FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Bill Belichick has called off the fight. A little more than two weeks after he was seen slamming a tablet along the sideline during a 16-0 loss to the Buffalo Bills, he is going back to an old-school approach to analyze what is happening during a game.
"As you probably noticed, I’m done with the tablets," Belichick said in a lengthy answer during his Tuesday conference call. "I’ve given them as much time as I can give them. They’re just too undependable for me. I’m going to stick with pictures, as several of our other coaches do as well, because there just isn’t enough consistency in the performance of the tablets. I just can’t take it anymore."
The change was especially notable in Sunday's 35-17 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, as Belichick was seen rapidly flipping through pictures on the sideline.
The Patriots also had issues with their coach-to-player communication devices during the game, which led to more hand signals being used. Highlighting how he has reached an end point with some sideline technology, Belichick's answer on the topic Tuesday spanned more than five minutes.
"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," he said. "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."
Belichick's decision led to Microsoft and the NFL issuing statements.
From Microsoft: "We respect Coach Belichick’s decision but stand behind the reliability of Surface. We continue to receive positive feedback on having Surface devices on the sidelines from coaches, players and team personnel across the league. In the instances where sideline issues are reported in NFL games, we work closely with the NFL to quickly address and resolve."
From the NFL: "Since Microsoft has been a partner of the NFL and implemented their technology on our sidelines, the efficiency and speed of communication between coaches has greatly increased. As with any technology, there are multiple factors that can cause issues within our sideline communications system, either related to or outside of Microsoft’s technology. We continue to work with all of our partners to ensure the best systems are in place to give our clubs the greatest chance for success on a weekly basis."
Belichick also addressed other issues with technology.
"The other communication systems involve the press box to the coaches on the field and then the coach on the field, the signal caller, or the coach-to-quarterback, coach-to-signal caller system. Those fail on a regular basis," he said. "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. I would say, weekly, we have to deal with something."
Belichick credited Dan Famosi, the team's information technology director, for a "great job of handling those things."
"This is all league equipment, so we don’t have it. I mean, we use it. but it isn’t like we have the equipment during the week, and we can work with it, and 'OK, this is a problem. Let’s fix this.' That’s not how it works," Belichick said.
"We get the equipment the day of the game, or I’d say not the day of the game but a few hours before the game, and we test it, and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Usually, by game time, it is working, but I would say not always. And then during the game, sometimes something happens, and it has to be fixed. First of all, you have to figure out what the problem is. Is it a battery? Is it the helmet? Is it the coaches' pack? Is it the battery on the coaches' pack? I mean, you know, again, 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. There’s an equity rule that’s involved there on certain aspects of the communication system but not on all aspects, meaning what happens on one side, then the other team has to have the same. If ours are down, then theirs has to be down and vice versa, but it’s only true in certain aspects of the communication system. Not everything.
"Overall, there is a lot of complexity to the technology. There is complexity to multiple systems, and there are a lot of failures, and so I know on our end, Dan does a great job to fix those as quickly as possible. He has very limited access. I don’t know how much urgency there is on the other part, from the league standpoint. However much urgency there is for them to have everything right, I don’t know. I’m not involved with that.
"But yeah, it was a problem last week. It’s basically a problem every week. The degrees aren’t always the same, but we’re usually dealing with something."