Sunday, January 3, 2010

So how does the NFL get those #1 seeds to keep trying in Week 16 and 17?

Following up on my earlier piece on the NFL combating top seeds that quit on games... now Deadspin notes that the NFL may try to carrot top teams into playing competitively the final weeks by rewarding them with draft picks for doing so.

Wow, that's opening a can of moldy worms if I've ever seen one. Give a top team picks in a draft designed to improve lesser teams and level the playing field. Nothing levels the playing field like giving more top college talent to the best teams, Roger Goodell. Great idea, genius.

Barry Petchesky's idea to revoke draft picks for quitting on games sounds appealing, but really... if a team is good enough to clinch a top seed, they probably don't need that 3rd or 5th round draft pick, maybe not even their 1st round pick (since it'll likely be a 28th-32nd pick, good to pick up a useful role-player but nothing that will break you if you lose it).

I think the best option is to dock a team that pulls their starters with a heavy fine, something in the neighborhood of $1 million to $2 million. If that's not enough to deter teams (but really, with $50-60 million payrolls stretched to the limit with big salaries, it should), make the fine bigger until it does.

If taking that much money makes your moral sphincter clench... then just take that much money off their salary cap next season instead. They'll have to meet a payroll limit that's $1-2 million lower than everyone else's if they need to rest their starters.

Oh, that's right. The NFLPA's looking into revoking the salary cap in the next couple seasons when their deal with the NFL expires.

So then... just get over your morally capitalist hangups and just fine any team that pulls its starters during any competitive game (i.e. any game that a team is leading by fewer than two scores), or before the 4th quarter (remember that the Colts pulled their starters midway through the 3rd), in the final two weeks. That's the best way to coerce compliance.

As for teams looking to keep their starters out of harm's way (the real reason teams "rest" their starters), just run a conservative ball-control offense centered around runs and quick passes, rotate your non-QB starters in and out of the game to keep them fresh and minimize injury chances while keeping them involved, and work the clock as much as you can. That'll ensure fewer plays run in the game, meaning fewer chances for your players to get hurt, and running plays with quick pass plays will minimize the chances for your QB to get hit and/or injured.

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