It has been a rough ride for Microsoft since paying $400 million to make its Surface tablet the "official sideline technology sponsor of the NFL" back in 2013.
In two seasons, the technology conglomerate has had everyone from Fox to ABC and even the NFL Network confuse its Surface tablet with the iPad — giving rival Apple free publicity in the process.
Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler flat out called the Surface an iPad knockoff, while Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers threw the device in disgust and Cleveland Browns' Johnny Manziel used it to bang his head in frustration. So ... in other words, the Surface has been treated as an NFL quarterback's pesky nemesis at times, instead of an ally.
What's worse? CBS actually incorrectly reported that the Surface tablets were having technical trouble on the New England Patriots' sidelines during their AFC title matchup against the Denver Broncos this past Sunday — something that Microsoft vehemently denied, blaming the failure on a network issue at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, instead.
The craziest thing about it all is Microsoft claims that its Surface tablets have not experienced a single failure in the two years they've been used on NFL sidelines. The devices have supported nearly 100,000 minutes of generating plays on the NFL sidelines, and within that time, not a single issue reported has been related to the tablets themselves. Still, when a stadium has a network glitch, far too often, the Surfaces have borne the brunt of the blame.
So as we look to close out the NFL season next week at the Super Bowl, let's take a look back at the Surface's rough year on the gridiron.
The NFL Network Couldn't Even Get The Name Right
Talk about a dubious debut. An August 2014 preseason clash between the Dallas Cowboys and the Baltimore Ravens had NFL Network commentators mistaking the Surface tablets for the iPads five times in 81 seconds on the air.
The worst call of them all? "One of things that we've heard the players and the coaches talk about with the iPad ... is how clear that picture is and how much more they're getting from that still photograph," one NFL Network commentator said.
So, Microsoft essentially forked over $400 million to the NFL to make the Surface its official tablet ... only for the league's own network to repeatedly and brutally botch its name, while giving rival Apple free publicity — which it certainly doesn't need — with the iPad.
Let's call this a personal foul for unnecessary roughness.
Fox Announcers Make Joke About Drew Brees' iPad
A month later, and the hits just kept coming for the Surface. During a Fox broadcast of a September 2014 regular-season game between the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons, former NFL star-turned-commentator John Lynch saw quarterback Drew Brees on the Saints bench, using his Surface, and decided to make a quick joke.
A quick joke ... at Microsoft's expense.
"If you're at home, he's not watching movies on his iPad," Lynch said. "That's part of the new NFL as well. They've gotten rid of the pictures. Now, they've got the iPad-like tools ...."
The iPad-like tools? Good grief. At this point, Microsoft had to be throwing its own Surfaces against the wall in utter frustration.
Jay Cutler Calls The Surface "Knockoff iPads"
Embattled Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler scratched the Surface with a rather backhanded compliment in October 2014. Despite having used the tablet on the Bears' sidelines for six weeks to that point, Cutler referred to the devices as "knockoff iPads" during his weekly radio show.
While that should have been enough to enrage Microsoft, Cutler proceeded to soften the blow, saying that the tablets work great.
Well, we're sure Microsoft is thrilled that you think they work great, Jay. If only you could have gotten its name right. Then again, Cutler doesn't have being a quarterback down pat, either.
Come On, Al Michaels!
You'd be hard-pressed to name an NFL commentator who is more thorough and prepared than Al Michaels.
But even the veteran bumbled the Surface's name to - you guessed it ... the iPad - during a Monday Night Football broadcast this past regular season in September 2015.
"Bill Belichick on his iPad," Michaels commented, while the New England Patriots head coach sifted through play options on his Surface over on the team's sidelines.
What's terrible about Michaels' mistake, in particular, is that it came this past season. By now, everyone should know that they're Microsoft Surface tablets and not Apple's iPads.
Aaron Rodgers Throws Tablet
Irked that he threw a costly interception against the Carolina Panthers this past November, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers sat on the bench reviewing the play on his Surface tablet. Within seconds he tossed the device to the ground in disgust at his error.
Hey, at least Microsoft could take some satisfaction knowing that Fox's Joe Buck correctly referred to it as a Surface and not an iPad, saying, "throwing that Surface tablet is Aaron Rodgers." A Packers coach quickly lifted up the Surface. In an August 2015 Tech Times feature about the Surface being on NFL sidelines, Microsoft demonstrated the Surface Pro 3's durability, pouring water on its screen and forcefully dropping the tablet to the ground — both resulting in no damage and continued performance.
So, is that all you got, Aaron?
Johnny Manziel Proves To Be Heady Surface User
Getting his chance to show and prove himself in his first start in nearly a month, Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel scrambled out the pocket, rolled to his left and threw an ill-advised pass across his body for a terrible interception.
Fuming in frustration, the second-year QB marched over to the Browns bench and began reviewing the play on his Surface. Within a blink of an eye, Manziel bashed the tablet on his head five times in four seconds.
Oh ... Johnny Football being Johnny Football. No fine-tuned device like the Surface Pro 3 deserves that.
Patriots Scratch Surface On Tech Issues
CBS' sideline reporter incorrectly reported that there was a technical failure of the Surface Pro 3s on the New England Patriots' bench this past Sunday during the AFC title tilt with the Denver Broncos. In actuality, it was really a problem with Sports Authority Field at Mile High's network in Denver.
Although a Microsoft technician worked with the league and officials at the stadium to help restore the Surface Pro 3s, it didn't stop the company from getting bad press over their tablets ... with select Patriots' fans even going so far as to blame the devices for their team's loss.
It reached a point where Microsoft's corporate vice president of Windows and devices group, Yusuf Mehdi, took to the Windows website and wrote a blog post, asserting that the Surface tablets haven't had one failure in the two years that they've been on NFL sidelines, encompassing nearly 100,000 minutes of uninterrupted action.
Mehdi also used the opportunity to address Rodgers and Manziel's Surface-related meltdowns from earlier in the season.
"1) players are getting information faster, even if they don't always like what they see," Mehdi said, "and 2) these devices were built to endure just about anything, even Johnny Manziel's head."
Let's hope that there are fewer run-ins with the Surface moving forward ... and that nobody refers to them live on the air as iPads ever again.