Thoughts on Football: “Tanking”

“Tanking”– deliberately turning in a sub-par effort to put you higher in next year’s draft order. Each year there is buzz around this, especially when next year’s draft class has promising quarterbacks.

I feel like I say this every year, but the notion that anyone on a NFL sideline is “tanking” for some big-picture shot at a draft pick is absurd. Player contracts are terminated at ease with very little impact on teams relative to impact on the player. Non-superstars who don’t perform well every week are soon gone. This is true to a lesser extent for coaches. How many head coaches with 4-12 or worse seasons under their belt are around? The reputation and job security of coaches is built through wins — made even more difficult to obtain with league-enforced parity. Aside from all that, the math on “can’t-miss” draft prospects hardly suggests that title. About half are disappointments and all need a supporting cast. Just ask Alex Smith.

This of course is before we get into the pride and competitive nature of the players– the overwhelming majority of whom had to fight and scratch their way into the league. Does any cornerback want to be known as part of a defensive unit that surrendered the number of points necessary to put up a 2-14 win-loss record? I’ve never been anything close to a professional athlete, but I’m competitive enough as a person to find that idea abhorrent even in backyard football games. I can’t imagine how I’d feel with career success, a stadium full of people and a live TV audience in the equation.

Everyone is shocked the Jets aren’t tanking this year like the idiot sports writers thought they would. Who would want to “tank” so that the Johnson family will have another high draft pick to screw up– Coach Todd Bowles, already on the hot seat? QB Josh McCown, already nearly 40 and playing purely for the love of the game? WR Jermaine Kearse, looking for his first big contract? And those are the big names– what about the backups who could wash out by association with the rest? “Tanking” is something I’ll bet no one outside of the executives in the front office would find acceptable. It’s a horseshit concept for sports radio hosts and sports ‘journalists,’ most of whom have never played a down of football.

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