This begs the question: What would tanking have looked like? How do the Jets execute that?
Obstacles to NFL tanking
First off, the problem with pulling off the kind of tank some fans wanted is the 2020 Jets players and coaches clearly wanted no part of that. Even if a coach knows he is going to get fired, like former Jets head coach Adam Gase and most of his staff, no one wants that 0-16 albatross hanging around his neck in the history books and on his resume. And prideful players, including key rookie building blocks such as Mekhi Becton, Denzel Mims and Bryce Hall, desperately wanted to win some games. They were tired of busting their butts having nothing to show for it. Dinner tastes better after a win. The bumps and bruises don’t hurt as much.
“I know just being in the locker room (in Los Angeles) how much joy and excitement there was in these guys,” GM Joe Douglas said.
So if the players and coaches didn’t want to tank, could the man we just quoted, Douglas, have demanded it? Probably not. Based on the Jets’ old corporate structure, the head coach and assistant coaches didn’t work for him, so if they wanted to prepare the players to win games late in a bad season, he really couldn’t do anything about it. The GM picked the players and the coach coached the team. The GM wasn’t empowered to tell the coach how to coach his team or who to play. That was entirely up to the coach.
This brings us to the only man who could have demanded a tank: Christopher Johnson. A couple of fans we spoke to on the phone blamed Johnson for not giving a directive to his football operation to tank to get Lawrence.
“I wouldn’t want anybody in this building who doesn’t want to win every damn game,” Johnson said emphatically when asked why they didn’t tank. “The will to win is the heartbeat of the players that will take us back to the playoffs. You don’t want anybody in this building who wants to lose.”
Many fans wanted them to tank, but the Jets powers-that-be wanted no part of that.
How do you do this tank thing anyway?
OK, if a team wanted to tank in the NFL, how would it do it?
Clearly, teams in the NBA have tanked, such as the Philadelphia 76ers. Remember, they went by the mantra, “Trust the process,” during a string of losing seasons that helped them load up on high picks for an eventual turnaround. But it’s a lot easier to tank in the NBA because there are fewer players and fewer moving parts. So in the NBA, if a team wants to tank, it can trade away a couple of its top players and go with a bunch of young players and journeymen.
However, if a team wanted to tank in the NFL, what might the plan look like? The best way to make it happen is probably with the QB decision, and we saw two teams late in the season perhaps guilty of QB funny business that impacted games — the Philadelphia Eagles and Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Eagles weren’t vying for the first pick in the draft, but they had a chance to move from the 9th to 6th pick in the first round of the 2021 draft with a Week 17 loss to the Washington Football Team. The Eagles took QB Jalen Hurts out in the fourth quarter, for Nate Sudfeld, in a three-point game. It’s not that Hurts was playing great, but he’s very mobile, and the Eagles’ patchwork offensive line was having major issues with protection against the WFT’s talented front four. Sudfeld doesn’t have Hurts’ mobility and elusiveness. It’s not even close. So think about this: The Eagles, who couldn’t pass protect, took out a guy who could get away from the rush with his feet, and replaced him with a sitting duck. How does that make any sense, unless you were trying to lose the game?
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