NFL considers allowing game video on sideline, releasing Next Gen data leaguewide

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The NFL is poised to expand two significant technological initiatives during this week's owners meetings.

Optimism is growing that owners will approve a competition committee proposal that would allow coaches to watch game video on the sideline and in the coaches' box during games. The committee is also planning to inform teams of a long-awaited decision to release Next Generation data to every team.

Both developments are considered potential game-changers for how teams evaluate players and develop schemes.

Teams have been using Microsoft Surface Pro tablets to view still photographs since 2014. This year's proposal would add video capability to five tablets on the sideline and two in the coaches' booth, according to competition committee chairman Rich McKay.

A similar proposal failed in 2017 after coaches expressed two concerns. First, they had experienced growing pains with the tablet technology. Second, they worried that video would level the competitive playing field by, in essence, making it easier for ill-prepared teams to make in-game adjustments.

"One of the bigger questions brought up by coaches last year was that the tablets have had some instances where they didn't work," McKay said. "But we had a really good year [in 2017] and kind of cured all of that. We operated at a pretty flawless level. I think people are much more confident of the technology."

Coaches concerned about competitiveness, McKay said, would likely find another edge.

"I think good coaches, really good coaches, will find a way to use it to their advantage," McKay said. "And I think that as much as they get concerned about leveling the playing field, I've always found that those guys find a way to do it better."

The proposal would require approval from 24 teams. Voting is expected to take place by Wednesday.

The Next Gen data release, on the other hand, does not require a vote, as under NFL rules it can be enacted unilaterally by the competition committee. That is expected to happen via a formal report Tuesday.

Asked if those plans remained on track, McKay said: "You'll know tomorrow, but the answer to that is yes."

The NFL has collected player-tracking data with RFID chips, dubbed Next Gen stats, since 2014. In 2016, the league began distributing game-day data on a team-by-team basis. The Dallas Cowboys, for example, received data on their players' movement in games but not for their opponents or for the other games that took place around the NFL.

Most teams did not consider that partial glimpse to be of much value. But many data analysts believe that leaguewide numbers could provide full context of player movement, allowing for fresh evaluation of players and matchups, among other strategic uses.