Robert Griffin III threw and ran his way to an incredible rookie season, putting one of the nation’s most popular franchises on his shoulders and into the playoffs. Equally as public was his horrific exit in the wild card round of the playoffs, where a nagging knee injury became a skin-crawling blow out that left Redskins’ fans recalling the Theisman image. While Lawrence Taylor was most likely not at the game due to legal restrictions regarding his location to 13 year old girls, it was devastating none the less. And what was the ‘Skins’ response? It’s their home field advantage, according to Pierre Garcon, RG3, and others. Think about that for a second. The Washington Redskins advantage over visiting opponents is that they play 7 more games a season on their crappy green-painted muck than anyone else. Great. Grand. What other tightwad schemes does Dan Schneider have up his sleeve? Maybe if the Redskins played without helmets their field vision would increase and give them a boost over their opponents as well. What a freaking disaster.
Which brings me to my point: Consistency and familiarity with your home field can go a very long way. Let’s break it down in numbers:
16 – Number of NFL teams with a fake grass surface in their home stadium
16 – Number of NFL teams with a natural grass surface in their home stadium
9 – Number of teams that made the playoffs with a fake grass surface
3 – Number of teams that made the playoffs with a natural grass surface
7.1 – Average number of wins this season by teams with natural grass home fields
8.8 – Average number of wins this season by teams with fake grass home fields
8 of 12 – teams at the bottom of the league with natural grass fields
8 of 12 – teams at the top of the league with fake grass fields
Does the grass a team plays on really matter that much? Doubtful, right? Grass is grass, football is football. But maybe we are focusing on the wrong home field advantages to begin with…
Elevation, temperature, humidity, wind, and noise. I contend that these five characteristics influence a football team’s performance more than a sloppy field. Home teams practice in the same elevation, temperature, humidity, and wind as they play games in. THEY DO NOT PRACTICE ON THE SAME FIELD THEY PLAY GAMES ON. If the game field is tricky for the opponents, it sure as hell is going to be tricky for the home team too. Just ask that mouth-breather Jay Cutler and the Bears “extra-long grass” how that’s working out for them.
So Jay Cutler, Michael Vick, and Ben Roethlisberger walk into a bar… to watch the playoffs.
Does your home field really matter? Probably…
Home teams should use the natural advantages their geographical location affords them. Grass ain’t one of them.
The Jacksonville Jaguars: a perennial dumpster fire in the last half decade. What are their current strengths? Running back Maurice Jones-Drew. Blue-chip wide receiver Justin Blackmon. Highly-touted pass rusher Andre Branch. What do they all need? A consistent surface on which to break on the ball. What does the great city of Jacksonville offer its team? Unparalleled humidity, occasional ocean wind gusts, direct sunshine year round, and sea-level elevation.
Jacksonville itself gives the Jags a very distinct advantage. Maybe if we let our diamonds shine on an appropriate stage, a.k.a. Pro Turf, we can turn a train wreck into a freight train from hell. See you in 2013, AFC South Championship.