At what point is Microsoft going to say enough is enough with the NFL?

Microsoft pays the NFL $400 million in part so the NFL would use its tablets live during football games, but it just can't seem to get any respect from players, coaches, reporters and, now, ESPN.

During the fourth quarter of the "Monday Night Football" game between the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions, ESPN rolled out one of the newly promised ad formats that the NFL announced a few weeks ago that it was working on. The commercial spot showcased the potential of the Microsoft Surface next to a live sideline camera that seemed intended to show either the Cowboys or the Lions using the tablet on the sideline.

Only it backfired, as ProFootballTalk contributor Kevin McGuire pointed out:


"Great marketing strategy to showcase how great Surface can be with football while showing live shot of coach and player reviewing printouts," McGuire said on Twitter.

"It's too perfect, especially when you consider the possibility the shot was intended to coincide with the Surface commercial, creating a nice bit of synergy for all the parties involved," wrote Awful Announcing's Jay Ridgon.

The NFL did not respond to a request for comment. Sources at ESPN say the sideline cam commerical spot didn't have to include players or coaches using the Surface.

Since the beginning of Microsoft's deal with the NFL three years ago, the Surface has endured the worst publicity $400 million has probably ever purchased. First, the company had to deal with a spate of references to its Surface tablet as an "iPad" during live broadcasts. Bears quarterback Jay Cutler called them "knockoff iPads." Multiple announcers referred to it as an "iPad-like tablet."

Then, there's all that footage of players and coaches abusing "The Official Sideline Technology Sponsor of the NFL." Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw his Surface tablet in disgust. Former Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel banged his head against one in frustration.

And frustrated Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, the most vocal opponent of the Surface, famously slammed his tablet on the sideline in a clip the NFL actually promotes on its own YouTube page.

"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," Belichick said during a five-minute rant on the Surface tablets back in October. "I just can't take it anymore."

"We remain excited about the opportunity to drive innovation forward in the NFL and change the game for teams and fans around the world," Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft's Windows and devices corporate vice president, wrote in a blog post back in October. "We'll continue to work with the NFL to address this complex environment and help the teams take advantage of cutting-edge technology worthy of some of the best teams in sports."