The first game goes to the Second City.
The NFL will open its 100th season in September with the league’s oldest rivalry, Green Bay at Chicago, a departure from the more recent tradition of playing the kickoff opener in the home stadium of the defending Super Bowl champion.
The New England Patriots, who beat the Rams in this year’s Super Bowl, instead will open the season at home on “Sunday Night Football.”
The long-expected decision was announced Monday at the NFL’s annual meetings. It will be the 199th game between the Packers and Bears, with the 200th coming in Green Bay later in the season.
The Packers are actually older than the league itself, having completed their 100th season last year. The club’s 100th birthday is Aug. 11.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel welcomed the news of the 2019 season kicking off in his city by referencing George Halas, the team's founder.
“George ‘Papa Bear’ Halas and the NFL's co-founders probably didn't imagine the federation they established 100 years ago in cities and towns across the Midwest would one day be the most successful professional sports league in the world,” Emanuel said in a statement. “But that's what their vision achieved. Chicago, the most American of American cities, is the perfect venue for this game.”
Owners are expected to vote Tuesday on whether to expand replay to allow review of some penalties, specifically pass interference, roughing the passer and fouls involving defenseless players.
So far, there’s little traction on making noncalls subject to review, such as the blatant pass interference that wasn’t called in the NFC championship game between the Rams and New Orleans Saints, or to putting an eighth official in the press box.
In an interview with NFL Network, Saints coach Sean Payton made it clear he doesn’t like the idea of “All-Star” officiating crews being cobbled together to work postseason games.
“There are a handful of things that we've got to be better at right now,” Payton said. “Our best at playing and our best at coaching are spending 20 hours, 18 hours a day. Our best at officiating, it's their second job. That has to change, because it's too hard, there’s too much at stake for someone who’s a teacher at a school, who’s a florist, an attorney. That’s backward thinking.
“And really as we move forward into the next 10 years, for instance, of our game, where do we want officiating? With all of the technology we have available to us, our fans are closer to the game, our fans are way more in tuned and educated as to the correct calls in the game. And we just need to be better.”
In a ramp-up to the league’s centennial season, the NFL premiered the documentary “A Lifetime of Sundays” at the meeting. The film looks at the history of the league through the eyes of four iconic women, all team owners: Virginia McCaskey (Bears), Martha Firestone Ford (Detroit Lions), Norma Hunt (Kansas City Chiefs) and Patricia Rooney (Pittsburgh Steelers).
The documentary is narrated by Academy Award-winning actress Regina King, and produced by Julie Haddon, Jane Skinner Goodell, and Bill McCullough, an 11-time Emmy Award winner. NFL Films is securing a distribution partner for the project.