I remember when I used to root for a team that was out of
playoff contention by week 7, but those days are gone. Fitzmagic.
Andrew Luck said he thinks “it’s stupid. Simply Put” that NFL teams would lose on purpose to draft him. Well, Andrew, I think it’s stupid that you passed on 30 million guaranteed to get an education that will prove meaningless. You’re already too famous to get a job based on merit. I hope you took out a huge insurance policy. Despite Luck's public opinion, "Suck for Luck" is the only way a hardworking American would approach this situation.
The NFL has a few socialist practices necessary to keep competitive balance. The system of central planning and redistribution of income includes a reverse order draft, sharing national revenue equally, and sharing parts of traditionally local revenue, like tickets sales and playoff revenue. You can’t put the most American of Americans in an exploitable situation and expect them not to exploit it. The bottom dwellers of the MLB know how to play the system, so why can't NFL teams do the same?
From the fan’s perspective, each season is Super Bowl or bust; only one city has a parade. Once the Bills can’t make the playoffs (week 8 in 2010), I start rooting for them to lose all of their games to get a better draft pick and hopefully be better the next year. The best case scenario is that they lose very close games to very good teams; it makes it easier to be optimistic next year. The players can get in on it too, and then just blame God for their poor performances. God, Stevie, whomever, thank you for Marcell Dareus.
People that don’t understand the concept of how losing could be beneficial (little kids just aren't quite able to understand it yet) argue that it’s not worthwhile to lose on purpose because it might not work out. Yes, it’s possible that Luck could be the next Ryan Leaf. It’s also possible that a pair of aces is outdrawn by 2-3 offsuit; you take your chances with aces against 2-3 offsuit because it has enormous expected value- it is profitable in the long run. There could be a 10% chance that Luck is a complete bust, but the very high probability that he is a franchise quarterback makes it worthwhile to lose to draft him.
As often as teams stick to the status quo of trying to win every game, doing everything you can within the rules to improve your situation could be the better move. Beyond losing for a better draft pick, if you do well enough in the regular season to lose on purpose to influence the playoff field, take advantage of it. It won’t always work out, and people will judge on results even though it was the right move. An 80% chance of winning your quarterfinal is more attractive than a 60% chance, but you look dumb if you lose on purpose and then lose like you’re expected to 20% of the time. Certainly, a 90% chance of Luck being the next Peyton Manning is more attractive than a 100% chance of Chad Henne being terrible. There is no jinx to choosing your destiny: Sweden’s ice hockey team lost on purpose in their last round robin game of the 2006 Olympics to play Switzerland in the next round. Do you know what happened to the team that suddenly got everything they always wanted? They lived happily ever after, with CDs made out of gold.