super Bowl rings as the absolute precursor to a legendary resume.

I get why all quarterbacks are measured by the number of Vince Lombardi trophies they raise during their career. Football is the consummate battle and quarterbacks are the ringleaders, thus making a championship the ultimate test of their leadership, toughness and talent. Yet those critics who claim that quarterbacks should be measured by their Super Bowl rings will also endorse football as the ultimate team sport.

Football advocates cite each position’s reliance on the other as the reason for why football promotes teamwork better than any other sport. The quarterback is dependent on the offensive line to protect him and the wide receiver catch his pass. The running back is reliant on the quarterback to properly hand off the ball and for everybody else to block. The defense works essentially the same way, with linemen and defensive backs realizing that their job is based at least somewhat on whether the other performs his role.

So if football is the ultimate team sport, why put so much of the onus on quarterbacks to win the Big Game? Sure, they receive most of the glory for winning, but that doesn’t mean critics should double up on a misguided placement of responsibilities by labeling them as “not great enough” if they don’t win one Super Bowl, or multiple in the case of Manning. He’s won “only” one Super Bowl. He’s “just” 9-9 in the playoffs, although the 9-9 critics fail to point out that he’s 9-6 since 2003 and 6-3 since ’06.

Manning will — and should — go down as one of the sport’s greatest quarterbacks. Whether or not he’s number one is simply a matter of preference for an era. Old-timers consider Johnny Unitas the greatest because of his toughness, leadership and ability to pique interest in football at a time when baseball was still America’s game. Some prefer Joe Montana because of his cool under pressure and the great defenses he faced in the ’80s. Others hold Manning in the highest regard because of more athletic defenses running far more complex schemes during his era. You really can’t go wrong as long as you take time to tailor your pitch. Just don’t hold a quarterback responsible for the entire actions of a team at every moment of his career.

How to play football (I don’t mean soccer)

5 02 2010

Ready, Set … Football

I’ve written in this space that football has overtaken baseball as America’s sport of choice. Surely not an original thought, I know. But I do speak the truth, or so I like to think. That makes this article I wrote for WeightWatchers.com especially relevant to all Americans. (If the Cowboys can still call themselves “America’s Team” then I certainly would like to be “America’s Sportswriter.”)

In an admittedly simple piece meant for the novice football player in all of us, I introduce how to play, dress and train to play a pickup football game. Experts in the article include a former NFL player, a former NFL trainer and a current NFL dietitian. When I do it, I do it big. Thanks to the help from these experts, you can quickly form even the biggest soccer fan in your family into a full-time American football player.