Plenty of Broncos fans want to lose as many games as possible in order to secure a higher draft pick for next season. The Broncos have other ideas. After losing eight games straight, the Broncos won two in a row in blowouts. This begs the question: why would Denver want to win games when the only reward for doing so is falling further back in the draft?
Denver Broncos Tanking? Why They Are NOT
Loser’s Mentality Is A Slippery Slope
One reason why the Denver Broncos refuse to intentionally lose games could be the fact that they are trying to avoid catching a case of loser mentality. For instance, if Denver had decided to lose out after officially missing the playoffs, then that would mean that Denver would have lost twelve games in a row and wouldn’t have a chance to win again until September 2018. That is nearly one full calendar year stuck in “loser” mode.
After all of that time, players might not fear losing any more in the worst way or fear losing way too much. Sure, they might pretend to be full of fire in interviews and public appearances or even to themselves, but when the game is on the line, they could become their own worst enemy.
This effect seems to have a lasting impact on teams (looking at you, Jets and Browns). Simply, if they don’t win then they forget how to win or forget to fear losing. Either way, long losing stretches have a lasting psychological effect on players.
Playing For Jobs
The most realistic explanation for Denver’s refusal to tank is explained by the fact that players are playing for their jobs. In Denver’s case, many players are not just playing for their jobs but their football lives as well, mostly on the offensive side of the ball.
Why would these players playing for their jobs want to lose, which will give their team a better opportunity to draft their replacement? Also, if a player makes a great play at the end of the Week 17 game against the Chiefs, then that play can only help defend their place on the team or in the league.
Not only the players, but the coaches and executives want a better record to build their resume as well. If the Broncos find a way to win this week, then they will be 6-10 this year. A 6-10 record looks much better than a 3-13 record on paper (which is what it would have been if the Broncos had lost out).
In a few years when these coaches and executives are looking for their next job, not many teams will really be interested in the story of the season and the circumstances that created the result. They just will look at a list of the records and make their first judgments then. Sure, they could dig deeper if they want, but a history full of good records beats a history full of bad records nine times out of ten.
John Elway Is Not Dependant On The Draft
Another reason why the Broncos want to win as much as possible this year could be that they don’t need the best draft pick to find their quarterback of the future. GM John Elway could be looking more at free agency than drafting a rookie. Remember, this is the same GM that lured Peyton Manning to Denver half a decade ago through free agency. There are plenty of tantalizing free agents this year as well. Instead of looking at Baker Mayfield or Josh Allen, Elway could be looking at Kirk Cousins, Eli Manning, or someone else.
It is understandable why John Elway didn’t want to tank. He didn’t want a 3-13 record on his resume and he wanted to avoid falling into the trap of developing a loser mentality. However, the decision to tank doesn’t really reside with him. The order can be given by him but realistically, it resides with the players and coaches who are obviously fighting for their jobs. If they are trying to prove their worth, then they’ll play hard and coach hard.
If the majority of the players on the team are trying to show their worth then they are collectively trying to win the game. If they are trying to win, then they are not tanking.
To be clear, many jobs are on the line this year, so many coaches and players have been/will be giving it their all. It is clear that Denver does not want to tank.
Whether that lower draft pick hurts the Broncos or saves them from nabbing a bust remains to be seen. With the unpredictability of the true value of draftees, we really can only wait and see what the draft brings.