Tuesday, October 27, 2020

NFL’s Retractable Roofs Open More Often

By Anthony Brancato

For the first time since Christmas night of 2010, the retractable roof at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona was open on Sunday night, snapping a streak of 76 consecutive closed-roof games at the facility — and that's not the only streak that ended: the Cardinals had gone winless in their last seven games against the Seahawks at home (6 losses and a 6-6 tie in 2016, also on a Sunday night) before overcoming a 10-point deficit in the last three minutes to send the game into overtime, where Zane Gonzalez's 48-yard field goal with 20 seconds left won it. Arizona won the Christmas 2010 game, as well (also on prime time, albeit on a Saturday night, not a Sunday night), upsetting Dallas 27-26 on a 48-yard field goal — you can't make this stuff up! — by Jay Feely with five seconds remaining.

The Falcons, who traded in their permanent-roof Chevrolet (the Georgia Dome) for a Mercedes-Benz — their new eponymous retractable-roof stadium — in 2017, have taken advantage of their new digs to rediscover the joys of playing outdoors at home, evenly dividing their 20 home games of 2018-20 between indoor and outdoor play, after having played only one outdoor home game in 2017 — their home opener, in which they beat Green Bay 34-23 on a Sunday night.

Even the Cowboys have followed the crowd, with six of their 12 games (so far) at Jerry World in 2019-20 having been held with the sunroof down (haven't seen any diamond in the back — but where would the back of an oval-shaped stadium be located, anyway?) after having kept the roof closed for 49 out of 51 games from 2013 through 2018.

The Colts have pretty much always observed a weather-based policy regarding their retractable roof, keeping it open early in the season unless rain is in the forecast, and closed late in the year.

Only the Texans are resisting this trend, having played 50 home games in a row with the retractable roof closed at NRG Stadium, the last open-roof game there having been played on November 30, 2014 against Tennessee — but since the Texans won that game 45-21, perhaps they should consider opening their roof again for some of their games?

(And the COVID-19 pandemic is not driving this — since this tilt toward opening the roofs started before this season, the pandemic is clearly not the culprit.)

Maybe these teams are doing this so that they can handle playing indoors and outdoors with equal proficiency, leading to an improved record on the road? Teams that play their home games in permanent-roof domes do not have this option — and some of them have shown chronic poor form outdoors that literally goes back decades: the Lions, for example, are 32-84 outdoors dating all the way back to 2001, while their NFC North rivals, the Vikings, are just percentage points ahead of that pace as they say in baseball, with a 33-85-2 mark in open-air stadiums since that same year. And since 2016, the Texans are 12-21 outdoors (as previously noted, Houston's retractable roof has not been open since 2014).

The retractable-roof teams also have the opportunity to engage in gamesmanship by basing their decision on whether to open or close the roof for a particular game on how well — or more to the point, how poorly — an opponent has been playing indoors or outdoors, as applicable: the Jaguars, for instance, are 3-18 indoors since 2013, including having lost their last nine. Also since 2013, the Buccaneers are 8-19 in domes, the Bills are 9-24 going all the way back to 1999, and the Eagles are 5-13 indoors since 2012, with a current streak of four straight losses by a combined 152 to 60. That's an average margin of defeat of 38-15.

So you see, a retractable roof is a major competitive asset. Squandering that asset is foolish.

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