In-Depth: FedEx Provides Weak Home Field Advantage

In-Depth: FedEx Provides Weak Home Field Advantage
December 1, 2010, 2:20 pm
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Wednesday, December 1, 2010, 9:00 a.m.

By Rich Tandler
Redskins Blogger

When the Redskins lost to the Minnesota Vikings 17-13 on Sunday at FedEx Field, they were assured of ending the 2010 without a winning record at home. The Redskins have won just two home games this year, beating the Cowboys and Packers. In addition to the Vikings, the Texans, Colts, and Eagles have walked out of the stadium victorious. The Redskins have just two home games left, against Tampa Bay on Dec. 12 and they wrap up the season against the Giants on Jan. 2. If they win both of those they will finish 4-4 at home.Of course, this is not what Jack Kent Cooke had in mind when he built the NFLs largest stadium. When Jack Kent Cooke Stadium, now FedEx Field, opened in 1997, the expectation was that the massive building would rock and roll like RFK Stadium did, propelling the Redskins to one of the best home-field advantages in the NFL. From when it opened in 1961 through the 1996 season, the Redskins went 173-102-3 at RFK, a .628 winning percentage (all records include regular and postseason games). Despite the fact that most of the teams during the 1960s were pretty dismal as were those in the final few years of playing at RFK, that .628 home winning percentage was the fifth-best in the NFL among teams who were in existence in 1961.However, it has not worked out that way in the town that Cooke dubbed Raljon and is now known as Landover or Hyattsville, depending on what map you consult. In 111 games at their current stadium, the Redskins have gone 58-52-1 for a .527 winning percentage.That is worse than the overall home field winning percentage in the NFL since FedEx was opened. From 1997 through last weekend, home teams are 2079-1495-4, a winning percentage of .582. On average, NFL teams have won 65 home games in the past 13-plus seasons, seven more than the Redskins have. The Redskins .527 winning percentage at home is 22nd in the NFL during that time period.This does not mean that the Redskins do not have a home field advantage. Since 1997 they have gone 43-70 away from FedEx Field, a winning percentage of .381. That is a difference of .146 in winning percentage between home and away.Although that certainly is an advantage, it isnt much of one. The Minnesota Vikings desperately want to leave the Metrodome but they will be leaving behind a place that has given them the largest home field advantage in the NFL. They have a road winning percentage of .402 since 1997 and a mark of .704 at home. That difference of .302 is the largest in the NFL.San Francisco (.275 home field advantage) is second and Detroit (.261), Seattle (.254), and Kansas City (.253) rounding out the top five.The Redskins .146 home field advantage is 20th in the league. Its just ahead of Buffalo (.140) and right behind Miami (.149).Why is the Redskins home field advantage not what they hoped it would be? Heres a look at some of the possible factors:NoiseOf the fields that carry the top five home field advantage numbers, two of them are domed stadiums, the Metrodome and Ford Field in Detroit. Qwest Field in Seattle and Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City are designed to capture crowd noise.When FedEx Field was designed, it was hoped that the sheer volume of people the place could hold would create enough noise to disrupt the visiting team and to lift the spirits of the home team. There is nothing over the stadium that works on the acoustics to capture the crowd noise.FedEx has another structural disadvantage compared to RFK and some other NFL venues when it comes to generating noise. At the old stadium, fans could generate quite a loud rumbling noise by stomping their feet in areas where the stands could be moved to accommodate baseball and other sports. That thunderous sound added to the din created by the voices could be quite disconcerting to a visiting quarterback trying to call signals.A fan stomping his feet at FedEx Field gets nothing but sore feet. There is concrete under nearly all of the seats there. Thats good for the structural integrity of such a large building but not so much for generating the rolling thunder effect.TravelIf you look here at map of the locations of the 32 NFL teams youll see that Washington is a pretty easy trip for most of them. With the exception of the six teams west of Kansas City, no team has to fly more than two to three hours or change more than one time zone.This means that disruption to a teams routine is minimized. They can go through a walkthrough on Saturday morning, , head to the airport, and get to the destination in plenty of time for dinner, meetings, and maybe some free time. This makes it as close to a home game as possible in regards to preparation.The elementsWashington isnt quite a Northern city and it isnt quite a Southern city. That tweener status makes for generally temperate weather conditions during the fall and early winter. Visiting teams dont have to deal with weather conditions with which the home team is more familiar.There are no lake effect snows that are found in Buffalo and Cleveland. Occasionally the heat and humidity are oppressive in September and early October but not with the frequency such conditions are found further south.The way FedEx Field is structured, with no open ends, keeps the wind out for the most part. In places like the old Giants Stadium, the Jets and Giants learned how the wind swirled around and they were able to use it to their advantage. It takes a pretty strong wind in the Maryland suburbs for any effects to reach to the FedEx Field playing surface. On the infrequent occasions when there is wind in the stadium, the Redskins are just as baffled as their opponents when it comes to dealing with it.CynicismThe Redskins subpar record at home seems to have dampened the spirits of many of those who attend home games on a regular basis. FedEx Field has about the same reputation in DC as Congress has around the rest of the country. Complaints about traffic, ticket prices, expensive concessions, drunken and rude fans and other issues are commonly aired on the internet and on talk radio.The facts dont completely jibe with reality. The Redskins tickets prices are only the ninth-highest in the NFL and they are within ten bucks of being in the lower third. Season tickets do not require the purchase of a personal seat license, something that almost half of the NFL teams do, further lowering the actual cost of Redskins tickets Concessions are pricey at virtually every big-league stadium or arena in the country. It seems as though the traffic could be better managed but any time you get 90,000 people together in one place there are going to be traffic headaches. The presence of belligerent drunks at a sporting event also is not a phenomenon unique to FedEx Field.But its one thing to put up with the hassles and expenses inherent in attending a Redskins game if you are rewarded with a rousing victory. Its another thing when the Redskins put on an uninspiring performance as they did last Sunday or when they get blown out like they did a few Mondays ago against Vick and the Eagles.If I go to a movie and spend 40 bucks on tickets, popcorn, and sodas and its a great movie, everything is great and Ill think that I got good value for my money. If its a bad movie, however, Im going to think that parking was a hassle, that I waited too long in the concession line, that the soda was flat and the popcorn needed more salt, that the chairs werent very comfortable, and the theater wasnt very clean.This feeling of not getting good value for the money makes fans less likely to cheer loudly when things are going well and more likely to express displeasure when the wheels come off on the field.The sheer size of the stadium also makes it easier for fans of the visiting teams to get tickets to the games. Its simple math. If 10 of the ticket holders at RFK sold their tickets and they wound up in the hands of opposing fans there would be about 5,000 there to cheer on the other team. If the same percentage of tickets at FedEx winds up with hostile fans, thats closer to 10,000 voices. And its likely that due to the prices (which, regardless of any comparison to those of other teams are pretty steep) a greater percentage of fans end up selling their tickets.

