Got a Tanking Problem? Throw Money At It

Last Monday, Martin Frank, respected sportswriter for the Delaware News Journal, accused some of the Eagles players of tanking games — or at the absolute least, of dogging it.

Among the players who Frank called out directly were offensive tackle Jason Peters and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery — and at least indirectly, head coach Doug Pederson, whom Frank tacitly accused of nonchalance over the prospect that some of his players had given up:

"But that's not even the most alarming part. Pederson summed that up himself, questioning for the first time during his tenure whether his team has given up.

'This will be a great sign to see really who's in and who's out,' Pederson said. 'That's the challenge to everybody. That's just where we are. It's a matter now of really challenging the leadership of the football team, challenging the coaches, challenging the guys to keep this thing together.'

It certainly seems like some players have checked out. And if that's the case, Pederson's future as head coach could ultimately be in question."

Frank had this to say about Peters: "The 38-year-old was beaten for three sacks Sunday, all by Olivier Vernon, including a safety late in the third quarter. Soon after, Peters left the game.

Pederson was asked if Peters was benched.

'No,' Pederson replied. 'He had kind of injured himself, so he came out.'"

Kind of injured himself?

Frank continued: "The Eagles never listed an injury for Peters during the game, who was replaced by Jordan Mailata. Vernon didn't have any more sacks.

Peters hasn't played anywhere near a starting caliber left tackle, let alone Hall of Fame caliber. He shouldn't be playing anymore. Yet Pederson said Peters will remain the starter at left tackle."

(It was reported on Friday that Peters has been moved to right guard, with Mailata taking over at left tackle.)

Then Frank uncorked his wrath on Jeffery:

"Then there's wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, who also shouldn't be playing anymore.

Pederson was asked Monday why Jeffery is still on the team, considering that he doesn't figure into the team's plan next season, and rookie John Hightower had just one snap on Sunday while Jeffery had five.

Pederson not only said that Jeffery 'is a part of the offense,' but added, 'we do have to get him in the game a little more.'

In two games, Jeffery doesn't have a catch.

With two minutes left, the Eagles faced a first-and-goal from the Browns' 7, trailing by 12 points.

Wentz's pass was high, but Jeffery jumped early. Like two people on a trampoline, Jeffery was on his way down and Browns cornerback Denzel Ward was on his way up.

Ward intercepted the pass, and that essentially ended any chance the Eagles had of coming back.

'I think he came out thinking one thing, and I just tried to give him a chance on that corner there,' Wentz said. 'Chemistry just wasn't there on that one. It's a bummer being down there, putting together that drive when we needed one, and ending that one in a pick.'"

It makes one wonder whether Doug Pederson, who may he believe that his three consecutive playoff appearances from 2017 through 2019, including, of course, the Lombardi Trophy he led the Eagles to in the first of those three seasons, makes him as untouchable as Eliot Ness, so that he is now for all intents and purposes tanking games by keeping players on the field who he knows can't play anymore, so that he can start the rebuilding process on which this team so obviously needs to embark with the third or fourth overall pick in the 2021 draft (the Bengals are unlikely to win another game this season either with Joe Burrow sidelined — hence the phrase "third or fourth").

This may also be why he adamantly refuses to bench quarterback Carson Wentz (whose passer rating is the second lowest among quarterbacks who have started at least eight games, and has also thrown 14 interceptions and been sacked 40 times, both league highs) and insert Jalen Hurts at quarterback.

In addition to joining the rest of the sports world and implementing a draft lottery system, the "flatter" the better — in the first two years of the NBA lottery's existence, every non-playoff team had an equal chance of landing the first pick, and every non-playoff team had an equal chance of landing the last pick among these teams — the NFL could create the same gigantic prize pool in which all of the league's teams receive descending shares based on order of finish, as is done in that other sport also called "football" on the other side of the proverbial pond — specifically, Britain's Premier League.

In the 2019-20 season, the team that finished first in that league (Liverpool) received 35.5 million pounds from the "Merit Pool" ($45,415,150, based on the closing exchange rate as of July 24, 2020, the day the awards were announced), while the team that finished last (Norwich City) received 1.8 million pounds (or $2,302,740).

Even if the NFL players were to be cut in to the tune of 10% of such a pool, the team with the best overall record in the league would still earn roughly $86,000 per man from the pool (based on 53 full shares for each team), with the players on the team with the worst overall record receiving about $2,700 per man (again, based on 53 full shares for each team, and the NFL having 32 teams vs. the Premier League's 20 — the point being that where the last-place team in the Premier League receives 1/20th of what the first-place team gets, in the NFL it would be 1/32nd).

The Premier League's total Merit Pool for the 2019-20 season was 373 million pounds, or approximately $477 million. Ten per cent of that is $47.7 million — petty cash for the NFL owners.

And with the players on the teams that make the playoffs continuing to receive the same shares that they are receiving now, round by round, meaning that the players on the Super Bowl LV championship team are slated to receive approximately $250,000 for the entire postseason (teams earning a first-round bye will also receive a wild card share for the first time ever this year), if that same team also had the best overall record in the league during the regular season, that's $336,000 all told.

Besides discouraging tanking, this would also discourage coaches from resting players en masse in situations where a team's final regular-season game cannot affect their playoff seeding, since there is likely to be at least one or two teams in the other conference that such a team will still have an incentive to finish ahead of — and also provide tangible incentive for teams in the middle, who may be eliminated from the playoffs going into their regular-season finale, but could nonetheless finish several spots higher from winning that game than from losing it.

What's wrong with keeping everybody honest?

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