October 10, 2021
FedEx Field (Capacity: 67,617)
Washington Football Team vs New Orleans Saints
Final Score: 22 – 33
The second part of our Maryland football trip was a visit to the worst franchise in the NFL. Washington’s football team began in 1932 and they were known as the Redskins until that nickname was terminated in 2020 because of sponsorship pressure (and somehow a rebrand is taking two years). After some early success, it was not until 1982 when the team won their first Super Bowl. They won a couple more over the next decade. In 1999, the universally-despised Dan Snyder bought ownership and it has been a disaster ever since, both on and off the field. Just six winning seasons have occurred in that time span and their last playoff win came in 2005 (their last NFC Championship appearance was 1991). Snyder has done quite a bit to distance the once die-hard fanbase from the team as he has been at the epicenter of many controversaries and issues. FedEx Field is a symbol of the era as the soulless stadium built in 1997 is located well outside of the city, some 10 miles from the center of Washington, DC.
Prestige Ranking: 3 out of 5
Landover is the location of the stadium and it’s an unincorporated community that lacks character as housing subdivisions are periodically interrupted by big box shopping centers. DC is certainly worth your time to visit (for multiple days) and it ends up being about 20-40 minutes away from this area.
Location Ranking: 3.5 out of 10
Accessibility / Parking
A sea of parking lots surround the stadium, where there is a decent tailgate scene before each game. These spaces are reserved for season-ticket holders and the lone official cash lot is a grassy field far from the stadium. Do not park here. A much better option is to use one of several business parking lots along Jericho City Drive. These are cheaper, the same distance away, and an easier departure from the stadium. It took us about 20 minutes to get back to the highway from the lot closest to Brightseat Road. That highway is I-495 (the Beltway) and it is what most will return to and traffic was heavy, but not at a standstill on this road after the game. Overall traffic in the DC area can be terrible, but our approach on a Sunday Morning to the game wasn’t bad at all. So many in this part of the country rely on The Metro, and this normally accessible and great means of transportation is not ideal for FedEx Field. The closest station at Morgan Blvd is a healthy 15-20 minute walk to the stadium. If you go this route, take the Blue or Silver line.
Accessibility / Parking Ranking: 5.5 out of 8
The rounded exterior of FedEx Field is more of an advertisement than an introduction. Huge square panels in multiple places feature large corporations even though this is alternated with “Washington Football Team” panels. FedEx Field signs and orange, blue, green top panels lead to a very clashing look. Glass windows, white support beams and walking ramps are the bulk of the exterior building make-up.
Exterior Ranking: 4 out of 10
The Bud Light Party Pavilion is the only “FanFest” type thing that WFT has and while there are several outdoor bar features, the plastering of the blue beer signage everywhere is off-putting. Inside, the lower-level concourse circles the stadium and the width isn’t bad as there is a little more space than other recent stadiums I’ve been too. Aesthetics lacks comparatively though (despite recent efforts) as there is more visible concrete than burangdy paint. A few long bars can be found in the lower concourse, but nothing worthy of a hangout. Each end zone opens to the field with drinkrails above the seating section. There is only one escalator to reach the upper deck and signs to find it were not clear. If you’re on the other side of the stadium, you probably will have to settle on using the long ramps. Up top, it is completely exposed and you have a view of pretty much nothing on the outside. White support beams and burgundy walls make the building portions, while the bathroom situation wasn’t bad. There’s a few picnic tables and concessions stands around the horn as well. The lead-in to the upper seating bowl is terrible as an added couple rows of seats means that fans have to climb up stairs from the concourse opening and then back down to the rows. It is awkward and there’s just too much climbing here.
Concourse Ranking: 3 out of 5
Food variety wasn’t impressive and there really wasn’t anything overly appetizing as I tried to find a lunch. It was cool to see a Pit Beef sandwich (more of a Baltimore thing), however the quality was severely lacking. I had no desire to try the “Medium Rare Steak Sandwich”. There were FireHouse Subs and Old Bay Wings…just nothing that said I’m in DC or Maryland (c’mon give me a Ben’s Chili Bowl). I saw one food truck offering a variety of fried “stuff” and an unusual amount of coffee stands. Beer is almost all macro as Devils Backbone is the only qualifier for a local(ish) choice. Wine and other spirits can be found at a few stands. Note that at the concession stands, it was hard to see the menu because of a low wall. Lines were long, but not crazy (though the stadium was only half full).
Food Ranking: 4.5 out of 8
Stadium structure at FedEx Field is pretty straight-forward as the rounded rectangle features a lower-level, a deck of club seats, two levels of suites and then an upper deck. There’s a lot however that makes this a poor stadium. On the first level, they added a section of 200s after initial design and on one side of the stadium, these tuck in so far underneath the club overhang that they are quite obstructed. The claustrophobic section known locally as “The Cave” has many rows where not only do you not see the sky, but you also can’t see the other end zone. For the upper-deck, things are just bizarre because of the number of seats that have been closed off over the years. Fencing abruptly stops you from going higher and in some spots, this means that there are just eight rows in the section. Plenty of seats up here are obscured by poor concourse openings as railings and glass partitions get in the way of many in the lower rows. They also replaced seats with standing barricades behind the end zones, because yeah, that makes sense. At least seat width and row spacing wasn’t bad. The pitch of each row seemed acceptable and average, though I did have a head blocking a bit of my view in the steeper upper-deck, which was unexpected. FedEx Field has such an accumulation of bad irregularities in regards to the stadium, not to mention that it is a generally boring design. After shamefully having FedEx colors for years on the top fencing, they’ve at least changed to the team color of burgundy (which wasn’t always the team color as it used to be red). Seats are a mix of yellow and faded red, which now looks orange-ish.
