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The Truth About Tanking

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

With their victory on Thursday night over the Washington Redskins, the Minnesota Vikings may have effectively removed themselves from the race for the #1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. With both the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers both winless to this point in the season, the Vikings are now two games clear of both those teams. The Vikings now find themselves with the other two-win teams in the NFL, such as the Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants, Atlanta Falcons, and Houston Texans.

And you know what I say? Good. Fantastic. Out-freaking-standing, even.

The idea of "tanking" a season and the logic behind it, insomuch as you can call it "logic," is something that I find to be completely idiotic. It has never made any sense, it doesn't make any sense now, and it won't make any sense going forward. I'm sure that we've had this discussion before, and I was hoping that it would be a while before we'd have to have it again, but this is the situation we're in right now. Let me explain why the idea of "tanking" a season is stupid.

The first part of this is quite simple. . .you are not going to get a group of professional athletes, led by professional coaches, to simply give up and stop attempting to win football games. That's not how it works. You're talking about a group of individuals that have excelled at this profession their entire lives, and then asking them to do something that goes completely against the way they've been programmed all these years. Think about this. . .every single college football player in America was a star in high school. Every single professional football player in America was a star in college. They've built their entire lives around being the best of the best at what they do. And you really think they're going to be receptive to someone saying, "Yeah, you know, if you could just go out there and maybe not try as hard in this game, that would be pretty awesome. We're playing for draft position, you know." Yeah. . .I have my doubts.

Take a guy like Jared Allen. Jared Allen is in the last year of his contract. He's auditioning for pretty much every team in the NFL for the rest of this season, and the likelihood of him being back in Minnesota next year is pretty slim. I can assure you, Jared Allen doesn't give one-tenth of one crap where the Minnesota Vikings are going to be selecting in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Neither does Kevin Williams, for that matter. Neither does anyone else that puts on that purple and gold uniform and takes that field every week. The players are going to continue playing hard, whatever their motivation might be, whether it's pride or their next contract or whatever else.

So you might say, "Well, can't the coaches try to keep the team from winning?" Same idea. We've been over the status of Leslie Frazier and his coordinators. Certainly a lot of us think that the team needs to go in a different direction on that front and really don't care about Leslie Frazier's employment status after December 29. You know who does care about Leslier Frazier's employment status after December 29? Leslie Frazier cares about Leslie Frazier's employment status after December 29. If the Vikings do fire him, do you suppose he wants to go into interviews and have guys say to him, "Hey, you were that guy that spent last year trying to lose football games, right? How'd that work out for you?" Yeah, I'm pretty sure that he would not. So, Leslie Frazier and company not going to coach to lose.

If you think there's any such thing as "tanking," then you've probably seen Major League one too many times. (And hey, even the Cleveland Indians in that movie weren't trying to lose. They were just bad.) And don't give me the 2011 Indianapolis Colts and the whole "Suck for Luck" thing, either. The 2011 Colts lost Peyton Manning, the guy that might be the greatest quarterback in the history of the game (and, for my money, is just that). The guy was the de facto offensive coordinator on that team for years, practically called plays and audibles in his sleep, and basically transcended the whole Colts' scheme.

It turns out that when you lose a guy like that and replace him with guys like Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky, there's a slight drop-off. Weird, huh?

But they still weren't "tanking." The 2011 Colts were competitive in plenty of games. . .they were just a bad football team. Much like the 2011 Vikings and 2011 St. Louis Rams were bad football teams. Much like the 2013 Jaguars, Buccaneers, and Vikings are bad football teams. There's a difference between a team that's "tanking" and a team that simply isn't very good.

And speaking of not being very good, that brings us to the second part of the equation that explains why "tanking" is non-sensical. Who on earth would this team be "tanking" for?

Yes, I understand that the consensus is that the Vikings would be looking for a quarterback. Believe me, I've heard all the Teddy Bridgewater blah blah Marcus Mariota yadda yadda Johnny Manziel blah blah Tajh Boyd yadda yadda and whoever else. But, as Ted touched on in his Stock Market Report, who's the Andrew Luck-esque "lock" out of those guys to be the next big thing? As far as I can tell, there isn't a "sure thing" in the bunch. Quite frankly, nobody in the draft is a "sure thing." There never has been. Seriously, do you realize that there were San Diego Chargers fans back in 1998 that thought that their team got the better half of the Peyton Manning/Ryan Leaf derby? Or that there were Oakland Raiders fans in 2007 that were psyched about the idea of drafting JaMarcus Russell? Because there were.

We've heard all the hype about how the quarterback class of 2014 is shaping up to be a very strong one, and as I've said, this team probably needs to go in a different direction at quarterback. Is there anyone worth "tanking" a season for? Not that I see. And if you do "tank" for a guy, what if he comes in and ends up being more Todd Blackledge than John Elway? Well, then, you cry about it and scream for him to get benched and hope that your team "tanks" for the next alleged big thing, I guess. Then again, we treat all our quarterbacks that way in Minnesota, with the crying and the screaming for them to be benched and all. . .maybe my perspective is just tainted.

The point is that, when it comes to the NFL Draft, you have just as good a chance of getting the next Aaron Rodgers (taken #24 overall) or the next Dan Marino (taken #27 overall) as you do of getting the next JaMarcus Russell, Ryan Leaf, or Brady Quinn. If the Vikings are dead-set on taking a quarterback in the first round this year, their odds of getting a good one are basically the same with the first or second pick as they are with the fifth pick or the seventh pick or the tenth pick or wherever else they end up selecting. Their chance of selecting a complete flop with any of those picks? Just as good. I certainly hope that, if a new quarterback does come in here next season, that they'll be under the tutelage of someone not named Bill Musgrave, but that's a separate topic.

But for all of you folks that think the Minnesota Vikings are going to "tank," I really hope that this evening was a rather rude awakening for you. The Minnesota Vikings got a victory tonight that they weren't expected to get, and it was freaking awesome. And do you know why it was freaking awesome? Because a Minnesota Vikings win is better than a Minnesota Vikings loss. Every. Damn. Time. And they got that win because, even when it looked like they were on the verge of getting blown out and fielding a roster that only had 44 healthy players (as opposed to the usual complement of 46), they pulled it together and beat a team that still has. . .or, at least, had. . .post-season aspirations. I'm happy with that. Lots of Vikings fans are happy with that. If you're not. . .well, that's a you problem, not a me problem.

The 2014 NFL Draft will sort it self out. . .for now, there are only seven games remaining in the 2013 Minnesota Vikings season, and I'm going to be over here hoping that my favorite team spends them winning rather than losing.