It’s really cute of New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton and the rest of the franchise’s brain trust to be so concerned about which location they wanted for their Week 1 matchup against the Green Bay Packers. If you’re the Packers, who gives a damn where the game is played? The Saints eventually decided on Jacksonville. But put it in Miami, Dallas, Tampa — it doesn’t matter.
Let’s preface all this by saying what New Orleans is going through is brutal, and thoughts go out to those affected by Hurricane Ida.
One of the domino effects of Ida is the Saints’ season opener against the Packers will not be played in New Orleans. Payton and Co. really mapped out their options, and it’s adorable how concerned they are about getting torched by Aaron Rodgers. The process was pretty detailed for the Saints, and it revolved entirely around the reigning MVP and Packers fans. Yes, Packers fans were part of the thought process.
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.
It is hilarious to imagine the Saints front office and Payton doing a deep dive into Rodgers’ analytics in balmy games and basing their decision off. Picture Payton pacing around their war room comparing humidity clips and projections from Jacksonville, Miami, and Tampa Bay and acting like it’s even somewhat normal.
Rodgers throws darts in the dead of winter at Lambeau Field. This is a Cali native used to warm weather who is now rocking a man bun. And the Saints want to play this game in Jacksonville?
Rodgers is the closest thing on either roster to a surfer bro who’s ready to settle down in a luxurious gated community condo in Florida. And the Saints think a little warm weather will give them the advantage?
“I can read license plates. I can read street signs,” Winston told reporters. “I think the precision in the vision is the biggest difference.”
This is your king, New Orleans? This is your man?
Payton is wetting himself over the thought of planning to go against No. 12 when the focus should be on the guy who threw 30 interceptions in a season the last time he was a starter.
But I digress.
On top of worrying about Rodgers, the decision on Jacksonville factored in Packers fans as well, according to Jeff Duncan’s report on NOLA.com:
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 fan, where would you rather travel? South Beach? Ybor City? Or Jacksonville?
Why is Jacksonville catching a stray here? Just a blindside attack on the city that is hosting this game. The great people of that fair city don’t deserve the ridicule. In the land of cheese, you are thanked for being such a generous host, Jacksonvillians.
It is worth noting that Duncan mentioned Saints officials were “genuinely grateful for the hospitality and praised Jaguars peers for their cooperation,” and blah blah blah. That’s neither here nor there. This is war.
The Saints took this so seriously, like an ex stalking their significant other, that they mapped out price costs for trips to each of the three cities up for debate.
Right or wrong, Saints officials were trying to put themselves in the shoes of Packers fans and dissuade as many of them as possible from attending the game. And that’s exactly what they should be doing in this unprecedented situation. That’s just plain smart.
To that end, the Saints 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.
Honestly, it’s hard not to give a tip of the cap to the Saints at this point. Any team going to this length to try and gain an imaginary competitive advantage deserves their flowers. It would be a shame if Green Bay, despite all the hoops the Saints jumped through to make this as difficult as possible, rolled into town and beat the ever-living hell out of the Saints. Rodgers throws for 350 yards and three touchdowns and Green Bay wins in a landslide.
Payton would have to tuck his tail between his legs and put the clown nose on. And nobody wants that, not even Packers fans. Try to make it difficult for Green Bay fans to attend; that’s fine. They don’t want Payton to be humiliated. It’s a friendly, welcoming fanbase in Wisconsin. And it would be a real shame if they packed Jacksonville’s stadium for Week 1.