I went off on a brief tirade with a friend of mine recently when he explained the presumed (though popular) battle cry of an already eliminated team. "What do you care what happens to the 'Skins, you're just playing for draft picks at this point?"
I usually don't give this kind of opinion much consideration and, at the time, proceeded to scream like Herman Edwards -- YOU PLAY TO WIN THE GAME. (Hogs Haven note: Herman Edwards wasn't farting around either. Less than a week after loudly ratiocinating on why games are played, Edwards' NYJets destroyed San Diego 44-13 and would win 7 of their last 9 on their way to winning the AFC East. In the first round, the Jets sent the Colts packing 41-0.)
A sound rebuttal to the "season is over so let's lose" philosophy requires a fair analysis of that position. The ultimate goal in any season is to win the Superbowl, and that pursuit is effectively dashed for some teams earlier than others. For those happy few who make the postseason, only the final game of one's season can officially end it. For the majority of us, our SuperBowl hopes are violated at some point before Week 17.
As one's final record determines draft position (for most team's anyways, ours might be determined by Denver given our ludicrous TJ Duckett trade could still result in a 1st round draft pick swap) there is some utility in losing games after the SuperBowl is out of sight. Thus, so reason some fans as well as my friend, tis best to lose games to get a better draft pick the following year.
Official Hogs Haven response to that approach is BOLLOCKS. Games are played to be won and there are still moral victories to be gained. For instance, did you know that the St. Louis Rams could still make the playoffs? Sure, if all of the following happen:
Minnesota, Carolina, San Fransisco, and Green Bay all lose one more game and Atlanta and the Giants both lose out. Of course the Rams have to win out. A Redskins victory on Christmas Eve would mathematically eliminate the St. Louis Rams from the playoffs. I'm a big fan of winning out of spite, and nothing could be more spiteful than dragging some other poor team down with you.
But, says the loser (in this instance meaning the person who adheres to a philosophy of encouraging losses), a win against the Rams would move them ahead of us on the draft board. Here is why draft position gets trumped:
- Spite (see above) rules.
- In the absence of 1 (if we were playing the Oakland Raiders, for instance), winning is a skill best developed through habit.
- Team chemistry is boosted late in the season that can carry into the new season. Consider the Jason Campbell experiment this year; getting him quality game time (which includes throwing to our starting receivers while attempting to win) will help us win next season.
- Teams that habitually take dives are more likely to do so at inopportune moments (say, at 5-6 when only 5 consecutive wins will sneak you into the playoffs).
- Side effects of rooting against your own team is emotional distress, fair weather thumb, and severe bleeding. From your ass.