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Green Bay Packers: The tempting tanking question for struggling NFL teams in 2023

As the 2023 season winds down, teams like the Green Bay Packers are pondering a perpetual question that has become the subject of much scrutiny over the years. The dilemma is based on the debate over whether the concept of “tanking” is appropriate for professional football, or any sports team, to be engaging in. Believe it or not, there are actually viable arguments to be made on both sides.

Green Bay Packers: Potential contender or stuck in mediocrity?

Last year, the Green Bay Packers finished 8-9 and missed the playoffs after losing the regular-season finale to Detroit. This year, the inconsistent Packers are potentially going down a similar road. Even earlier in the year, when the team’s struggles were more pronounced, there were questions being floated about whether this was a lost year and whether the team needed to look forward to 2024.

Several blogposts opining about tanking were grappled with, and some of those bloggers encouraged fellow cheeseheads to embrace it. Even though there was some pushback on the idea, the fact that it has even been entertained by the fanbase shows the willingness of some fans to forego moderate success in exchange for building a solid, promising future. With injuries for the Green Bay Packers piling up, the question of tanking will continue to linger.

Tanking in the NFL: Good or bad?


The now infamous phrase “trust the process” actually originated in the NBA; and specifically with the Philadelphia 76ers front office. The team made it quite obvious to its fanbase that although it was to endure woeful teams from 2013-15, eventually the high quality draft capital that the team’s poor play was rewarded with would lead to a much better product on the court. Hence, surrounded by talent lead by Joel Embiid, the 76ers are now a perennial playoff team and contender. To put it another way, by “trusting the process”, fans were happier in the long-run despite short-term pain.

This situation is also present in almost all professional competitive team sports, with the NFL notwithstanding. Lousy teams this year like Carolina, Arizona and New England have inevitably had their teams’ fandoms entertaining the tanking proposition this year. As a past example, the Detroit Lions for years have been in the football basement. But, by building around recent first round draft picks like Aidan Hutchinson and Penei Sewell, the team has recently rebounded and has won their first division title in 30 years.

There is a belief by some in sports that if teams should choose to go down this path, that it is their risk/reward to take and not to be interfered with by league offices. But not everybody shares that view. There are many who believe that tanking cheapens the genuine competitive spirit of athletics. But it’s also worth noting, unlike in other sports, it may be harder to “tank” in the NFL for various reasons. The schedule is much shorter, and a single player being able to turn around a franchise is much harder to accomplish in football compared to basketball or baseball.

Green Bay Packers: Where will they land in the 2024 NFL draft order?

History of trades for the no. 1 overall pick
Getty Images

So, what should the Green Bay Packers do? It seems like they are going all in on trying to snag a playoff birth; and it’s hard to blame them for making that choice. The team won this past Sunday vs Carolina 33-30 to improve 7-8 on the year, and remain in the thick of it for a wild card spot. But if the team fails to make it to the postseason, it’s hard to imagine some fans not at least posing the question of whether aiming for a more favorable draft pick by tanking would’ve been the wiser move.

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