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Hill: Raiders’ draft predicament again shows value of tanking

Updated March 31, 2024 - 12:26 pm

Perhaps now, far away from the emotions of the season, is the right time to have a conversation about a hot-button issue in sports that really shouldn’t be controversial at all.

Tanking.

With the NFL draft approaching and so much talk about how much future capital it would take for the Raiders to trade up to acquire the quarterback they want, it’s a discussion that people should at least be more open to.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. The Raiders aren’t the perfect case study for such a debate.

They were playing for an interim coach and believed if they won enough games, they could earn Antonio Pierce the full-time job. And they did.

Pierce also doesn’t come across as the type of coach who would ever tolerate anything less than completely selling out for a victory every time he steps on a field with his team.

Give back Denver win?

It’s tough to ask players and coaches to give less than a hundred percent anyway. The concept of tanking has to be an organizational decision and one that has to be fully embraced.

Again, the Raiders from last season are not the best example because Pierce was being evaluated right to the end. In order to “tank,” the organization would have had to inform Pierce that he had earned the full-time job and then collectively make the decision to shut down some of the team’s stars.

Good luck convincing Maxx Crosby to sit out a game, but he did have some work he needed to have done after the season.

Pierce’s inspiration also kept the Raiders in the playoff race until the second-to-last game of the season, so it didn’t make any sense to begin the process until that goal was gone.

But remember all the joy and celebration from the final win of the season over the Broncos? It made all the sense in the world for the players and coaches to be thrilled with the accomplishment.

The fans, however? Some of the same people who were jumping for joy in the stadium and posting in exuberance on social media are now lamenting how the Raiders won’t be able to move up far enough in the draft to select their preferred quarterback who they believe could help bring the franchise years of success.

You know what would have helped greatly in the organization’s quest to move up into the top three? Losing a couple of extra games last year or even just losing that last game against Denver.

Just changing the outcome of that final game would have moved the Raiders up to the 10th spot and put them in a much more favorable position from a bargaining standpoint.

A couple more losses? Well, you get the idea.

Not to mention the fact the Raiders will be picking behind the Broncos, which would not have been the case with a different result in that final game.

There are far better examples of teams over the years that were in positions much more conducive to committing to the future by tanking, but the Raiders are the local team and are now dealing with the consequences of winning a meaningless game.

Shouldn’t be controversial

This is all to make the point that thinking about the future is not a bad thing in professional sports. And please spare me the pearl-clutching over the concept of tanking being anti-competitive.

What could be more in the spirit of competition than doing everything that can possibly be done to make your team better for years to come?

Is your goal as an organization to win even the most meaningless game or to put your team in a position to win championships?

That seems like a fairly easy question to answer.

Why do some people want to make it so controversial?

Now, not fielding competitive teams for multiple seasons and showing little ambition to ever improve the organization’s lot in life? That’s a debate for another day and one that our sports community could soon inherit.

Let’s table that discussion for now.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on X.

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