In a couple threads here and elsewhere in the media I have seen comments from people scoffing at the idea that the Dolphins/Ross would give up on the season and start tanking/sucking for Luck.
I think the problem here is partly semantic.
No, the Dolphins absolutely won't tank or lose on purpose. No way. They would be, among other things, in serious trouble with the league.
BUT, there is a world of difference between "tanking" and "playing for the future." And I think this is where the semantics come in. Because some people use the terms interchangeably.
In my opinion tanking would be offensive AND doing things that sacrifice the future in order to win now would be stupid.So let's not be offensive or stupid.For examples of what I mean, let's look at baseball, where, because of the 162 game season, this comes up a lot.
Teams don't tank, but when it is clear that their season is going nowhere, smart teams will do things like:
1. shut down top players (particularly pitchers) who have nagging injuries they might otherwise play through, if the playoffs were on the line. This is just common sense - why not let these guys get completely healthy before next season. Another example that comes up from time to time: If your QB needs a surgery that has a eight month recovery time, why wait until January to have it done if you are already eliminated from the playoffs?
2. Play the rookies a lot. Again, if just makes sense. Play the young guys and you get to a) see what they've got in real game situations, and b) get them real game experience so they are better for next year.
3. Experiment with line-ups and strategy. It's the perfect time to see if that 2nd basemen can play short, or your RG can play RT, etc. Want to see if your young corners can play man to man better than zone? Give it a shot. Or maybe run an entire quarter in the hurry-up offense to become proficient at it. The possibilities are endless.
These things, don't intelligently, can make a huge difference for a team that is rebuilding or on the cusp of playoff
Now, let me very clear, because I don't mind people disagreeing with me, but I really don't want my points to be twisted or misconstrued:
1. Within the parameters of the "playing for the future" philosophy the players, the coaches, everyone, will do everything they can to win on the field. They will game plan just as hard, practice just as hard, and play just as hard. They will want to win just as badly as they would otherwise.
2. The goal of "playing for the future" is not to get better draft picks. The goal is not to lose as many games as you can. The goal is be aware that you are not making the playoffs this year and use the rest of the season as preparation for next season. (In fact, sometimes "playing for the future" will result in more wins. You see this quite often in baseball, where teams stop playing marginal veterans every day and give kids who might not otherwise ever get a chance an opportunity to shine. )
The bottom line is that when a team has 0% chance of making the playoffs there is a huge opportunity that better teams don't get. Passing up to chance to get multiple real games to evaluate your roster, try new things, season your rookies,etc. would be, in my opinion, criminally stupid. And NOT playing for the future is the kind of thing that keeps mediocre teams mediocre year after year after year.
Modern NFL teams have strictly limited opportunities for practice and self-improvement. Off-season sessions are timed to the minute, and preseason is never adequate to get a thorough look at all your players.Backup quarterbacks never get enough reps, for example.
Having a chance to have real games and real practices to make your team better is a GIFT. If it comes to that in the weeks ahead, don't judge it, just accept it. Hell, get excited about it!
In baseball I absolutely love watching the games after my team finally accepts that they are eliminated from the playoffs. I love watching the rookie call-ups and getting excited for the future. The same will be true of Dolphins games if they play for the future.
Conversely, if they don't... if they keep doing the same thing over and over trying to be 7-9 instead of 4-12, then the games will be miserable and meaningless to watch.
So let's turn this season around right now... but if we don't, then let's start playing for the future in Miami!