The Case for Reinstituting a Grass Field in Foxboro
This past Wednesday, February 2, 2022, the United States Men’s National Team played Honduras in a match the U.S. needed to win to improve their chances to play in the 2022 World Cup. And win they did, defeating Honduras 3-0. It was a mostly mundane affair, with Honduras–already eliminated–showing little signs of pushback after an early goal from Weston McKennie.
But despite the USMNT’s dominance, the main international storyline appears to be where and how the game was played. In Minnesota, in February, in “extreme cold.” How extreme? Honduras subbed out two players because of the “extreme cold.” Players routinely lost their footing, were seen doing everything to stay warm, and described kicking the ball akin to kicking a “concrete block.” All in all, it was an epic home-field advantage for the Americans. The type of advantage the New England Patriots used to thrive under. But while the Patriots still perform well under these weather conditions–don’t ask Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde about it–they no longer enjoy an actual home-field advantage.
That is because the Patriots threw all the Foxboro sod in the trash in the middle of the 2006 season, switching from natural grass to FieldTurf’s synthetic turf. What followed was an offensive boon; in 2007 the Patriots boasted the best offense ever. And in the following decade, the Patriots deftly combined Tom Brady’s precision passing game with an unheralded–but potent–ground attack to establish the most consistent offense in the NFL. However, the Years of the GOAT are officially over. It is now Mac Jones’ time to shine in New England. And with it, the Patriots should harken back to the early years of Brady, and revert to Foxboro form; reinstituting a grass field in Foxboro.
A Grass Field in Foxboro Makes Sense for On Every Level
When Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick, and the New England Patriots switched out the sod for FieldTurf’s synthetic grass, they did so for a competitive advantage. They thought a better surface would help their offense; they were right. If you play in an area where you get major wind, snow, and ice in the winter, why not ensure an even playing surface? On the surface (sorry) it makes sense… and it worked. With jitterbug slot receivers cutting and juking on the more grabbable surface, the Patriots dominated.
But today’s Patriots are not your older brother’s Patriots. These Patriots have the best 1-2 running back combination in football. Ask a panel of pundits and they will argue over who is the better running back; is it Damien Harris or Rhamondre Stevenson? The answer? Who cares? They both can pound the ball, they can juke in the hole, and they can even catch. In short, the Patriots’ backfield is their best offensive weapon. Their decline this season had nothing to do with the running game, and everything to do with a stale passing attack, made worse when the defense suffered a brutal two-month stretch to end their season.
If Bill Belichick wants to take advantage and continue his zigging while the rest of the NFL is zagging, he should revert to a grass field in Foxboro. He should let his offensive line literally dig their spikes into the ground and start bulldozing opponents. Make it so that opposing defenses are slipping and sliding, and force his opponents to play off their back foot. That is what the Bills did to Belichick and the Patriots in the playoffs with their quick, fast-paced turf-based offense. They kept coming after the Patriots and made them react while the Bills pushed ever forward and onward.
Mass Backs Grass and the Patriots Should Too;
That is the argument for implementing a grass field in Foxboro when looking at the Patriots roster. The stats back it up too; almost all of the top running teams in the NFL play on real grass. But there is another, more pivotal, competitive advantage for laying down a grass field in Foxboro; injuries. When Michael Gallup went down in Week 17 with an ACL tear it was on artificial turf. Players came out of the woodwork to slam the artificial turf. Maybe the loudest voice on the matter was Reggie Bush.
This is something he has been trying to spread awareness about for years at this point. Look at his Twitter history on the subject. Here is the thing; he is correct, empirically so. At the high school level, he is correct. That is across all sports, but specifically for football. And in the NFL, it is worse…. and the NFL knows it. In fact, they have known this is the case since 2018. The NFL Players Association knows it, and all the doctors know it too because all the studies prove it. And the Patriots know it too. At least if they remember the 2017 preseason when they lost Julian Edelman to a non-contact ACL injury suffered on artificial turf. Belichick is also aware of the issue, even stating it outright when Wes Welker tore his ACL and MCL… in Texas… on artificial turf.
So Belichick knows the dangers of fake turf and the advantages of reverting Foxboro to a grass field. Making it even more likely, he is well-known as the type of coach and general manager who is always looking for a competitive advantage. Well, the irony is he is overlooking a major competitive advantage… and it is right under his feet. Belichick has a simple solution if he wants to take advantage of maybe his best 1-2 hard-running backfield ever while also ensuring a better return on investment by avoiding non-contact injuries for his players; back the grass and switch it up again. This time going old school and laying down a grass field in Foxboro.