Sports | September 2, 2021 1:43 pm

Why the Saints Picked Jacksonville to Host Their “Home” Opener vs. Green Bay

New Orleans will "host" the Packers at TIAA Bank Field in Florida after being displaced by Hurricane Ida

Head coach Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints. The Saints, displaced due to recent hurricane activity, had a particular reason for choosing Jacksonville as their temporary home for a month.
Head coach Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints before a preseason game.
Scott Taetsch/Getty

After being displaced by Hurricane Ida, the New Orleans Saints will be heading to TIAA Bank Field in Florida to host the Green Bay Packers for their “home” opener in Week 1 of the NFL season.

Not the most desirable place to play for aesthetic reasons as well as being a hot spot for COVID-19, Jacksonville was selected by the Saints as their home-away-from-home specifically for its inaccessibility and unattractiveness to the Packers and their fans, according to NOLA.com.

While the Saints could have played in Dallas, the team decided hosting a game in Florida would make more sense when Aaron Rodgers’ career 3-4 record and pedestrian 78.1 passer rating in the Sunshine State was factored into the equation. And, although Tampa Bay and Miami’s home stadiums were both available, New Orleans selected Jacksonville because it is far less of a destination city than either Tampa or South Beach. In addition to being less fun, Jacksonville is also more difficult and costly to get to from Green Bay than either Tampa Bay or Miami.

“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. “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.”

And get as much home-field advantage as possible despite playing on the road.

“I don’t think we had a whole lot of say,” said Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst. “I think obviously they worked with us, but it’s, I think with this being a New Orleans home game, it wasn’t a lot of say from our view.”

The Saints, who lost to Tampa Bay in the playoffs last season and will be beginning a new era without longtime quarterback Drew Brees, have road games at Carolina and New England in Weeks 2 and 3 of the season before they are scheduled to head home to New Orleans for a home game against the New York Giants on October 3.