As the Saints enter what might be the final playoff run of the Sean Payton-Drew Brees era in New Orleans, the longtime head coach is getting creative about how to recreate the Saints’ massive home-field advantage during the pandemic playoffs. Asked if it’s possible for anyone in the NFL to have a legitimate advantage at home with either no fans or a very limited crowd, Payton responded that it’s up to players and coaches to derive momentum and meaning from within.
But Payton then took it a step further in a call with reporters, elaborating on an idea he’d briefly discussed before to put tens of thousands of fans into local hotels and form a Bubble, testing them daily, transporting them to and from the stadium, and ensuring the virus would not spread through their attendance of the game.
Payton called this version of the Saints’ stadium “the safest Superdome known to man,” though in all fairness to Payton, he’s clearly chuckling at his own idea a little as he walks the media through it.
50,000 fans (safely) at #Saints playoff game (s)…..
During his Wednesday morning conference call Sean Payton discussed the possibility.
— Fletcher Mackel (@FletcherWDSU) January 6, 2021
The Saints host the Bears on Sunday at 4:40 p.m. ET, but whereas in the past a home playoff game was a massive boon for the Saints, unless New Orleans public health officials decide to dedicate massive resources to making Saints players feel more fired up at a football game, the matchup will be what most NFL games have been this season: Two teams competing in a largely empty building.
Payton’s desire is not much different than the Warriors plan to host fans or what most SEC teams have done all year, but it’s clearly a flimsy idea with an eye more on winning than safety, especially considering that even indoor gatherings of fans watching on TV posed problems in LA last year.
New Orleans will likely only allow 3,000 fans into the Superdome this weekend, and while it may not be quite the crowd Payton is hoping for, they’re still favored over the Bears and are better off than a team like Washington, where fans are still banned.