Tomato, tomato. Tanking, reconstruction.
It is a distinction without a real difference. However, the NFL attempted, in its assessment of the investigation into the allegations made by former Browns coach Hue Jackson, to find that the team did not try to lose. However, the NFL did not specifically address whether the Browns were really trying to win by implementing what the franchise called a “4-year plan.”
PFT obtained a copy of the letter sent by Commissioner Roger Goodell to Browns owner Jimmy Haslam regarding the ruling that Jackson’s claims could not be substantiated.
In the letter, dated May 2, Goodell writes that the investigation “found no evidence that the Browns ‘crashed’ in the 2016-17 seasons, or that the Four Year Plan incentivized losses.”
Goodell explains that the “Four-Year Plan” was adopted after the Browns finished last in the AFC North in seven of the previous eight seasons and won more than five games only once during that same period.
“There was a general recognition that the team was not competitive and that a significant, multi-year rebuilding program was necessary for the Browns to compete in a division that included some strong rivals such as the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers,” Goodell writes. . “The Plan was initially developed by executives from the football department; Coach Jackson himself reviewed the plan and suggested changes to the Plan’s incentive compensation metrics, which were accepted. Subsequently, Coach Jackson agreed to all metrics in the Plan for the 2016-2019 seasons.”
Goodell then explains that the investigation found no evidence that the Browns “defeated” any games in 2016 or 2017, and that no one “in the property, the football department or the coaching staff encouraged losses or discouraged gains to improve the position.” of the club in the draft. He adds that the investigation found no evidence that anyone with the Browns “deliberately made decisions to weaken the team to secure a more favorable position in the draft.” Goodell points out that the club put more emphasis on the total number of picks than any particular draft position.
Goodell could alternatively have concluded, had he chosen, that the “four-year plan” reveals numerous factors that definitely did not incentivize winning. As indicated in the formula obtained by SI.com, the last two years of the plan included incentives based on earning. The first two definitely didn’t.
Also, the notion that the plan wasn’t about improving draft position but about prioritizing overall picks ignores the obvious connection between the two. The higher a team’s draft is in a given round, the more easily those picks can be flipped for more picks. Therefore, the tanking incentive, while not express, is absolutely implicit.
The fair conclusion of the league find is simple. While evidence of efforts to lose specific games will result in serious problems, a broader, long-term effort to build a better team in the future will be honored by not weighing the factors that directly lead to winning now, as long as the formula and the The language is intricate and complicated enough to never directly suggest that the team intended to lose a given game. If the team isn’t usually trying to win every game, the folks at 345 Park Avenue will say it’s fine and dandy.
Unless, of course, they decide in a given case that they want to conclude otherwise. If we haven’t learned anything else over the years, we have learned that the league does what it wants to do, and that it manipulates the facts and their interpretation to fit the desired outcome in any given case.