There’s nothing like a lawsuit accusing an owner of offering a head coach $100,000 per loss to get the league to change its tune about a draft lottery.
In 2019, Commissioner Roger Goodell said that they’re no active consideration of a draft lottery. Appearing earlier today on SiriusXM NFL Radio, Goodell was singing a dramatically different tune regarding a possible draft lottery.
“The Competition Committee talks about it on a I would say a regular basis,” Goodell said. “I haven’t heard it in the last couple years, but I never say never about any of those things. It may come a time where we think it’s appropriate. We don’t now, we think that the system works really well the way it does. Our teams, as you know, they’re not into tanking. These teams work and play hard, and they play hard no matter the circumstances, and that’s something that we’re really proud of in our game. Our league’s never been more competitive. And even when we went to the 17 games over 18 weeks, you saw that competition right down to the final weekend, right to the final game, almost to the final play. And they didn’t have to do that, but they did it because that’s the way they compete. I’m really proud of that. I was incredibly proud of not just the quality of our game this year, but the competition and the way they all played right to the end of the game.”
The problem is that the structure of the draft, where the worst teams get dibs on the best incoming players, incentivizes losing once a season is lost. Goodell surely knows this. But he can’t admit that teams try to lose or, more accurately, that they try not to lose when the wins and losses no longer matter.
The NFL presumably has avoided a draft lottery because the mere existence of one legitimizes the temptation to tank. The best draft lottery would give all teams that don’t make the playoffs an equal chance to get any of the top 18 picks. That way, no team would ever gain anything by losing.
Regardless of the structure, a draft lottery would give the NFL another offseason tentpole event from which it can make a ton of money for nothing.