The NFL’s Tanking Nightmare

Kevin Clark, THE RINGER

The NFL’s competitive balance has always been a delicate thing. It’s supposed to be governed by this vaguely noble code of competition that says the players, since they have little money guaranteed to them, will give all they can on every snap. With everyone always going at full speed, the thinking goes, there’s no room for the tanking tactics of the NBA or other leagues. It’s why football history is littered with teams who inexplicably won in December to screw their draft pick for the following year. The famous Nate Poole catch that knocked the Minnesota Vikings out of the playoffs on the team’s last play of the 2003 season also cost the Arizona Cardinals the top pick in the draft and the rights to a quarterback named Eli Manning.

As recently as December 2011 — in a Sports Illustrated article about presumptive no. 1 pick Andrew Luck — then–Colts vice chariman Bill Polian said the idea of late-season tanking never crossed his mind.”I am proud to be part of an organization and part of a league where players and coaches give 100 percent effort in every game,’’ Polian told SI. “Maybe that’s why we’re such a popular sport.’’ To be fair, Peyton Manning’s bum neck took care of all the tanking for Polian.

Six years later, and a former general manager is saying the exact opposite — that...

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