Should NFL adopt the NBA draft lottery model?

Mike Florio and Chris Simms analyze if it makes sense for the NFL to use a draft lottery system like the NBA and outline potential ways to eliminate concerns for tanking.

Video Transcript

- Hey, by the way, do you pay any attention to the NBA Draft lottery?

- Yeah.

- Do you pay any attention to that?

- I did not watch it last night. I mean, I know who the number one pick is going to be because everybody makes a big deal about this, the big kid that's 7' 2" and amazing or whatever.

- Wemby.

- Yeah, exactly. But no. I didn't pay attention. What else? Anything else?

- Every time I see Wemby--

- Yeah, right?

- Well, every time I see Wemby my first thought is, no, it's Wembley. But the guy's name is Wemby, short for a longer name that I've never heard spoken. So I don't know how to properly pronounce it, so I'll stick with Wemby. Well, all I know is #NBArigged started trending last night, and I asked my son because he was paying attention to it, and he went over to his buddies to watch the game.

- Right.

- Like, what are people saying about this? Are they saying it's rigged? Oh yeah, it's rigged. They wanted-- they didn't want Detroit to have him. They wanted San Antonio to have it, and I think it's great that the Mavericks deliberately and openly acknowledged they were tanking to try to enhance their chance of getting Wemby, so now they have to deal with him in somewhat close geographical--

- Very much so.

- --distance from where they are, sucking attention away from the Mavericks and toward the San Antonio Spurs. So that's a better punishment than whatever they did to Mark Cuban and company.

- No, I'm amazed with you right now. I mean, wow, you are up here in New York talking about Aaron Judge yesterday, NBA basketball. Before we came on the show, you said you were starting to read the "JFK" book. I think you are. I don't know. I mean, man, you are really--

- I am.

- --you're becoming a well-rounded human being here in the middle of May. I really like this. [LAUGHTER]

- Yeah. I'm working my way through the "JFK" book. It's going to take a while. I've read the preface, the introduction, and I'm like 15 pages in, and there's a lot of words on each page.

- Yeah. I know.

- But I'm getting there. I'm getting there.

- Right. Yeah. Yeah. Go ahead.

- But anyway, I mentioned the NBA Draft lottery because I really think the NFL should have one, and I think the only reason the NFL doesn't have one is that unless the dividing line for who gets in is who made the playoffs and who didn't, and I think that is a fair dividing line. If you made the playoffs, you're not in. If you didn't make the playoffs, you're in the running, but it's got to be an even chance for everybody who didn't make it.

See, the moment you start giving the team that finishes worst more lottery balls, or however they do it to determine your likelihood of winning, the moment they acknowledge that there is a potential benefit in April to stinking in December and January, that's when they acknowledge what we all know.

They have this firewall between everybody tries to win every single game, no matter what. And, oh, it's pretty damn good that we lost that last game because look what we got. We got Wemby. So I feel like that's why they're not going to do it because if you don't have a clear dividing line where playoffs, no playoffs, and then there's no incentive to be worse, whether you're the last team out or the team who's been out of it since Halloween.

- Right. That's a good thought.

- That's where it gets into the whole pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. We know that the smart teams find a way to lose that key late season game that will deliver that generational talent that happens to be in this year's draft class. That wasn't an issue this year, but next year with Caleb Williams it will be.

- So wait, so how do they figure it out, though? That's where I guess I'm not-- like, if it's all in one pool and you're just saying we still have a lottery, but it's just even amount of balls for each team in there, is that what you're kind of saying there?

- I think that's the only way to do it to eliminate the temptation to tank. But then the question is, is it fair that the Packers would have an equal chance as the Bears?

- Right.

- The Bears had the worst record and earned the number one overall pick. The Packers or the Lions, maybe the Lions-- Lions and Steelers would be a better example because they came on strong late.

- Right.

- Just missed it. Why should they have an equal chance to the team that was asked the whole year? And, I mean, the Bears, sorry, I mean, the shoe fits. We thought it wasn't going to be the Bears. The Texans kept it from being the Bears by beating the Colts in week 18.

But that's the only way to remove the tank. It doesn't seem fair to the worst teams, but it's the only way to remove the temptation to tank because I can't imagine any team saying, well, we got a chance to make the playoffs if we win, but if we were to lose this game we would have a 1 in 18 shot at getting generational talent. I think you're always going to try to make the playoffs.

- Definitely. Agreed.

- So I'm just trying to figure out where that incentive disappears.

- Right.

- And that's the only way to make it disappear.

- Yeah. It's an interesting thought. I mean, basketball is a little different than football. I do think-- of course, I think it's easier to tank in basketball. We know that. I mean, you just sit out the best player on your team and it just totally changes the basketball game, like drastically, way more than a football game. Maybe other than a quarterback, a star quarterback, that would change things.

