Tanking…It’s Not Going to Please Everyone, and That’s Alright.
A team with nothing to play for enters it’s last game of the season knowing that it needs to improve and do better next year. Throughout the season we hear about how the ‘Next Big Thing’ is coming to the NFL in the upcoming Draft, that player who will turn around a franchise’s fortunes and end the lean, unsuccessful years endured by a team. It is this kind of hope that perennial under-performers and their fans survive on (looking your way Browns and Jets fans).
The problem with this is that in order to have a shot at those players you likely need at least a Top 10, if not Top 5 pick in said Draft. The drop off from ‘game changer’ to ‘has a strong chance to improve a team’ is a large one and there are very few players outside of the Top 10 from a Draft who, alone, can turn around a franchise. Even some players taken that highly are not going to succeed at the next level but they have a much better chance to do so than most.
I mean, there will always be the Russell Wilsons, Dak Prescotts and Tom Bradys of the world but they are rarer than rocking horse shit in all honesty, players outside of the Top 10, or even Round 1, who will go on to become superstars in the NFL when there was no expectation of them achieving that level of success or anything even approaching it. For every one of the aforementioned you have a multitude of Blake Bortles, Matt Leinarts, Paxton Lynchs and Brandon Weedens who will turn out to be bang average, or far worse, and I haven’t even left the first round there and I have only stayed at the Quarterback position, it’s a simple point to understand, the Draft is quite often a lottery past the Top 10.
Building a successful franchise is a selfish undertaking and requires selfish decisions to be made ‘for the good of the franchise’, just see the how the players who become ‘cap casualties’ are treated year in year out. There is no time or place for sentimentality or outside considerations (other than perhaps trying to predict who is going to be released and planning for this). It is for this reason that I am amazed that there has been so much backlash at the Philadelphia Eagles following their final game of the season against the Washington Football Team.
For those of you who are unaware, or stuck under the rock you must be living under, in the final quarter of the game, one that had no bearing on the Eagles season, they decided to sit their starting Quarterback, Jalen Hurts, and let his back-up, Nate Sudfeld, take centre stage. It was a horrible move game-wise and Sudfeld looked awful and well out of his depth as the Eagles succumbed to their 11th loss of the season.
Following the game the Eagles players came out voicing their displeasure with the decision and upset they may have been, nobody likes to lose, especially when they are not even competitive. The truth is though, at this late stage of the season the game and the result wasn’t about them, it was about the future.
To say the game had nothing riding on it would be unfair, to say there was nothing riding on a win for the Eagles themselves would be better. At the time the Eagles gave up, if they ever truly cared from the start, the staff, coaches, players and fans of the New York Giants must have been ripping their hair out. All they needed was for the Eagles to beat a Washington team that was beatable and the Giants would be in the Playoffs, simple.
As the Eagles capitulated and the game ended with the Giants on the outside looking in at the post-season the internet lit up with individuals berating and abusing the Eagles for ‘tanking’, throwing the game away for the sake of a higher draft pick. As if the Eagles should feel bad for doing what they had to in order to get that higher Draft pick and the increased chance of drafting a superstar talent that comes with that.
It is ridiculous, I am calling it now, the majority of those who are angry with the Eagles organisation, including Giants fans, are hypocrites. Yes you can throw around accusations of the tactic not being in the spirit of the game but at the end of the day the Eagles franchise are doing what, long term, is likely to be better for their team. Had they beaten Washington then they would still have finished bottom of their division but would have occupied the 9th spot of the Draft rather than the 6th. It may not sound like much but in my eyes that is the difference between getting Ja’Marr Chase and not, and for what reason? To satisfy some armchair Football purists and fans of a team, in their own division, who have never given the Eagles any reason to feel any kind of warmth or good will towards them? It would be like expecting the Steelers or Ravens to do each other a favour purposefully, or for the Dolphins, Jets or Bills to do the same for the Patriots. It just is never going to happen, and nor would we expect it to.
I would be shocked if any fan who found their team in the same position, playing a meaningless Week 17 game, would not be more than happy for their team to do the same. I am not ashamed to say that I would be totally behind the Ravens losing their final game of a torrid season to get a better shot in the following draft, I remember the 5-11 season and the pick of Ronnie Stanley that followed, the rest, as they say, is history.
If the Giants wanted to get into the Playoffs then they should not have started the season so horribly, a team that starts 1-5 is never likely to then make the playoffs, and probably (barring some legitimate reason for the poor start such as injury to a major contributor) doesn’t deserve to, and it is their own fault that they did not. To their credit the Giants management have at least publicly come out and said this, Joe Judge understands and so do many of his players, Logan Ryan having come out today to say as much, I just wish that the average fan would as well.
Who Are The Karens Out There?
I get the feeling that those fans shouting and screaming are the same fans who do not like it when a team runs up a score over its opposition. Again you hear the “it’s just not sporting” argument. Fuck that, I have been a fan long enough to see my teams get hammered and do the hammering. If you cant take the rough with the smooth then don’t watch competitive sports, it’s as simple as that. It is just as enjoyable to watch your team score 50 points as it sucks to watch your team give up that many.
I stray slightly, to get back to my point, I will never have a problem with a franchise doing what it can to ensure that, long term, it has the best chance to be as strong as possible. Yes the Eagles gave up on live TV but let’s not kid ourselves, Jalen Hurts did not look like the Saviour of the team during the game as it was. He was struggling greatly, and I am not sure they would have gone on to win even if he had remained in the game. But why risk it? I tell you now, if the Eagles grab a game changer such as Ja’Marr Chase in the Draft because he was available at 6 and wouldn’t have been at 9 their fans will be calling the decision to throw week 17 a masterstroke and in all honesty all other NFL fans, outside of maybe the Giants, should be looking at it that way as well. It is the best remedy available to them for the awful season that they have had.
In the NFL nobody owes anyone any favours, I spent week 16 watching and hoping that the Steelers would do the Ravens a favour and beat the Colts as it seemed the most likely way that the Ravens made the playoffs. That hope was never founded in any reality that all of a sudden a division rival was going to try it’s hardest for their biggest foe. It is the reality of sports, if you want to call it that, that no team will ever do anything selfless for another team, any decision made is for the good of themselves and nothing more and it shouldn’t ever be any different.
It is also worth noting, angry Giants fans, that the Eagles have also done you a favour. Rather than going one and done in the Playoffs and having the 19th pick you get a week more of stress free football viewing and a Draft spot 8 places higher, you’re welcome.
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