Let’s make one thing abundantly clear: coaches and players in any professional sport do not tank seasons.
Even in the NBA, where the Philadelphia 76ers just went through the most extensive tanking operation in professional sports history.
The Sixers’ overt attempts to add generational talent by manipulating the system in the form of losing in historical fashion was the work of now-deposed general manager Sam Hinkie, who essentially spent his entire tenure in the City of Brotherly Love jettisoning any credible basketball talent which would affect the organization’s efforts in the annual NBA Draft lottery.
By the time “the process” ended, a half-decade in one of the best basketball cities in the country was wiped away while the organization collected some great prospects in Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz, while also missing on some other hopefuls in Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel.
Through it all though, however, coach Brett Brown and a rag-tag bunch, better suited for the newly-dubbed G-League than the NBA, went out and gave it their all every night.
Tanking is always a front office thing, not a locker room thing.
Where the line gets a little gray, however, is what the impact of losing can do to the psyche of the players enduring a toxic culture contrary to the very fabric of sport.
Using the Sixers as an example, who knows what Noel may have turned into if his infant years in the NBA were spent with the gold standard in San Antonio, vs. an organization assuming the natural talent would kick in once the switch was flipped and the tanking stopped.
You’ve yet to see a multi-year tank in the NFL.
Although some organizations have certainly had extended losing periods, they certainly weren’t by design. On occasion, though, you do see the one-year tank, whether it’s due to injury (like in Indianapolis, when Peyton Manning was down with multiple neck surgeries and Jim Irsay saw Andrew Luck on the horizon), or a lack of talent, where 1-15 Cleveland was last season when Paul DePodesta and Sashi Brown decided to implement the NBA- or MLB-inspired tank.
The New York Jets are in the same position as Cleveland was a year ago entering the 2017 season, all the way down to overmatched veteran quarterback in Josh McCown vying for the starting position.
And everyone sees it, even the players in the locker room.
“It’s hard to argue [with] that,” receiver Quincy Enunwa told the New York Post when asked about the perception that New York is indeed tanking.
Jets general manager Mike Mccagnan has rid himself of just about every veteran contract he could, including franchise stalwarts Nick Mangold, David Harris and Darrelle Revis, as well as receivers Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker.
“Everybody else sees all the stuff that’s going on,” Enunwa ominously said before pivoting back toward the competitiveness that defines every professional athlete.
No matter how many hurdles executives like Hinkie and Maccagnan place in front of them, players like Enunwa and his teammates will try to clear them.
“I don’t think any player is going to tank,” Enunwa said. “Our jobs are on the line. Our families [depend on us]. We’re out there to work and get our paycheck and win games.”
Executive tank; the coaches and their players just make do.
-John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
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