But, you know, I mean, as we know, LeBron James goes to a team and we go, well, they're in the running for one of the top teams to go to the Finals, and Kevin Durant. So that's where the sport is a little different. But I hear you. It's actually a really good thought. I don't know, as we always talk about it, if it matters as much for football, right? I mean, this past year kind of proved it to a degree.

You can't tell Lovie Smith and Davis Mills not to score a touchdown with 12 seconds left. They're going screw you, there's a film on me, and I'm out here playing, and we're going to win this damn game. So they can try to, but that's where it is a little different than basketball.

- The other side of it too is can we create a system that rewards teams? One of the spring leagues, I think the USFL did this last year. When it got down to the last game of the season and it was clear that the loser was going to be the worst team in the league and the winner was going to be the second worst, they created this rule that said whoever wins this game wins the first pick in next year's draft. Not that the USFL Draft is anything like the NFL Draft, but that's the kind of thing you want to create, an incentive to keep trying to win.

And Pete's suggesting that the last team out of the playoffs-- excuse me, the first team out of the playoffs. Wait a minute. Yes. That team should have the first overall pick. But you know what? You would have an owner out there thinking, hmmm, generational talent--

- Right. We might make the playoffs. We're going not going to do anything in the playoffs.

- We're going to get our asses kicked.

- Right. Right.

- Right.

- Exactly.

- Let's get generational talent instead. So I just think that the simplest approach is all the playoff teams go pursue the Super Bowl Championship. All the non-playoff teams, one ball each, and we're going to figure out the lottery. That's the only way to remove the incentive to tank, and what it also does is it creates a hell of an event that you would have at some point in that dead spot between free agency and the final run-up to the draft. It would create a hell of a moment, a hell of a night, especially if you did have this situation where all the teams, good, bad, or otherwise, that didn't make the playoffs are in the same bucket to try to get that first overall pick.

And I'd like to think that you could get 24 owners behind this. I'd like to think because how many of the teams are ever in that regular conversation? Like, it's that handful of teams that can't get out of their own way, that keep popping back up. I'd like to think at least 24 owners would say, you know what? This could be good for us, just like the idea that you've got four teams in a division and the winner of the division is always going to host a playoff game.

That rule's never changing because every owner looks at it and says I got a 1 in 4 chance in theory every year at hosting a playoff game. Why would I vote against this? Why would I vote against that system? I look at this idea and I say if I'm an owner of a team, why would I vote against having if I don't make it to the playoffs?

Think about the excitement that it generates for the 18 cities. You could milk the hell out of this thing, Chris. You've got a lottery coming up. The 18 teams that did not make the playoffs all have an equal shot. We're going to count them down from 18 to 1 to determine who has the first pick in the draft.

They could make this thing huge if they're willing to do it, and this is the way to do it where you eliminate any temptation to tank. It's gone. It's gone forever. The conversation is over. The only remaining sliver would be did some team really not try to make the playoffs, playoffs, in order to get one of the balls? And that, I think, would be ridiculous. I really do.

The chance of getting the first overall pick is so slim, why would you not want a shot at the playoffs? And it would be conspicuous. If you're a team that's trying to make it the last week and you bench half your starters after halftime, like the Buccaneers did against the Saints in 2014 so they could get the Jameis Winston pick, it would be obvious. It wouldn't just be forgotten and overlooked like that was. It would be like, holy crap, a team had a chance to make the playoffs, and they took their quarterback out for the second half to see what the other guy could do, like the Eagles did with Jalen Hurts a couple of years ago when they were in a position to beat the Commanders at the end of the season. It would be too big of a deal. It would be too obvious and it would be too scrutinized, and even if an owner was tempted to do it, Chris, I don't think they'd be able to do it.

- No, probably not. No. I mean, I hear you. I mean, your thoughts are good. I hear you. My thing, or my challenge flag where I just go is the NFL is dominating the sports world, and it's the most competitive league in the world, and I don't want to see a team that might have just missed the playoffs and maybe it was really good, but a star player got hurt, and now they have an equal chance to get the first pick as the same as some shitty team who's not good and their stars were all there, or their players were there, and I don't want that.

I mean, you're not going to have the Bengals turn around, and all of a sudden they're one of the worst teams and they're the best teams in football that way, you know? I mean, the sport is-- come on. The NFL Draft, it outrates the NBA Finals and the World Series, everything. What else? What's wrong with it?

- But it still rewards-- it still rewards incompetence. What in the hell did the Bengals do to deserve Joe Burrow other than suck the one year.

- OK.

- The right year. That's all they did to deserve Joe Burrow. It rewards incompetence.

- Well somebody's got to be last, right? Sometimes teams are going to fall apart.

- I know.

- I know. I mean, it's sports.

