The injuries are accumulating at a record pace and the losses are becoming more frustrating with each passing week, the San Diego Chargers have very little to play for except for pride.
A quiet sentiment is growing in town that the franchise should purposely “tank” the remainder of the regular season to enhance their draft position in next spring’s NFL Draft.
There, I wrote the forbidden word in all of professional sports: tank, which by definition is when a team purposely loses games on their regular season schedule. Usually this term is associated with the NBA, as franchises trade away valued pieces on their roster to secure cap space for the next offseason. All with the hope to obtain as many ping pong balls as possible for the upcoming draft lottery.
The argument for playing the remainder of the regular season in this manner is that a team has been mathematically eliminated from postseason competition, so why risk lowering your draft position by winning meaningless games. Acquiring a top-five pick is coveted by all NFL franchises, as this is the best position in the draft to select a coveted playmaker each year.
You feel the frustration of the Chargers fan base, which is fed up with suffering through another losing campaign with this current group, as they rarely have played up to their potential for an entire season. The die-hard fans want some hope that team’s fortune will change for the better, and gaining the No. 1 overall pick will achieve that goal. They just don’t want the Chargers to risk their chance to select a bonafide superstar by playing to win each week.
The other side of the argument is that team management is gambling by allowing a losing mentality to creep inside their lockerrom. Players that show no emotion or effort on Sundays often get their coaches fired on Monday. You cannot encourage a lockerroom to tank games in order to better position yourself in the coming draft. Why? Well, the majority of roster won’t be around the following season.
Tanking only works in the guaranteed contract world of the NBA, the NFL only guarantees money from one to two years at the most. Players treat each game like it will be their last. They fully understand their performance on gameday dictates whether or not they’re employed the following week. The thought of tanking isn’t in a professional football player’s DNA because it will cost them at the bargaining table. If a general manager feels a running back would rather step out of bounds instead of running through a defender for an extra yard that will lower the guaranteed money offered in the offseason. It’s highly unlikely that NFL players would tank games because that would be messing with their money in the long run.
Sport fans will always have an opinion on the current state of their teams, but the thought of them tanking games is purely a myth. Organizations manage, coach and play to the best of their ability and let the chips fall where ever they may afterwards.
In some respects, the Chargers front office could be positioning themselves for a bright, more promising future…in Los Angeles.