Bill Belichick spent just over 70 words at the outset of a conference call Tuesday to announce a new addition to his depth chart, his granddaughter Blakely Rose.
“Well, we have a roster addition to announce this morning,” the coach said. “It’s a little different than the usual one and the emphasis would be on little. We can add newborn Blakely Rose to the depth chart. She was born this morning to my son Steve and the real ‘MVP’, Jen, so this is a happy and exciting day for all of us. And with that we’ll move on to the Steelers.”
Before the Steelers, however, something else was on Belichick’s mind and it was Microsoft and its Surface tablet computers, a little piece of technology the coach was seen destroying on the sideline during his team’s only loss this season, a Week 4 setback to Buffalo.
And Belichick basically narrated his version of War and Peace in explaining his disdain for the devices, along with some other perceived technological advances, in a 761-word dissertation ending with “Long answer to a short question; sorry.”
The real number you need to know here, though, is $400 million because that’s the bloated stipend Microsoft is paying the NFL over five years to be the official tablet provider to the league, and having the best coach in the sport dismissing the product isn’t exactly the best bang for its buck.
“As you probably noticed, I’m done with the tablets,” Belichick said. “They’re just too undependable for me. I’m going to stick with pictures, which 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.”
At least in public, Microsoft took the high road with that critique, while defending its product.
“We respect Coach Belichick’s decision, but stand behind the reliability of Surface,” the company said in a statement. “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.”
The league to no surprise also sprang into action to defend the guys who wrote that big check.
“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,” the league’s statement read. “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, though, isn’t concerned with corporate sponsorships and continued his honest, unapologetic rant in regard to perceived technological advances.
“I’ll use the paper pictures from here on, because I have given it my best shot,” Belichick said. “I’ve tried to work through the process. But it doesn’t work for me, and that’s because there’s no consistency to it.”
There is no truth to the rumor Belichick then screamed “get off my lawn” before hanging up the phone.
In all seriousness, this is far more serious for the league than overhyped scandals like Deflategate or even Spygate.
To be honest, nothing has really worked for Microsoft with the Surface deal. Casual observers still call them iPads for the most part and the only real publicity this whole deal has generated for the company comes from when things come off the rails and the product isn’t working properly.
And that means, another $400 million or so probably isn’t coming from Microsoft when the rights are up for negotiation again in 2018.
For the good of the NFL, Belichick should have kept his complaints in house and put the kid gloves on for such a significant corporate sponsor.
If you don’t like the product, don’t use it. But also don’t firebomb it in such a public fashion.
-John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com and TodaysPigskin.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen — Also catch John each week during the NFL season ESPN South Jersey, ESPN Southwest Florida, ESPN Lexington, KDWN in Las Vegas, and check @JFMcMullen for John’s upcoming appearances on SB Nation Radio, FOX Sports Radio, CBS Sports Radio as well as dozens of local radio stations across North America