Eagles coach Doug Pederson swears he was not attempting to lose his group’s Sunday Evening Soccer sport in opposition to the Washington Soccer Staff within the Nationwide Soccer League within the Land of Soccer. As proof, Pederson can level out he by no means requested his punter to cover the ball below his jersey and run backward by means of his personal finish zone on first down.
The NFL’s downside shouldn’t be that the Eagles tanked Sunday. It was a ridiculous sport anyway, with a nasty group (Washington) attempting to seize a playoff spot forward of one other dangerous group (the Giants) by beating an excellent worse group (the Eagles). There is no such thing as a the Aristocracy within the NFC East this yr. It was a season-long sport of mud soccer.
The NFL’s downside is larger than whether or not the Eagles tanked: It’s that the Eagles had good purpose to tank. The league’s construction incentivized them to do it. Let’s do the mathematics for Philly right here. Win the sport, and so what? However lose, and the Eagles enhance their draft place from No. 9 to No. 6 within the first spherical—and so they transfer up in subsequent rounds, too.
Three spots may not look like an enormous deal to the 11 remaining People who don’t care in regards to the NFL draft. However final yr, the Dolphins gave up a fourth-rounder to maneuver from No. 30 to No. 26. The 49ers traded fourth- and fifth-rounders to maneuver from No. 31 to No. 25. Transferring up earlier within the draft is extra expensive, as a result of the expertise there may be so coveted. Final yr, the Bucs traded a fourth-rounder (and bought a seventh-rounder again) to maneuver up one spot, from No. 14 to No. 13.
It’s attainable the worth of shedding this sport for the Eagles was equal to a second-round choose.
To know the stakes, the NFL ought to take a look at that in reverse: Does it actually need to dock a group a second-round choose for attempting to win a sport?
Tanking shouldn’t be a widespread downside within the NFL, however it in all probability will likely be quickly. The NFL can be sensible to move that off earlier than one thing much more embarrassing occurs. All of the league wants is just a little humility (not the NFL’s sturdy go well with), some ahead pondering (the league has a blended document there) and a need for extra income (hey now!).
The NFL ought to institute a draft lottery. This might require two painful admissions: that some folks within the league may really attempt to lose; and that the NBA (and NHL) had a terrific concept lengthy earlier than the NFL. However a lottery would seriously change the dialog across the league’s worst groups yearly, and … effectively, it is a loopy concept, simply hear me out, however possibly the league might discover some type of tv associate to broadcast the lottery. The rankings would in all probability dwarf most playoff video games in different sports activities.
For many of its existence, the NFL didn’t want a draft lottery. The league’s once-a-week, every-game-matters ethos was dominant, and the construction of so many contracts signifies that gamers are perpetually attempting to earn the subsequent yr’s wage. They’re what they placed on tape, and so they knew it.
However now the most effective entrance places of work make chilly, math-based choices. It’s no coincidence the Eagles, celebrated for incorporating analytics on their Tremendous Bowl run three years in the past, are the group that appeared to tank most overtly.
4 groups have gone winless within the Tremendous Bowl period. The 1976 Buccaneers had minimal expertise as a result of they have been an enlargement group. The 1982 Colts performed solely 9 video games due to a strike. The 2008 Lions have been, consider it or not, constructed to win—they went 7–9 the yr earlier than, had a veteran common supervisor, head coach and quarterback, and believed they have been on the cusp of one thing good. They have been simply constructed very poorly.
None of these groups tanked. The league is totally different now. Organizations tank. Gamers don’t, however organizations do. The 2017 Browns have been constructed to lose, and so they went 0–16. The 2019 Dolphins have been a whole tear-down operation that stunned everyone by profitable 5 video games. This yr’s Jets deliberately butt-fumbled away the season once they determined to hoard cap house and commerce star security Jamal Adams.
There’s a logic to buying and selling veteran expertise and accruing draft capital, and the NFL can’t and shouldn’t cease that. There may be additionally logic to dangerous groups attempting to complete with the worst document when a uncommon quarterback expertise like Trevor Lawrence or Andrew Luck is on the finish of the rainbow, and the NFL ought to cease that, as a result of it makes a mockery of video games like Washington-Philadelphia on Sunday night time.
The dialog round tanking is unfair to gamers, who’re attempting to win, and to coaches who—in contrast to Pederson—are attempting to save lots of their jobs. It’s additionally only a horrible search for the league.
The league must determine the main points. It’s a fragile train, as a result of a lottery is designed to restrict, however not utterly negate, the aim of the draft: to reward the worst groups. Giving each non-playoff group an equal probability at No. 1 can be insane—a ten–6 group might find yourself with the highest choose. However there are methods to do that. Perhaps set it up so no group can transfer up greater than six spots. The league must jumble the probabilities simply sufficient in order that the marginal profit to shedding a sport goes down.
We are able to argue about who has really tanked. However the system now rewards tanking, and the NFL—a multibillion-dollar entity with guidelines masking all the things from cleat colours to sideline markings to follow schedules—is counting on the dignity system to cease it. That’s dangerous and illogical. In sports activities, in contrast to in life, taking part in a lottery simply makes mathematical sense.