Interior Ranking: 5.5 out of 14
Each end of the stadium has a video board in the middle of the bowl and the size is a little on the smaller end compared to other NFL boards. That is still enough to be plenty large and clear. Couple issues overall: There are no stats during game play and very minimal looks during breaks. Out-of-town scores on the ribbon boards are barely shown as well. Timeouts are notches under the team name (like a TV presentation), however these are hard to see in person. Replay frequency was great.
Scoreboard Ranking: 3 out of 4
It’s hard to honor your past when you’re trying to erase the nickname “Redskins” from everyone’s memory. I’m curious to see how they handle historical displays after they finish the re-brand. Whatever your stance may be, it’s a shame to see 80 years of football history barely acknowledged. A Ring of Fame along the inside façade of the stadium honors many players and the end zone walls have text on each Super Bowl championship. That’s pretty much it. They have added more team color to the stadium, but in many places, it grossly clashes with multiple blue advertisements for Bud Light or Pepsi. At least they have a giant generic football man outside Gate A?
Displays Ranking: 1.5 out of 6
I am an advocate for screwing Snyder and this horrible regime, so here are ways to save money. Parking at those lots on Jericho are a great place to start as we only spent $30 on parking as opposed to the insane $60 charge the team has (3rd highest in the league). With high concession prices like a $14 beer and a $16 Chicken Tenders/Fries combo, it is well worth trying for a discount on food. Those items are 50% for season ticket holders and though it says you need to scan your pass, we twice just said we had season seats and they just gave us the discount (we weren’t even wearing team apparel). Finally, for tickets, buy the absolute cheapest you can find on the secondary market and then move to where you want in the upper deck (attendance is poor and likely will continue to be). The cost for seats actually weren’t bad at all as many face-value seats could be had for $60 – $90. The last three NFL stadiums I’ve visited cost over $100 and I was able to score seats for $55 here on the secondary market. That says more about the state of the team then the normal price point. The latest Fan Cost Index places Washington 7th highest in the league, but there are ways to bring that overall cost down as a one-game attendee.
Cost Ranking: 4 out of 8
This used to be one of the best fan bases in the league and sadly, 20+ years of Snyder has made so many fans understandably lukewarm about the franchise. The passion has been sapped away and more notably, attendance is terrible at FedEx Field. During the 2021 season, WFT sits dead last in attendance. Every game, including the one we went too, has seen tons of empty seats with many rows of the upper deck and club level sitting completely bare. This is a relatively recent thing as 5-10 years ago, it was often packed. Now, fans of the away team take over as there were tons of Saints fans here (probably a 40/60 ratio). An NFC East game is even worse as Eagles/Giants/Cowboys fans are now the dominating voice.
Fan Support Ranking: 4.5 out of 8
Despite the big dropoff in Support, WFT fans that were there made it loud. I was impressed by the noise that they did make and there were occasions when you would’ve thought it was a full house (particularly when the Saints were trapped inside their own 5-yard line. I guess that makes sense given that the fan base you have left are the diehards that have somehow have hung with all them through all the crap. Touchdowns got quite loud and even a Thursday Night atmosphere I saw earlier on TV was at a high level.
Atmosphere Ranking: 11 out of 14
I was touring the stadium and taking pictures about an hour before the game when I heard “BOOM!”. The team set off fireworks at all four corners and scared the daylights out of me. Probably not the best idea in this day and age to randomly shoot fireworks at a crowded place when they are not expected……WFT does not offer a free soft drink for their Designated Driver Program like most other NFL teams, instead you get Instant Rewards!……Twice I went to souvenir stands to grab a program and they weren’t delivered yet. They never got delivered, so at halftime I had to walk to the other side of the stadium to get one at the team store. Errrr……A drumline has temporarily replaced the Marching Band, but they are promised to be back next year. Gone forever is the famous “Hail to the Redskins” fight song. As derogatory as it may be, fans still sing it and it’s been a part of them for a long time. Their replacement song was something like “Ahhh, DC” and it was terrible……It’s easy to hate on this franchise given the sickening culture that was in place for years and the NFL has tried to sweep under the carpet.
This was a good game and it began with a couple scoring possessions, including a 72-yard bomb from Jameis Winston to Deonte Harris of the Saints. Heading towards halftime, the game was tied and looked like it would stay that way, however Marquez Callaway (easily) caught a Hail Mary with no time left in the half to stun the crowd and myself (who lost a Same Game Parlay bet because of that play). In the second half, New Orleans took control and the clincher was a late drive that finished on an Alvin Kamara 19-yard catch that gave the Saints a 33-22 lead. Tyler Heinicke had his first struggles as a Washington QB with two picks on the day. The unsung hero was Saints punter Blake Gillikin who had 3(!) punts downed inside the 5.