Part One of Three
This is the number of NFL franchises that have played the Super Bowl in their home stadium. Since 1967 there have been 46 Super Bowls and not a single one has been in the home stadium of one of the participants. There is absolutely no precedence for what the New Orleans Saints are attempting to do this season. The road from New Orleans on September 9th and back on February 3rd will be a long and arduous one.
The Saints stand on the threshold of NFL history. Primed and ready to do what no franchise has done before. Despite all the problems the franchise has endured, the on-field product is as good as any in the league. In fact, this may be the most loaded team in Saints franchise history. This team has its sights set on the Super Bowl no matter where it is held.
Few things could ever taste as good as home cooking on Super Bowl Sunday for the Saints and Who Dat Nation. A city rallied around its beloved and embattled football team. The Mercedez-Benz Superdome primed to erupt in euphoria. So much is on the line for the Saints this season, and so much is also against them.
Forty-six Super Bowls without a host team participating in the game is far more than a coincidence at this point. Cold hard data says the Saints are up against long odds this season. Forty-six seasons are a lot to go through so let's just look at recent history for perspective on how host city franchises have performed. Here are the seasons that host city franchises have had in the last decade alone:
2001 New Orleans 7-9, finished 3rd in division
2002 San Diego 8-8, finished 3rd in division
2003 Houston 5-11, finished 4th in division
2004 Jacksonville 9-7, finished 2nd in division
2005 Detroit 5-11, finished 3rd in division
2006 Miami 6-10, finished 4th in division
2007 Arizona 8-8, finished 2nd in division
2008 Tampa Bay 9-7, finished 3rd in division
2009 Miami 7-9, finished 3rd in division
2010 Dallas 6-10, finished 3rd in division
2011 Indianapolis 2-14, finished 4th in division
This tells us that over the last decade no host franchise has finished the season with a record better than 9-7 and finished higher than 2nd in their respective divisions. Not one of these teams made the playoffs in their host season. On the other hand, only the 2010 Cowboys and 2011 Colts (before knowing Peyton Manning would be lost for the season) could seriously be considered Super Bowl contenders heading into their host season. Despite the loss of Sean Payton and the turmoil of the offseason, it would be foolish not to consider the Saints a top Super Bowl contender this season.
Despite the complete lack of precedence here, there are two instances where a team has played the Super Bowl in a county neighboring their home stadium. The 1979 Los Angeles Rams played Super Bowl XIV at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA. The Rose Bowl was just 37 miles north of the Rams home stadium in Anaheim, CA, a mere 50 minute drive for Rams faithful. The Rams lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-19 but LA led 19-17 going into the 4th quarter. That game that may not have been played as closely if not for the Rams being so close to home.
The 1984 San Francisco 49ers played Super Bowl XIX at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, CA. Stanford is merely 30 miles south of Candlestick Park, a 45 minute jump for Niner fans. San Francisco beat the Miami Dolphins 38-16 and took the Lombardi trophy back up the 101 freeway surrounded by their fan base.
Those games may not have been technically staying at home for those two teams, but let's just say it was like "staying by family." The results are mixed here though, LA lost to a bonafide dynasty and SF was in the midst of their own.
There are just no guarantees for victory even if you are surrounded by your supporters. These two instances provide an inconclusive 50/50 shot at success. As much as many would like to, let's not forget LSU's lack of success playing for the title in front of a "home" crowd just 80 miles south down the I-10 freeway. In hindsight, there was pressure on LSU in that game that had nothing to do with 'Bama's stifling defense. You've just gotta win at home, the deck's stacked in your favor, right?
Allow me to play devil's advocate here. As Saints fans, we would like to think it is our destiny to be the first team to play the Super Bowl in our home stadium but the long odds are against us. There is a reason it hasn't been done yet, because it's extremely difficult and highly unlikely. It's hard enough to make the Super Bowl any season, but add the pressure of looming homefield advantage and a tumultuous offseason and you've got a recipe for disappointment. The Saints will be given no favors by having the Super Bowl in New Orleans this season but I have a feeling that they aren't looking for any either.
Whether the Saints make history and toss aside conventional wisdom remains to be seen. Can they do it? Yes. Will they do it? We will find out. The Saints could very well be marching into the Superdome on Super Sunday but it may not be the same dome they know and love. I will explore this topic in more detail in part two of this three part post. Please leave your comments and feedback below!