Road Win Pct Home Win Pct Diff 1 MIN 0.402 0.704 0.302 2 SFO 0.321 0.596 0.275 3 DET 0.170 0.431 0.261 4 SEA 0.381 0.635 0.254 5 KAN 0.351 0.604 0.253 6 BAL 0.437 0.674 0.237 7 DAL 0.372 0.602 0.230 8 ARI 0.281 0.509 0.228 9 DEN 0.482 0.687 0.205 10 GNB 0.504 0.698 0.194 11 NWE 0.581 0.773 0.192 12 JAX 0.439 0.628 0.189 13 TAM 0.426 0.614 0.188 14 CHI 0.385 0.553 0.168 15 HOU 0.304 0.471 0.167 16 CIN 0.300 0.464 0.164 17 ATL 0.425 0.589 0.164 18 SDG 0.407 0.570 0.163 19 MIA 0.435 0.584 0.149 20 WAS 0.381 0.527 0.146 21 BUF 0.360 0.500 0.140 22 STL 0.384 0.522 0.138 23 OAK 0.336 0.470 0.134 24 IND 0.564 0.695 0.131 25 PHI 0.508 0.636 0.128 26 PIT 0.561 0.676 0.115 27 TEN 0.517 0.619 0.102 28 NYJ 0.492 0.580 0.088 29 CLE 0.309 0.362 0.053 30 CAR 0.447 0.473 0.026 31 NYG 0.539 0.557 0.018 32 NOR 0.486 0.491 0.005 NFL Average 0.415 0.578 0.163 You can reach Rich by email at and follow him on Twitter @RealRedskins.Join Rich Tandler for an in-game chat during the Redskins-Giants game on Sunday. Things will get underway on shortly before kickoff at 12:45 Eastern and continue all game long.