Sean Payton Floats Elaborate Plan to Get 50,000 Saints Fans in Superdome

In Thursday’s Hot Clicks: the Saints' head coach's wacky plan for creating a playoff crowd, a clutch performance from Austin Rivers and more.
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His heart’s in the right place, at least

The Superdome is known for having one of the most boisterous crowds in the NFL, rivaled only by the fans at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City and Seattle’s Lumen Field in Seattle. The ear-splitting cheers of 73,000 people are hell for opposing offenses. It’s an atmosphere that just can’t be replicated by canned crowd noise.

So, for reasons both competitive and financial, all season long, the Saints have tried to come up with different ways to get more fans in the stands. When the mayor of New Orleans denied the team’s request to allow fans into the Superdome, the team considered playing games outdoors at LSU’s stadium in Baton Rouge. In October, the mayor agreed to a plan that would have seen attendance increase to as many as 15,000 fans by the end of season, but that was scrapped after New Orleans, along with the country, saw a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases.

The Saints have home-field advantage in their wild-card round matchup against the Bears on Sunday, but how significant will the advantage be with only 3,000 fans in the stands? Not even Mitchell Trubisky is going to be intimidated by 70,000 empty seats. A rocking crowd would be a godsend for the Saints, and so coach Sean Payton concocted a plan to test and quarantine Saints fans ahead of the game so that the Superdome could be a 50,000-person virus-free bubble.

“I brought up the idea of testing 50,000 people and quarantining them in a hotel and having the most safest Superdome known to man, scientifically,” Payton told reporters on Wednesday. “Bus them, they've tested every day, and you've got a COVID-free facility. I think that’s possible. I don’t know if it’s taken off or not.”

O.K., maybe “concocted a plan” is generous. This is an absurd and unworkable idea. How many hotel rooms would this require? Would the fans be expected to fork over several hundred dollars for their week-long stay in quarantine rooms on top of the price of their game ticket? Where would the Saints acquire enough coronavirus tests to swab 50,000 people every day for a week?

By dreaming up this ridiculous scenario, Payton has shown more interest in stopping the spread of the virus than the federal government. But an operation of this scale could be pulled off by only a government entity, not a football team. What Payton is proposing is basically what places like Hong Kong have done with incoming travelers. If Payton’s plan was easy enough that the NFC South champions could pull it off, it probably wouldn't be long before he was in charge of a whole lot more than a football team. 

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