The NFL is reportedly considering persuading playoff-bound teams to play their starters by rewarding them with additional draft picks. Sounds good in the wake of last week's Colts abortion, but let's back the fuck up for a second.
This is less about the allure of going undefeated and more about competitive balance. According to Chris Mortensen, the competition committee will look into ways to prevent mediocre teams like the Jets from strolling into the playoffs by facing the Colts' and Bengals' reserves in the final two weeks of the season. The Steelers, Texans, Ravens and anyone else in the AFC who are getting screwed by quirks of the Jets' schedule have every reason to bitch. I have no problem with this.
But I do have a problem with rewarding teams for doing what they should by playing to win. Do we really need to give teams who have clinched byes and division titles extra draft picks? Isn't the whole point of the draft system to increase parity by giving the losing teams a better chance?
This could all be solved by, instead of rewarding coaches who play the game the right way, penalizing those that don't. Got a starter that's not listed on the injury report but still manages to sit for three quarters? Lose a draft pick.
But even that doesn't solve the real issue of teams that are trying to lose, rather than just rest up. Steve Spagnuolo says he's "praying and hoping" for a win, even though a loss guarantees the Rams Ndamukong Suh. Does anyone actually believe this?
Teams like the Rams, Lions, Buccaneers and Chiefs are angling for top draft picks, and they can improve their position only by losing. As it happens, only the Chiefs have a game with playoff implications. But every year someone gets a crucial late-season win because they're up against a team that benefits from losing.
So shouldn't we be disciplining those teams as well? Instead the league is talking only about rewarding the top teams, and penalizing no one. It's a start, but still ass-backward.