According to the NFL, teams in the league do not tank. They do allow cash incentives to coaches who accumulate more draft picks. They do allow the release of veteran players en masse. They do allow oddly timed benchings, the hiring of television analysts to become head coaches in season and other methods that seem, in the moment, to make teams worse in efforts to eventually make them better.
And so, when there is a generational quarterback prospect on the horizon, there are teams that should certainly consider tan—err … doing whatever it is that makes the roster bad enough to put it in position to grab one of those quarterbacks. If the NFL isn’t going to punish the Browns, it certainly isn’t going to punish anyone else.
Make no mistake, I think tanking is an abhorrent deal. Teams that do it are putting player health and wellness on the line for a year or more, just so they can be better at a time when many of those players won’t be around. Think about people on the post–Deshaun Watson Texans roster. Some rookie contracts will expire by the time that team is good enough to make the playoffs. Teams are sacrificing the careers of players, who are less likely to be able to showcase good film when surrounded by non-professional-level talent. This doesn’t even begin to tap into the legitimate safety concerns, when a player dependent on someone else doing their job cannot, with any degree of confidence, expect that to happen.
All that being said, this will continue to happen, barring what my colleague Michael Rosenberg advocated for last week: a draft lottery. And we are exactly one year away from a situation in which it may again become a relevant discussion. Not long ago, current Broncos coach Sean Payton said that USC quarterback Caleb Williams is so good that teams will tank for him, and brought up two specific instances of tanking that he was aware of. Williams is truly special; he has the kind of talent that could bulldoze through the absurd smokescreen season we are currently sifting through with four very good quarterbacks at the top of the 2023 class.
So while I’m against tanking, given the fact that it currently happens, here are five teams that should consider going that route in 2023.