The Tampa Bay Buccaneers need to lose their final game of the season to be guaranteed the number one pick in the 2015 NFL draft, but they won't roll over and play dead for the New Orleans Saints in the final game of the season.
"I think we're going to end up in good position to get some good players," Lovie Smith said in his press conference today. "But to me that can't even come into the equation. Yesterday, even though we didn't play as well, the guys fought right up until the end - they weren't thinking about that pick or anything like that."
"This week we're going to do the same thing. We're going to make decisions that will give us the best chance to win by being able to look at players that we haven't seen, that may come into the equation a little bit, but we're going to do everything that we possibly can to try and win the game and let everything else take care of itself."
And they shouldn't. Having the top draft pick is nice, but that's not why the fans are coming to the stadium. They're not plopping down hard-earned cash on tickets to watch you lose every. single. home game. The Bucs owe it to everyone in the stadium to try their hardest to win every game.
And to be fair, that's what they've done. Mostly. We think. They've just been incredibly incompetent, mostly on offense. And a little unlucky at the end of games, losing seven games by a single score.
Of course, other fans might disagree. They're rooting for the number one pick. The season's over. Watching the Bucs has been dreadful this season. Why not sit through just one more terrible game and be rewarded with a really good pick?
Intriguingly, Lovie Smith did talk about playing players they hadn't seen before. We've seen that: it's probably part of the reason why Demar Dotson is at left tackle now, and why we've seen so much Danny Lansanah and Orie Lemon recent weeks. We've seen a lot more rotation on defense since the Bucs have been eliminated from the playoffs, and even the offense has experimented a little.
So the Bucs won't try to lose. But they'll be doing some things that aren't exactly in the best interest of winning games: evaluating some younger players.
Lovie Smith did make one very good point.
"if you have to be down where we are, why not get your choice of a few of the best players available in the draft?"