Can we stop with the talk that the Patriots could tank for Trevor Lawrence? It's ridiculous

There are so many things wrong with wondering if the New England Patriots will tank for Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, it’s hard to know where to start.

Oh, this is a thing. Go search “Trevor Lawrence Patriots” on Twitter and immerse yourself in the ridiculousness for a minute.

(OK ... back now? Sorry, nobody should be subjected to that.)

People are so tormented by the Patriots’ dynasty that they’re already concocting a scenario in which New England — a 12-4 team with a fantastic defense and the greatest coach ever — will get the first pick of the 2021 draft and take Lawrence, one of the best quarterback prospects in a long time.

Stop it. For one, tanking doesn’t really work in the NFL. And especially not for a team like the Patriots.

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence is the presumptive top pick in the 2021 NFL draft. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence is the presumptive top pick in the 2021 NFL draft. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Tanking in the NFL doesn’t work

In 2017, we wondered if the New York Jets were tanking. They went 5-11, got the sixth pick and had to trade up to take quarterback Sam Darnold third overall.

Last season, there were many stories that indicated the Miami Dolphins were tanking. They were linked to Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa at every turn. The Dolphins went 5-11, have the fifth pick and the only reason they have a shot at Tagovailoa is he suffered a serious hip injury last season. And Miami still might need to trade up for him.

The first problem with tanking: You can’t tell 53 players and a coaching staff to lose games. Not because of the shame a team would get once someone inevitably leaked that they were trying to lose on purpose. Players and coaches in the NFL have virtually no job security. If the Cleveland Browns were tanking under Hue Jackson, ask Jackson how he felt about that having been fired due to his poor record. Players and coaches aren’t going to lose for a No. 1 pick. They’re just losing for the next coaching staff, or a player who might take their job. In Bill Belichick’s case, he’ll be 68 this season and is way too competitive to try to lose 14 or 15 games. And no player is going to put a subpar effort on tape for the other 31 teams just for some long-haired quarterback in college.

The idea of tanking in the NFL has two fundamental problems: You can’t ask players and coaches to tank, and even if you try to be the worst team in football, you might go 5-11 and not get the first pick anyway. Then what?

The Patriots aren’t tanking

All that said, there are still plenty of people who believe the Patriots are scheming to get Lawrence. Sigh.

The Patriots were 12-4 last season. Their defense led the NFL in points scored and points allowed. Tom Brady, who you may have heard signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the offseason, posted his second-worst passer rating over a full season since 2006. That’s not all Brady’s fault, but offering analysis that losing Brady could change the Patriots from a 12-win team to a 1-win team is intellectually dishonest. He was far from the singular reason they were 12-4 last season. Maybe the Patriots will be much worse with whoever they decide to play at quarterback, but we all know they won’t be first-pick bad.

The Patriots will be fine. Nobody wants to hear that, but they will. If they’ve passed on options like Cam Newton to go with Jarrett Stidham, it’s because they believe in Stidham and given how many times they’ve been right about players, they deserve the benefit of the doubt. If they’re not waiting on Andy Dalton to get released, there’s a reason. They’re still a fantastic defensive team that will be coached better than everyone and there’s no logical reason to believe they’ll be bad enough to get the first pick, even if they tried (and they aren’t).

So if you hear a made-up argument that the Patriots are tanking for Lawrence, just move along. We get a lot of weird takes over a long NFL offseason (especially this offseason), but this one is beyond baffling. Lawrence is going to be a very good quarterback for some NFL team. It is not going to be the Patriots.

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