The football world is ever-changing and innovations in replay are helping propel it into the future. We take a look at where video has come from and where it’s headed.

Once confined to grainy projectors and dingy film rooms, video has evolved in a way that’s made it an indispensable part of coaches’ pregame preparations. Coaches spend hours pouring over video in the days leading up to a game, searching for any way to improve their squad or find a crack in the opponent’s strategy.

But for the most part, the advantages provided by video came to a halt once the game began. Any pregame plans could still be used, but if an opponent came out with a new wrinkle or scheme change, video wasn’t available to provide in-game adjustments.

That’s no longer the case. Video has made its way into the sky box and onto the sideline, allowing coaches to extend their video sessions to game day. Let’s take a look at how we got here and what we can expect moving forward.

How We Got Here: Polaroids, Printers and Guesswork

Video is such an important part of how teams gain insights and make adjustments, but coaches have generally had to wait until after the game to take advantage of it. They tried replicating the video experience in other ways, starting with dispatching assistants to a better vantage point in the press box.

NFL teams began taking photos from up top and sent them to printers on the sidelines. These Polaroids were recently replaced by tablets, which at the moment are still constrained to displaying still images. These pictures are helpful and provide some insight, but video can remove the guesswork from the equation more quickly and efficiently.

Every coach has had moments when he is watching video post-game and wished he’d had a certain revelation during the contest. But there is a game day wall separating these coaches from potential game-changing adjustments. That barrier appears to be coming down.

Where We Are Now: Bringing the Film Room to the Sidelines

The game changed in 2013 when high schools were allowed to use tablets and other technology to watch video on the sidelines. Earlier this year, the NCAA ruled that coaches could use electronic devices to watch replays in the press box and the locker room. The NCAA has considered allowing replay on the sideline in college, and it’s likely only a matter of time before that changes.

College and pro teams remain constrained by replay rules - for now - but high school coaches have quickly come to understand just how beneficial having sideline instant replay can be. Now coaches can get quality video delivered to them quickly, allowing them to make critical adjustments on the fly. If an opponent’s defensive game plan is befuddling his attack, a coach can watch video that may uncover the necessary adjustments. Suddenly, that view from the sideline isn’t so bad.

New technologies such as Hudl Sideline represent the latest innovation in this area. Coaches can have a replay in their hands mere moments after the play occurs. Each play is quickly categorized so coaches can quickly call up distinct situations. For instance, if an opponent is repeatedly succeeding with a third-down blitz, a coach can quickly reference those plays and switch his blocking scheme in real time. Now, the conversation on the headset is about what coaches in the box and sideline are seeing in the palm of their hands.

“Now that I have this technology in my hands, I do not ever want to have to guess what is going on during a game.” John Konecki, Crete-Monee HS head coach

Another key advantage of replay’s technological advancement is the ability to get a view from the end zone – arguably the most telling vantage point that coaches had to wait to study post-game. Providing this angle live presents coaches with a competitive advantage in breaking down opponents. Unlike the sky box view, this angle is completely unique to video. There was no other way to get this perspective during a game – until now.

Where We're Headed: Real-time Analysis With Video & Data

It’s never easy to predict the future, but the number of advancements in recent years suggest that more innovations are on the horizon. It appears both college and pro football will move toward sideline replay in the near future. The NFL has already allowed the use of sideline replay in recent Pro Bowls, while the NCAA’s move to allow video in the booth and locker room suggests the sideline will be next.

High school teams all across the country have already taken advantage, and entire states are starting to get on board. The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association has implemented Sideline for its officials in an effort to get every call right and provide the optimal experience for athletes. 

The success of instant replay could help change the football landscape from a technology standpoint. Other potential innovations include laser first down markers, game time statistical analytics, wearable fitness trackers for players and smart helmets – all aiming to improve the quality of the game.

Replay is changing the way we view football and has opened the door for more modernization of the game. Technology is moving forward at a rapid rate and should only improve the game day experience for coaches, players and fans alike.

The rest of the country is experiencing the benefits of instant replay. It's time to join them.