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Ranking the NFC North's playing surfaces

1/29/2009

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
The most well-liked playing surface in the NFC North is at Detroit's Ford Field, according to a series of voting results released Thursday by the NFL Players Association. The least favorite? Minnesota's multi-use FieldTurf.

That's the upshot from the union's annual poll of players conducted during the season. The NFLPA broke out the results into four categories: Best artificial surfaces, worst artificial surfaces, best grass fields and worst grass fields. In each case, the voting between best and worst wasn't necessarily in reverse order. I presume that discrepancy can be attributed to each stadium evoking opposing but passionate responses from different players.

(Try it sometime. Rank the NFL's starting quarterbacks from best to worst. Then -- without looking -- rank them from worst to best. I bet the lists aren't reversible.)

After agonizing for hours -- or, well, a few minutes -- I decided on the following is the easiest way to present the data:

BEST ARTIFICIAL (13 total)
5. Detroit
11. Minnesota

WORST ARTIFICIAL (13 total)
2. Minnesota
11. Detroit (tied with Seattle)

BEST GRASS (18 total)
7. Green Bay
16. Chicago

WORST GRASS (18 total)
4. Chicago
5. Green Bay

A couple thoughts on these rankings:

  • Detroit and Minnesota have the same FieldTurf surfaces, and they were installed in the same year (2002). But baseball's Minnesota Twins play 81 games a year in the Metrodome, which also hosts University of Minnesota football and baseball, along with high school football playoffs. The Metrodome surface gets manipulated often and is pretty flat compared to Ford Field.

  • I hear fewer complaints about the grass mix at Lambeau Field than I do about the 100 percent grass surface at Soldier Field. Two years ago, Packers officials stitched some synthetic fibers into the surface for stability. In Chicago, the field is typically soft and the grass long early in the season. By the end of the season, the grass is basically dead. The voting fell accordingly, although it was surprising to see Lambeau ranked as the 7th-best but also the fifth-worst. Basically, that means there are significantly differing opinions on Lambeau Field.