"How exactly would that work?"
That is the only question I have for the legions of fans of teams like the Miami Dolphins, Indianapolis Colts, Denver Broncos, Seattle Seahawks as well as others who are pushing and rooting for their teams to "Suck for Luck." That catchphrase has become a part of the daily NFL lexicon as people speculate which team will lose the most this season, thus winning the opportunity to select the highly touted Stanford quarterback.
I don't fault the logic of these fans. In fact, the thought process makes perfect sense to me. All of the teams in the running lack anything close to a playoff-caliber starting quarterback in the NFL, and their fans know it. The Colts are the notable exception, of course, because of Peyton Manning's uncertain status. But most Colts fans realize that the team would have to take Andrew Luck if the opportunity arose.
All of those fans are willing to endure short-term pain for the long-term gain that they believe Luck would bring. A franchise quarterback, which everyone seems to believe Luck is, can lead to prosperity for a decade or longer. For fans in Denver and Miami who are still talking about the good old days, the chance to see their team add a quarterback who might do what John Elway and Dan Marino once did is enticing.
So even though it may be gut-wrenching to see their team lose every week, those fans believe it is worthwhile as long as they can secure the rights to Luck. The problem is putting it into practice.
Which leads us back to the original question. It is one thing to hope it happens organically. It is quite another to think your team should do it intentionally.
Does the owner tell the players to stop playing as hard? Or the coaches to spend those sleepless nights in the office devising a strategy to put the players in the worst possible position to succeed? Of course not. Not only would news of that leak immediately, but it is also crazy to think that any player or coach could spent countless hours preparing to lose. That's not how they're wired.
The only plausible scenario for something like this would be if management subtly started to make decisions that weren't in the best short-term interests of the team. Maybe they would play younger guys to "get them experience," or trade or cut some of the team's better players and declare that the moves were made because the players were malcontents. They might put in another quarterback to "see what he can do."
The only team even coming close, as far as I can tell, is the Broncos. The decision to trade Brandon Lloyd to the St. Louis Rams was curious. The move to Tim Tebow at quarterback was understandable, but again, probably not what gave Denver the best chance to win this year. I don't mention those moves to suggest that the Broncos are trying to tank it; I am sure that they are not.
Instead, I bring them up to focus on the result. What happened after those moves were made? The Broncos promptly went out and beat the Dolphins, earning their second victory of the season, which made getting the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft increasingly unlikely.
If a team did start making moves to further the Luck agenda, it would become obvious. The public outcry and league scrutiny would be immense. There are significant flaws inherent in such a plan even if a team did secure the No. 1 pick.
What if Luck, who has another year of eligibility, decides he is having so much fun in college that he wants to stay another year? What if Luck suffers a serious injury in Stanford's bowl game? He also could try to pull a John Elway/Eli Manning-style power play and decide he doesn't want to play for an organization that would lose so much or lose intentionally to get him. Can you even imagine how an organization would feel if it went through all of that losing and didn't get its man?
So if you secretly, or even not so secretly, want your team to lose to get a shot at Andrew Luck, that's fine. Just don't ask, expect or even think that your team, or any other team, for that matter, is doing it intentionally. It's just not practical.
From the inbox
Q. Why have all the young rising quarterbacks taken a significant step back? Has the lockout really played that much of a role? Matt Ryan hasn't looked like the lower level elite quarterback people consider him to be, although he has improved a bit lately. Joe Flacco's accuracy has taken a significant hit. Mark Sanchez still has the consistency issues he's had before. Josh Freeman has struggled greatly after his stellar year. Sam Bradford, even though he is constantly on his back, is completing fewer than 55% of his throws. Only Matthew Stafford has played very well out of the 2008-2010 draft quarterbacks, and he has had accuracy problems recently.
Mike from Long Island, N.Y.
A. This is a great question, Mike, and I don't have any real answer other than perhaps the lockout affected their offseason preparation and hurt their timing with some of their receivers. Outside of that, your guess is as good as mine. I will add that it is not just the young quarterbacks. Philip Rivers is struggling mightily, and Michael Vick, despite Sunday's game, is clearly not the same player he was a year ago, either.
Q. Does a player pay a fine himself, does his team pay it, or does it depend on the circumstances? Also, how is it paid: in one lump sum or can the player work something out with the league? I would think an undrafted rookie who makes the team and then gets fined something like $20,000 would be losing a significant amount of his salary.
Andy from Bel Air, Md.
A. The money is deducted right from the player's check, and it goes to charity. The amount used to be deducted immediately, but now the league waits until after the player has exercised his right to appeal. Depending on the amount of the fine and the player's salary, it can come out in one lump sum or over time. Either way, it stinks, trust me. I got fined $5,000 my second year when I was making the league minimum, and I was sick to my stomach when I found out.
Ross Tucker, who played on the offensive line for five teams in a seven-year NFL career, writes regularly for ESPN.com.