When a team loses a football game, comments made about external factors from officiating to the quality of the field can be perceived as excuses. That doesn’t make unacceptable external factors acceptable.
For the Seahawks, who lost to the 49ers at Levi’s Stadium on Sunday, one of the external factors that they had to deal with was the quality of the playing surface.
“It wasn’t great,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll told reporters on Monday. “It wasn’t great. There were guys slipping all over the place and you could see guys in pass protection, you could see guys on field goal protection sticking their cleats in the ground and it was moving. It’s the same on both sides of the ball, though. They’re subject to the same turf that we are, so there’s no reason to complain about it. It just is what it is. It was a factor.”
The condition of the field wasn’t a surprise to Carroll.
“I thought it was going to be that way,” he said. “I told them it was going to be really lousy and then when we got out there in pregame, it looked like a pretty good turf. They had redone the middle part of it and all that a couple of weeks ago and it felt like it was going to be a good turf but it didn’t work out that way. You could see guys couldn’t dig in. It was just kind of == we were prepared for it. We were prepared for it to be a difficult turf, and it still was a factor. We were comparing it to what we expected in London [against the Raiders]. We had heard a lot about the turf [and how it] was going to be bad and we felt like we hung in there pretty good [in London]. We did all the same preparations and all of that. I don’t know if it was any worse, it just looked like it was an issue at times.”
Again, these comments can be perceived as complaining or excuse-making (even though Carroll said there’s no reason to complain). But if there was indeed an issue with the field, it’s another example of billion-dollar franchises with multi-million-dollar investments in their players not doing everything in their power to ensure that the players will be both as safe as possible and also able to perform to the highest level of their God-given abilities. And yet some of these billion-dollar franchises still tolerate subpar playing fields, and the league continues to allow them to.
It really shouldn’t be that difficult. For whatever reason, it continues to be. And that’s one of the things the NFL should put at the top of the list of league-wide priorities: Clear and inflexible requirements for the quality of playing surfaces, with an understanding that, if a team can’t provide an adequate natural or hybrid turf, then a standard artificial playing surface will be used.
Most players prefer real grass to fake. But while a good grass field is better than the best fake field, a good fake field is better than a bad real one. And based on comments like those from Carroll it continues to be abundantly clear that the NFL isn’t doing enough to ensure that footing isn’t a factor in situations where there’s no snow, ice, or torrential rain.