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The tank is on! Why defeat for this American football team could lead to a great victory

Under coach Jon Gruden, the Oakland Raiders are in the midst of a terrible run, and some claim there’s nothing accidental about it. As James Moore explains, it wouldn’t be the first example of a team machinating its own demise

Sunday 09 December 2018 11:05 GMT
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The Raiders’ defeat by the San Francisco 49ers earlier this month triggered much adverse comment
The Raiders’ defeat by the San Francisco 49ers earlier this month triggered much adverse comment (Rex)

The Raiders are officially tanking,” declared USA Today’s Touchdown Wire last month. It’s not the first time this has been suggested by those covering the NFL for a living in response to the team’s dismal season.

The contention that there’s nothing accidental about the losing streak is based on the notion that a lowly position in the final NFL standings this season would secure a favourable position in next year’s NFL draft. It allocates the first pick from each year’s pool of eligible players from the college game to the worst team, and then proceeds in reverse order, with the Super Bowl winner going last in each of seven rounds. Just over 250 rookies, many of considerable quality, are selected in this manner.

While no one from the team would admit it, and certainly not coach Jon Gruden (who indeed has flatly denied it), the suggestion that the Raiders are “tanking” was hard to dismiss during the 34-3 loss to the crosstown San Francisco 49ers at the start of November.

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