Sean McDermott Should Chill About Limited Fans Being Allowed in Some Stadiums

Brian Giuffra
Mostly empty NFL stadium.
Mostly empty NFL stadium. / Scott Taetsch/Getty Images
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Bills coach Sean McDermott is hot and bothered by the fact that the division rival Miami Dolphins (and some other teams) are going to have fans in their stands this year while his team will not. He called this decision "ridiculous" and insinuated teams without fans will be at a competitive disadvantage. Here's his full quote.

""We control what we can control, but I think it's honestly ridiculous that the playing field for each stadium is inconsistent.""

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer made similar comments recently, saying: “I think there are some unfair things going on around it as far as some teams can have fans and some teams can’t. So I think there is a competitive disadvantage in some of those areas.”

On the surface, I agree. The NFL has uniform rules for all clubs for a reason. It's the only way to ensure no team has a competitive advantage going into a game. Allowing some teams to have fans while others can't based on whether or not their local government will allow gatherings that large seems to fall in the competitive disadvantage category. However, having 13,000 fans in a 65,000 seat stadium, as the Dolphins will have at Hard Rock Stadium this year, won't make such a big difference that you will win or lose a game based on it.

Having covered high school football state championships played at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey (and, humblebrag, having played in two games at Giants Stadium too), I can tell you that even 20,000 fans don't make that much noise in that cavernous tin can. The argument can be made that only half of the fans in attendance for high school games are cheering at the same time whereas an NFL team would have most of their fans cheering simultaneously, but because the stadiums are so large, that few fans won't make much of a difference.

But at its heart, there is a legitimate foundation to the argument of if the NFL should have to make a uniform rule on this issue. If one team can't have fans because their local government isn't allowing gatherings that big, as is the case in New York for the Bills, it seems unfair for the NFL to allow other teams to have fans.

The issue with that reasonable line of thought is the NFL is a business, Roger Goodell works for the owners, and having fans in the stadiums adds revenue. Team owners like revenue and Goodell wants to stay in good standing with the owners, which could be a factor in the NFL's decision to not make a universal ruling here.

Regardless, no NFL team is going to win or lose an away game this year because their opponent's fans are so loud they can't hear themselves think. Fans will be spaced far apart from each other and won't be able to create loud, unified, consistent noise that will impact the opposing offense's ability to communicate. Perhaps some fans will get creative in finding ways to try and distract the opposing team's players, but if that's an issue that leads to a loss, that team wasn't prepared to win anyway so it's a moot point.

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