- But here's another angle too. Pete, Pete, look, we're making progress here. We're trying to help the NFL get better. This is the counter to all those days where people are like why do you hate the NFL? We're trying to make it better. We're trying to push it to be better. I think this makes it better.

And here's another reason to eliminate tanking. This is a potential source of the inevitable gambling scandal that's going to bite the NFL in the ass like a big rattlesnake. It's going to happen one of these days. And by removing the temptation to tank, you remove and avoid any argument that somebody did not try to win a game where people had a lot of money riding on the outcome of that game.

That's not good for business. That's not good for anybody connected to the business if it happens. This is a way to get rid of tanking, create an exciting moment in the offseason, give 18 markets the ability to turn a negative into a positive. We didn't make the playoffs, but we're in it for Wemby, or whoever that guy is, whatever it is. The first pick in the draft is always a big deal. We're in it for the first pick in the draft. I'm going to push this hard.

- Why?

- Apart because it's slow right now.

- Why?

- But in part because I think we got something here. I think we got something.

- We got nothing. This sport's perfect.

- We've got something.

- You have no proof of anybody tanking.

- No, it's not perfect. It's perfect? Are you fricking kidding me?

- It's really damn good.

- What Kool-Aid are you drinking from 345 Park Avenue.

- I'm drinking the Kool-Aid where the team can be worse in football and then go to the Super Bowl the next year. That's the Kool-Aid I'm drinking. I'm in reality. You're in "if" world right now, if's, what's, buts, do this. Mike, who tanked? Tell me who's been tanking in the NFL? Tell me your proof. Where? Show me. Maybe you're one Bucs game in the last, what, seven years ago.

- It's still there.

- Oh, one. Who? Tell me who.

- The temptation is there.

- Every year we see teams that are shit.

- Eagles-Commanders a couple of years ago when they took out Jalen Hurts.

- OK they don't have to play their players.

- Stephen Ross.

- They were in the playoffs that year, weren't they? Oh, that was three years ago.

- Stephen Ross the Joe Burrow year.

- Right. They wanted Tua. They couldn't even tank and pull it off. But they couldn't pull it off.

- No, no, no, no, no, no. Stop. Stop. Stop.

- Well, where was the tanking?

- Let me finish.

- Yeah.

- Let me finish.

- Now that you're triggered.

- I am.

- In 2019.

- Yes.

- Stephen Ross decided he wanted Joe Burrow during the season.

- Right.

- Before the season, it was tank for Tua.

- Right.

- During the season, he decided he wanted Burrow. He wanted to lose. He told Brian Flores repeatedly I'll give you $100,000 per loss. Remember? That's the whole thing that he got away with it because it was a joke.

- Right.

- Like so many of these other jokes, like Gronk had his playbook six weeks before he joined the Buccaneers. I'm still waiting for the punch line well after the fact. I don't know what the joke is. And it's one of those things you don't joke about.

- No. I agree.

- Like when you're going through security at the airport, you don't joke about having a bomb in your bag. Oh, it's just a joke. Well, tell that to the judge when he's sentencing you to three years behind bars. So tanking is real. The temptation is very real. This process-- my point is back to where we started. The NFL doesn't have a draft lottery because the NFL doesn't want to have a system that acknowledges the temptation to tank. The temptation to tank is there. They don't want a system that acknowledges it.

Hey, I was the worst team. I get more balls. I was the Bengals. We sucked this year. We get most of the balls in the Joe Burrow lottery. And it introduces. It gives credence to the idea that, hey, it's bad to be good-- or no, it's good to be bad. If you're bad, you could be good. I don't like that. I don't like to reward incompetence. I don't like it to be, hey, it's my right. I was bad, so give me, give me, give me the best player.

Think about that for a second. What message does that send to the world that if you are woefully inept and the worst of the worst and you just suck and you're horrible, your reward for it is you get dibs on one of the best players to come out of college in 20 years?

- OK.

- But in what world does that make sense?

- But what if you're trying and working in your building something and you're just not that good and you're doing everything the right way? You deserve to be rewarded and get better and all of a sudden start to become a better team, you know? I don't know. I mean, that's the way you reward the worst teams. None of these teams are starting out the year trying to do that. I've heard you say multiple times--

- No, but at some point they do it that way.

- --it's the one sport where half the league, half the playoff contenders are out, and there's a new half in every year. I mean, that does not sound broken, or tanking, or people not trying. Everybody's trying, OK? If everybody doesn't try they're absolute best--

- Until they know--

- OK, maybe everybody doesn't put their best foot forward the last three weeks of the year to position themselves a little. So what? It doesn't mean the other guys aren't trying. The teams have the right to sit out their stars or whoever at that moment.

- Chris, Ross went into the 2019 season, I firmly believe, I was present and heard him utter the words.

- I know, the owner, and he couldn't get it done. He couldn't get it done.

- He tried.

