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Jeff Duncan: The inside story of how the Saints picked Jacksonville for their 'home' opener

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; Jeff Duncan: The inside story of how the Saints picked Jacksonville for their 'home' opener BY JEFF DUNCAN | SPORTS COLUMNIST SEP 1, 2021 - 4:26 PM Moments after the news broke Wednesday that the New Orleans Saints would play ...

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Old 09-01-2021, 09:49 PM   #1
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Jeff Duncan: The inside story of how the Saints picked Jacksonville for their 'home' opener

BY JEFF DUNCAN | SPORTS COLUMNIST SEP 1, 2021 - 4:26 PM

Moments after the news broke Wednesday that the New Orleans Saints would play their “home opener” against the Green Bay Packers in Jacksonville, Florida, disappointed Who Dats lit up social media.

“What a stupid place to play!”

“Who wants to go there to watch a game?”

“Of all the Florida cities, this is the one we pick?!”

Well, actually, yes.

Jacksonville’s relative inaccessibility and unattractiveness as a destination location were the exact reasons the Saints elected to play there.

The Saints aren’t going to Jacksonville to get married. They’re going there to play a football game. A big one. Against a worthy opponent, an NFC rival. And winning the game was the No. 1 factor in the scheduling equation for the Saints.

“We’re conscious of everything when it comes to preparing for an opponent,” Saints general manager Mickey Loomis said when asked about the selection process during a conference call with local reporters on Wednesday. “There’s just so many variables. I don’t want to get into all of the variables. The main thing is to have a suitable place to play that both teams have access to.”

Loomis, as usual, was being cagey. Like everything else the Saints and head coach Sean Payton do, considerable thought and attention to detail went into the decision.

After conversations with three sources familiar with the process, here’s how it all went down:

As you can imagine, there were a lot of moving parts to negotiate.

FOX Sports, which had featured the game in its coveted 3:25 p.m. CT time slot as its America’s Game of the Week, asked the league to do what it could to keep the game on Sunday afternoon. Moving the game to Saturday was not an option because FOX already had a marquee Oregon-Ohio State matchup scheduled that afternoon.

Secondly, the league now requires all games to be played in NFL stadiums because they are wired for replay communication to the league offices in New York and familiar to their network broadcast partners.

The Saints, meanwhile, did not a want a repeat of the “Katrina Season” in 2005, when they were forced to play their “home opener” against the New York Giants at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. The “visiting” Giants, of course, won the game 27-10.

With the memories of that grim 3-13 season fresh in their minds, the Saints went to work. The first order of business was finding an available stadium that met the conditions set forth by FOX and the NFL. Fortunately, league officials keep a ready list of stadiums for each week of the NFL season as a contingency plan in case of emergencies. From hurricanes to wildfires to terrorist attacks, the league is adept at relocating games on a moment’s notice.

From that working list, the first option was AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, because of its proximity to the Saints’ temporary set-up in Dallas. But it was quickly ruled out because of a conflict with a concert.

The Saints then started to consider other options, with an eye toward a Southern location. After all, if the Saints were going to have to play home game on the road, they at least wanted it to be somewhere logistically convenient for them in Dallas and their loyal fan base across the Gulf South.

Florida quickly became a target. Not only were all three of the league’s home stadiums available on opening weekend but the Sunshine State’s legendary heat and humidity would theoretically provide a home-field advantage for the Saints, who were accustomed to practicing in triple-digit heat indices at their Metairie training camp. Aaron Rodgers’ career 3-4 record and pedestrian 78.1 passer rating in the state did not go unnoticed.

From there, consideration was given to which location offered the most potential for a home-field advantage.

The Saints were familiar with Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium and own a 13-7 all-time record there, but team officials were concerned a game at their NFC South rivals’ home field could attract too many Bucs-turned-Packers fans, potentially transforming it into a hostile environment.

Likewise, Miami was downgraded because of its attractiveness as a destination location.

Think about it. If you were a Packers fans, where would you rather travel? South Beach? Ybor City? Or Jacksonville?

The Saints even took it a step further. They had a staffer look up Green Bay flights on Expedia and compare the difference in costs and itineraries between Jacksonville, Miami and Tampa. Predictably, Jacksonville was the most difficult and costly destination for Packers fans.

The Cheese Heads still might migrate south for the game, but the Saints certainly didn’t want to make things an easier for Packer Nation to make the trip.

So as you can see, there was a method to the Saints' madness. They did what they could to make the best of a difficult situation.

Who knows? All of this effort and analysis might go for naught. The league’s reigning MVP might strafe the Saints' thin secondary and turn TIAA Bank Field into Lambeau South.

But it won’t be because the Saints didn’t consider every detail and try to give themselves the best chance possible to start 2021 on a winning note.
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Old 09-02-2021, 07:05 AM   #2
 
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Re: Jeff Duncan: The inside story of how the Saints picked Jacksonville for their 'home' opener

The tidbit about every NFL stadium being prewired to have referee calls reviewed was interesting. Although you'd think with today's internet, save the folks in the path of the aftermath of Ida, it'd be possible to have the set up in any college stadium. Kudos nonetheless for the NFL for planning accordingly.
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Old 09-02-2021, 12:31 PM   #3
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Re: Jeff Duncan: The inside story of how the Saints picked Jacksonville for their 'home' opener

I love that part of the process included flight costs for cheese heads.
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Old 09-02-2021, 06:34 PM   #4
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Re: Jeff Duncan: The inside story of how the Saints picked Jacksonville for their 'home' opener

Saints front office is ruthless!
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Old 09-02-2021, 07:17 PM   #5
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Re: Jeff Duncan: The inside story of how the Saints picked Jacksonville for their 'home' opener

Originally Posted by WhoDat!656 View Post
Saints front office is ruthless!
As they should be.
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Old 09-02-2021, 08:42 PM   #6
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Re: Jeff Duncan: The inside story of how the Saints picked Jacksonville for their 'home' opener

Hilarious.
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Old 09-02-2021, 09:06 PM   #7
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Re: Jeff Duncan: The inside story of how the Saints picked Jacksonville for their 'home' opener

Beat the Packers anyway, anyhow, anywhere!

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Old 09-03-2021, 12:25 AM   #8
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Re: Jeff Duncan: The inside story of how the Saints picked Jacksonville for their 'home' opener

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Old 09-03-2021, 09:54 AM   #9
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Re: Jeff Duncan: The inside story of how the Saints picked Jacksonville for their 'home' opener

Best story of the season so far!
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Old 09-03-2021, 01:23 PM   #10
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Re: Jeff Duncan: The inside story of how the Saints picked Jacksonville for their 'home' opener

Okay, so we're playing in JAX - this is what happens when you're off the grid a while...

I'd played it in Tiger Stadium, in the heat, so those pansie packers could wilt while our boys are acclimated...

And 100K coonasses cheering their team on? along with the best tailgating in the country?

Attitude is the best part - F'You Pansie Packers and your Cheesehead Fans, and that's why!

Last edited by jeanpierre; 09-03-2021 at 01:39 PM..
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