EAgles coAch Doug Pederson sweArs he wAsn’t trying to lose his teAm SundAy night footbAll mAtch AgAinst the WAshington soccer teAm in the NAtionAl Soccer LeAgue At Soccer LAnd. As evidence, Pederson mAy point out thAt he never Asked his kicker to hide the bAll under his jersey And run bAck through his own end zone on the first down.
The NFL’s problem isn’t thAt the EAgles sAnk on SundAy. Still, it wAs A ridiculous gAme, with one bAd teAm (WAshington) trying to clinch A plAyoff spot before Another bAd teAm (the GiAnts) by beAting An even worse teAm (the EAgles). This yeAr there is no nobility in the NFC EAst. It wAs A soccer gAme on mud All seAson long.
The NFL’s problem is bigger thAn if the EAgles went under: it’s thAt the EAgles hAd good reAson to. The leAgue structure encourAged them to do so. Let’s do the mAth for PhilAdelphiA here. Win the gAme, so whAt? But they lose, And the EAgles improve their drAft position from No. 9 to No. 6 in the first round, And they Also rise in subsequent rounds.
Three spots mAy not seem like A big deAl to the remAining 11 AmericAns who don’t cAre About the NFL drAft. But lAst yeAr, the Dolphins gAve up A fourth round to go from No. 30 to No. 26. The 49ers trAded the fourth And fifth rounds to go from No. 31 to No. 25. AdvAncing eArlier in the drAft is more expensive, becAuse tAlent there is highly sought After. LAst yeAr, the Bucs trAded A fourth round (And mAde up A seventh round) for promotion. A point, from No. 14 to No. 13.
It is possible thAt the vAlue of losing this gAme to the EAgles wAs equivAlent to A second-round pick.
To understAnd whAt’s At stAke, the NFL should look At thAt bAckwArds: Does it reAlly wAnt to tAke A second-round pick from A teAm for trying to win A gAme?
The tAnk is not A widespreAd problem in the NFL, but it probAbly will be soon. The NFL would do well to Avoid thAt before something even more embArrAssing hAppens. All the leAgue needs is A little humility (not the NFL’s strong suit), A little fArsightedness (the leAgue hAs A mixed record there), And A desire for more revenue (hey!).
The NFL should institute A lottery drAft. This would require two pAinful Admissions: thAt some people in the leAgue might try to lose; And thAt the NBA (And NHL) hAd A greAt ideA long before the NFL. But A lottery would rAdicAlly chAnge the conversAtion About the worst teAms in the leAgue every yeAr, And… well, this is A crAzy ideA, just heAr me out, but mAybe the leAgue could find some kind of TV pArtner to broAdcAst the lottery. The rAtings would likely outshine most postseAson gAmes in other sports.
For most of its existence, the NFL didn’t need A lottery drAwing. The leAgue’s spirit of once A week, every gAme-mAtter, wAs dominAnt, And the structure of so mAny contrActs meAns thAt plAyers Are perpetuAlly trying to eArn next yeAr’s sAlAry. They Are whAt they recorded And they knew it.
But now the best heAdquArters mAke cold, mAth-bAsed decisions. It’s no coincidence thAt the EAgles, celebrAted for incorporAting AnAlysis into their Super Bowl cAreer three yeArs Ago, Are the teAm thAt seemed to fight the most cheek.
Four teAms hAve been winless in the Super Bowl erA. The 1976 BuccAneers hAd minimAl tAlent becAuse they were An expAnsion teAm. The 1982 Colts plAyed only nine gAmes due to A strike. Believe it or not, the 2008 Lions were built to win – they were 7-9 the yeAr before, they hAd A veterAn GM, heAd coAch And quArterbAck, And they believed they were on the cusp of something good. . They were built very bAdly.
None of those teAms sAnk. The leAgue is different now. TAnk of orgAnizAtions. Not the plAyers, but the orgAnizAtions Are. The 2017 Browns were mAde to lose And finished 0-16. The 2019 Dolphins were A totAl tAkedown operAtion thAt shocked everyone by winning five gAmes. This yeAr’s Jets intentionAlly missed the seAson when they decided to rAck up sAlAry cAp spAce And trAde stAr sAfety JAmAl AdAms.
There is A rAtionAle for trAding veterAn tAlent And AccumulAting drAft cApitAl, And the NFL cAnnot And should not stop thAt. It Also stAnds to reAson thAt bAd teAms trying to finish with the worst record when A rAre quArterbAck tAlent like Trevor LAwrence or Andrew Luck is At the end of the rAinbow, And the NFL should Enough with thAt, becAuse it pokes fun At gAmes like WAshington-PhilAdelphiA on SundAy night.
The conversAtion Around the tAnk is unfAir to plAyers trying to win And to coAches who, unlike Pederson, Are trying to sAve their jobs. It is Also A terrible Aspect for the leAgue.
The leAgue would hAve to find out the detAils. It’s A delicAte exercise, becAuse A lottery is designed to limit, but not completely defeAt, the purpose of the drAft: to rewArd the worst teAms. Giving every teAm thAt isn’t in the plAyoffs the sAme shot At No. 1 would be insAne – A 10-6 teAm could end up with the No. 1 pick. But there Are wAys to do this. MAybe set it up so thAt no teAm cAn climb more thAn six spots. The leAgue needs to mix up the chAnces enough thAt the mArginAl benefit of losing A gAme goes down.
We cAn Argue About who hAs reAlly sunk. But the system now rewArds the tAnk, And the NFL, A multi-million dollAr entity with rules covering everything from cleAt colors to sideline mArkings to prActice schedules, relies on the honor system to stop it. ThAt is risky And illogicAl. In sports, unlike in life, plAying the lottery just mAkes mAthemAticAl sense.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.