Tanking and resulting criticism are on the rise
Tanking. The word carries with it much controversy. Some view it as taboo, a despicable strategy that should not even be spoken of out loud, while others view it as the new “normal” in attempting to cobble together a championship roster. Tanking is the art of intentionally building a team of below-average, usually young, players in the hopes that a miserable season will land the team high draft picks in the next season’s amateur draft.
The benefits of tanking are evident now, as seen by the successes of the Houston Astros in Major League Baseball and the resurgence of the Philadelphia 76ers in the National Basketball Association. Both clubs were among the worst in their respective leagues for years, but as the losses piled up, so did the impressive young talent they collected. The Astros are now one of the title contenders in the MLB playoffs, while the 76ers have one of the most remarkable young rosters the NBA has seen in quite some time.
Of course, the underbelly of tanking is not pretty. Years of losing can irk even the most patient fan base. The anguish of watching your team lose game after game, coupled with the fact that management is actively trying to prevent the squad from getting better, eats away at your passion and enthusiasm. At a broader level, critics of tanking bemoan the thought of decreased competition in a sport. There is something seemingly wrong about some teams consciously attempting to lose, while there are paying fans hoping to watch what is supposed to be the highest level of competition in the world.
With all this in mind, the 2017 National Football League season has been a confusing one for me. As a New York Jets fan, there was little doubt about what the upper brass of Jets management had in mind for this year’s campaign: a full-on tank. The team got rid of almost all of its well-known and veteran players, such as receivers Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, linebacker David Harris and lineman Nick Mangold. These moves, and few subsequent transactions meant to adequately replace the departing athletes, demonstrated that the Jets were on a path to a high draft pick.
Additionally, this coming year’s NFL draft class is stocked with talented quarterbacks who are believed to possess the ability to change the direction of an entire franchise. The Jets have arguably not had such a QB since Joe Namath almost 50 years ago, and thus the thinking behind the plan seemed sound. However, there has been a setback in the strategy; the Jets are not that bad. Somehow, the team has survived to the tune of a 3-2 record, even tied with the New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills for second place in their division. Thus begins the dilemma that I face as a fan.
Before the year began I was fully on board with the plan to lose as much as possible in order to secure one of the darling young arms from this year’s draft. However, things are looking bleak for that idea to come to fruition. While the Jets still do have a poor roster and possess the ability to lose many games and secure a high draft pick, it seems very unlikely that they will be bad enough to be in a position to draft a top quarterback. Adding to this is the fact that there are still three teams yet to win a game, and some such as the Cleveland Browns and San Francisco 49ers do not seem like they have a chance at winning even one.
This season has certainly been a confusing one for the New York Jets. Tanking seemed to be the obvious option for the struggling squad, but that now seems to be out of the picture. No one expected the Jets to be tied with the Patriots through the fifth week of the season and no one should expect that to hold up. However, the Jets still seem far from the bottom.
At this point, it is time to accept that the Jets cannot even tank properly. It seems that the tank is not to be for this team and I’m changing my tune; I’m excited to see the Jets just miss out on the playoffs once again.