- So what?

- I know.

- There was too many moving parts. It's hard in football. You can't tell Brian Flores not to win a game. Sorry.

- A different coach, a different coach might have gone along with it, and made maybe $1.6 million that year.

- Yeah, maybe. And he'd been fired the next year anyway.

- Go back and look at 2019.

- Right.

- If you go back and look at 2019 early in the year, early in the year I think he was going along with it. Early in the year, I think that they were losing, and they knew they were losing, and they were going to take their lumps, as Stephen Ross said, as I stood there and heard him say it. Sometimes you just got to take your lumps. Right because we're not going to win the Super Bowl this year. So let's go ahead and suck because we got this guy coming out that we really want. My whole point-- back to the original observation I was making. The NFL doesn't have a draft lottery because the NFL doesn't want to legitimize the very real temptation to tank.

- Yeah.

- And there is a real temptation to tank. And if one team acts on it, it's too many. And that's what the NFL's trying to avoid. They don't want one team to act on it. And is it fair to the worst of the worst, to the woebegone and ragamuffin teams to give the Lions or the Steelers, who were the teams that just barely missed the playoffs an equal chance, well, you know what? Don't suck. Don't be dysfunctional. Don't be horrible. I think it would be great.

- That's a bullcrap comment though. Just a throw out don't suck. I know you're trying, but don't suck. Oh, OK. OK, Mike. They'll build something, and then just get screwed over by luck for a bunch of years too? That doesn't work. No. It's not. You're not--

- Chris, look, we know the bad teams. We know the bad teams.

- Right.

- Why are the bad teams bad?

- I don't know. What do you mean? Do you mean the bad teams are the Rams that won the Super Bowl two years ago? Or the bad team of Arizona--

- I'm talking about the Cardinals.

- Oh, you mean the team that was in the playoffs two years ago as well? Like that team? That's the one you're talking about? I know, so dysfunctional. It's crazy.

- Hindsight.

- OK.

- i think-- well, oh, come on, Chris.

- I know they're dysfunctional--

- They never should have hired Kliff Kingsbury.

- They were never should've hired Kliff Kingsbury.

- OK.

- They had top 10 picks in consecutive years and took quarterbacks. Look at all the stuff that's coming out. The playoff berth was an aberration. You're twisting your facts.

- No. What's your point? You're talking about the worst of the worst, and I'm telling you it's a system that's a team that's been relevant too here a little bit. We went into last year going as relevant as they've been in forever with Kyler Murray and stuff. You're forgetting. You're having lottery memory from last night, and you're forgetting some of this stuff. I'm sorry.

- My point is we should not reward the worst team every year automatically. That should not be the system. That has a deeper message that I think is troubling that if you suck bad enough, somebody's going to come along and hand you something that ostensibly is going to make you better. And look how many teams have pissed away and squandered.

- Well, that's the other thing too. Wait. Great.

- So could have been a good player somewhere else.

- Well, so tank. So what? So the Dolphins, I mean, they had the pick. They could-- yeah, they tried to-- they still make the wrong pick. They take Tua over Herbert. They don't know what they're doing anyways. So, I mean, come on.

- But they would have taken Burrow. They tried to get Burrow. They tried to trade up to get Burrow. That's a losing argument for you. Stephen Ross decided at some point during 2019 he didn't want Tua and he wanted Burrow, and he was doing everything he could to get Burrow. And even after he finished fifth in the draft ranking instead of first, he did everything he could to try to get the Bengals to give him Burrow, and they refused all offers.

And I think it was dumb to refuse all offers. They were putting a lot of eggs in the Burrow basket, but they got it right. They were smart to tell Stephen Ross to go away and leave me alone. And you know what? Who knows that Burrow would have been Burrow with the Dolphins. I don't know.

- No.

- I don't know. Maybe it worked out perfectly for him in Cincinnati. But anyway, anyway. This is-- we still have yet to get to the topic for today, which is Joe Burrow, by the way.

- That's all right. It was a good talk. It was a good spirited conversation. I enjoyed it.

- But I think this illustrates the problem that the NFL faces. How do we do a draft lottery that avoids all of these other issues from coming to the forefront? They know all these other issues are out there, the Stephen Ross, the Buccaneers getting Jameis Winston, the Eagles benching Jalen Hurts on a Sunday night game that they still could have won because they get a few spots higher in this draft ranking that Howie Roseman works like a maestro to move up and down and all around.

He knows it's better to be higher if you're going to make the playoffs. It's always better to be higher as you start into that process of doing this trade and this trade and this trade. It's there, it's real, and there's no way to do a draft lottery, the NFL believes, that doesn't shine a light on it. They're trying to avoid shining a light on it. People say to me why doesn't the NFL have a lottery? The NBA's is great. They don't want to shine a light on the temptation to tank. That's my point.