Sportress of Blogitude

Sean Payton critical of Saints playing Sunday night and Thursday night back-to-back

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The New Orleans Saints did win a critical divisional game on Thursday night, beating the Carolina Panthers by a score of 28-10, but head coach Sean Payton still rightfully expressed some sour grapes over how his team was forced to play two game in an incredibly short amount of time.

The concept of Thursday night games has been the source of griping from coaches and players alike, but the Saints were dealt an even rawer deal than normal as the team was coming off a Sunday night game against the Green Bay Packers, thus making an already tight window in which a team can rest, recover and prepare that much more infinitesimal.

“You know, Thursday night games are one thing, but to play on a Sunday night game and then come back and play on a Thursday … you can’t really [complain publicly] because first off, it’s not an excuse for your players, you don’t want it to be. But I would say it’s crazy. It’s silly, all right? It shouldn’t happen,” Payton said about the quick turnaround, per an ESPN.com report.

Despite saying he couldn’t really complain publicly about it, Payton did, and then continued to complain.

“It’s foolish. You got three guys that are hurt in there right now,” Payton added. “To play a Sunday night and travel is foolish.”

Payton certainly has a point. The ESPN report notes that “[a]ccording to Elias Sports Bureau, only four times in the last 20 years had an NFL team been forced to play a Thursday road game following a Sunday night contest. Only one team, Miami in 2003, had won both.”

That’s a tall order.

Several Saints players were quoted expressing their agreement with Payton regarding the unfairness of the situation that the NFL imposed upon the team with such a tight playing schedule, including offensive lineman Zach Strief, who said it was “a tough deal” and baloney.”

Linebacker Junior Galette also expressed similar sentiments, but praised Payton for not allowing the situation to be used as reason for not going out and winning a football game.

“It’s tough on your body. But Sean said, you know, if we come in here and lose, we can’t have excuses and say it’s because we played two games in five days,” Galette said. “I mean obviously we’re world-class athletes, if anyone can do it we can.

“Sean took care of us, we just had a walk-through [practice], we had a simple game plan. We knew we had to have a simple game plan to play fast, and that’s what we did tonight.”

Payton also said he didn’t bring up the issue previously because he didn’t exactly understand the difficulties inherent to such a unique scenario and how it would play out. He also said he’s not planning on discussing it much further in any manner or allow it to carry over.

“That’s just my little frustration with something as simple as scheduling that can be easily fixed,” he said.

Excellent point. Imagine how the Saints and Payton would have felt had the team put out a clunker of a performance and lost the game. Then there would have been some far more serious griping about the unfairness of it all. And it would have been a perfectly legitimate demonstration of griping.

If the NFL is going to force teams to play on Thursday night, the league should at least be cognizant of the presence of certain logistical issues that are in play regarding travel, the team’s schedule heading into the the game and so on. It does not seem on the surface that it would be that difficult.