3 Ways to fix tanking in the NFL: From lottery to NFL Draft Bowl
By Ryan Messick
Sunday night, Doug Pederson and the Eagles threw an NFL game in an obvious tank job to improve their NFL Draft position that the league must address
The Eagles threw a football game last night, and it was hideous to watch. Let’s just be honest about that, first of all. This was a blatant example of tanking in the NFL for the purpose of getting a better NFL Draft pick.
Would the Eagles have won if they left Jalen Hurts in and coached to win? Maybe, maybe not.
Were the Giants screwed? I’m not quite willing to go that far, largely due to the fact that the NY Giants were 6-10, which reduces their right to gripe. I’m also of the mindset that the Eagles might have ultimately done them a favor.
The Giants are picking 11th now, whereas they would have picked 19th or lower had they won the division.
Is that worth a game of playoff experience for Daniel Jones? That’s a whole separate discussion.
Let’s also be honest that the league and its fans have accepted for a long time what I’ll designate as “soft tanking” by both bad teams and playoff teams with their seeding locked in. Nobody’s mad that guys like Fletcher Cox and Miles Sanders didn’t suit up for the Eagles last night, with injuries they might normally have played through. Nobody’s mad that the Steelers rested their starters.
The unwritten rule seems to be, “Play whoever you want, but once the game starts, you play to win and you play the best players dressed for the game.”
If you really think about it, that’s sort of a silly designation, isn’t it?
I mean, if the Eagles had announced that Jalen Hurts was out with an injury and Nate Sudfeld was starting the game, we’d have seen an even uglier product and people wouldn’t be half as upset. If we care about the on-field product and the integrity of the game, we should be just as upset by that.
Regardless, we clearly cannot rely on some sort of unwritten rule and this is a major competitive issue in the NFL. It’s one thing when it happens at the end of the season in the NBA or NHL. They play 82 games, so even if a team tanks for a long stretch at the end of the year, the “free” wins are spread out amongst several teams and each one makes up 1.2 percent of each of their schedules. But in the NFL, with a 16 game schedule, each game is 6.25 percent of a team’s season.
So tanking one game in the NFL and awarding an opponent a “free” win would be like doing the same for more than five games in the NBA or NHL, or more than 10 games in baseball (although tanking isn’t really a thing in MLB).
That’s why it’s so gross to watch play out as a Giants fan in this spot. Washington won seven games, so more than 14 percent of their wins were gifted to them.
That’s why the NFL has a tanking issue, and it should address it because it’s a pretty easy fix.
And let’s be honest, that game Sunday night wasn’t fun for anyone to watch.
The NY Giants and their fans were justifiably furious that the Eagles weren’t trying to win, Eagles fans were frustrated watching the season end in a miserable fashion instead of seeing a full four quarters of Jalen Hurts, and Washington fans watched their team struggle to close out a divisional opponent trying to lose.
That wasn’t good for anybody.
It’s tough to avoid playoff teams resting their starters in Week 17, but at least they typically don’t rest their entire starting units and thus based on the quality of their team still can pose a bit of a challenge. When a 12-4 team rests some key players, they’re still trying to win and they have some quality talent on the field. When a 4-10-1 team tries to lose a game, it’s ugly.
Here are a few ideas to fix it.