The NFL has changed.
What was once a league run by-the-book of old men is now becoming modernized. With the success of young masterminds such as Sean McVay and Matt Nagy, the NFL is finally adopting an analytics-driven approach to play the game at a higher level.
And the next step these franchises need to take is the long-term view of Trusting the Process, aka tanking, like the NBA does.
The NBA always secretly tanked by resting players who were “injured” late in the season for top prospects, but it was then-Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie who fully accepted the notion of sucking to then gather as many assets and elite talent as possible.
NFL franchises have yet to accept this practice completely, but they need to.
Take the San Francisco 49ers, for example.
In Week 15, the Niners upset the Seahawks in a meaningless December game to lose the coveted No. 1 pick.
While it’s always great to beat a rival team, sure, the victory hurt them more than it helped.
The Niners’ two-game winning streak dropped them to the No. 4 pick. And they lost out on a chance to select Nick Bosa, the most-coveted pass rusher in the upcoming NFL draft.
Sadly, the 49ers should have learned from their mistake two years prior.
In another meaningless game in 2016, the 49ers defeated the Rams to lose the top pick and the chance to take Myles Garrett, one of the best pass-rushing prospects in recent memory. San Francisco, at No. 2, then traded back and took Solomon Thomas at No. 3, a player who has disappointed in his short career.
Many Niners fans might think that winning any game is good, and I can’t blame them. But a lot of the players on the 49ers’ 53-man roster won’t be returning. This win only diminishes their assets (draft picks). Would you rather have that win against the Rams in 2016 or a career of Myles Garrett?
The Jets also paid the price for winning in 2017.
In Week 13, the J-E-T-S beat the playoff-bound Chiefs in what was a big upset, but it dropped New York to the sixth pick. And with a huge need at QB, the Jets were forced to pay a heavy price — three second-rounders — to move up to the third spot to draft Sam Darnold.
Of course, no coach or player is going to quit and not try to win the game. That makes no sense. But the franchises front offices’ need to step up and make sure that they have the long-term vision and maximize their assets by losing.
With the rise of young coaches, analytics and forward-thinking in NFL front offices, we might eventually see a GM who adopts Hinkie’s mindset and revolutionizes the NFL off the field.