So I think that when you're a bad NFL team, and you manage to win games toward the end of the season that do not put you in the playoffs or take your opponent out of the playoffs, you hurt yourself in the long run.
People more knowledgeable than me, like Mr. Christl at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel who has been covering the Packers since the 80's, feel differently about it. Now he advertises the strong argument in favor of losing games--that the best players are usually taken high in the draft and never become free agents. But Christl and other "football insiders" still believe that a team must try to win every game, no matter how much that lone win might harm their potential long-term success. (One win can make a huge difference--think of the third and fourth picks this year-- Vince Young and D'Brickshaw Ferguson). I think the rationales for winning no matter what go something like this:
(1) winners try to win all the time, and will never, ever not give it their best;
(2) winning any game helps teach younger, developing players how to win;
(3) playing lackadaisically or trying to lose on purpose with an eye toward your draft status is totally unethical and will "kill the soul" of your team;
(4) players have to play hard because they have no job security and are playing to stay in the NFL;
(5) similarly, coaches have to do the best job possible every time out, because they have no job security and are in constant try-outs for other jobs...
And so on and so forth. I understand these rationales, and if I were inside the organization or an assistant coach worried about my livelihood and my family, I'd certainly buy into them. But as a fan, I get to advocate for whatever makes sense to me, personally. If I was on my deathbed and wouldn't live to see another season, I'd root for the Packers to win every game now. Since I think I have at least a few decades left, barring some unfortunate accident involving a bus, a pushcart and several dozen mangoes, I choose to pull for my team to lose because I see that our best players are in decline. The question I find myself asking is: do I want the Packers to be moderately bad now and mediocre in the future, or really bad now and good in the future? I'll take the latter any day.
I especially feel this way because our wins are not coming by way of the efforts of developing young players. No, several guys over or pushing thirty were largely responsible for this win-- Favre, DD, Green, Harris (pushing Gore out at the 2), and Woodson. I didn't see the younger guys making big plays, and although the interceptions by Hawk and Collins are good signs, both looked like they were due more to Smith than their extraordinary efforts.
Unfortunately, my "root for draft status" philosophy may have already be for naught. Here's what I believe the draft order would be if the season ended today:
(3) Tampa Bay
(8) San Francisco
(8) Green Bay
(8) St. Louis (if they lose to the Bears tonight)
So we're tied for the 8th pick right now, and could pick as low as 10th. Yeesh. Leinart was picked 10th this year, and the jury is still out on him in a big way. In 2005, Mike Williams, still inactive for the Lions, was taken 10th overall. In '04, the Texans drafted the poster-child for back to basics school reform, Dunta Robinson (he claims it's pronounced Dante), a CB from South Carolina, with the 10th pick. Not that great of a recent track record. And the last medium-high draft pick of the Packers was? Da dum-- Jamal Reynolds. That worked out well.
And our remaining games are the Lions and Vikings at home, and then at the Bears, who might be resting starters. Even if we lose to the Lions at home (a terrible thought), the chances of jumping them in the draft sweep-stakes are thin. With that schedule we could be picking in the mid-teens by season's end! Is the 15th pick of the draft going to replace Favre or Green or Harris, all of whom could be gone this offseason? I doubt it. Trouble ahead, trouble behind.
Furthermore, we're already well below the salary cap, and if Favre, the highest paid player on the team, retires, we'll be even more flush. I'd much rather spend that money on a high draft pick who might turn into a franchise player than some overpriced free agent whose best years are already behind him.
A semi-final note: how amazing did Vince Young look on that run to end the game against the Texans? He's not Michael Vick fast, but he can't be much slower.
Finally, has anyone seen the Pitt men's basketball team play this season? I have not, but based on Worldwide Leader highlights Gray looks thicker, but potentially even less mobile than Butch. I say come Saturday, Bucky gives him the Randoph Stiem(sma)er...