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Why no one is talking about the Buccaneers tanking for Jameis Winston

David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers tanked the final game of the 2014 season. Probably. They were leading 20-7 at halftime, when they pulled almost all of their starters (except for Josh McCown). Every player on the roster got playing time (except for Mike Glennon). And the Bucs lost in part because Tavarres King couldn't pull out a Mike Evans or Vincent Jackson and actually catch a ball that was in his hands.

Frank Schwab of Yahoo! is a little confused about the fact that no one really talks about that game, though.

The Buccaneers said they didn't tank, so everyone shrugged and moved on. There was no 243-page Wells Report on it, although it was pretty obvious what happened and that was not exactly in line with the integrity of the game.

But everyone apparently agreed to never mention it again. The Buccaneers got the first overall pick, and the consensus top player in Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston. The difference between winning that Week 17 game and losing it could alter the future of the franchise. Since the NFL apparently doesn't care about tanking, it's hard to argue with the results.

So why does no one care? Because the game was meaningless for everyone except the Bucs and Titans. Because no one cared about that game. Because while tanking is frowned upon and relatively unheard of in the NFL, it's a reality in other situations -- most notably the NBA. And fundamentally, because intentional tanking is going to be impossible to prove anyway.

The Bucs didn't look like they were trying to lose, every player still played to his ability, the team simply lost because they kept the best players out of the lineup. That had the effect of tanking for a draft pick, but it also had another, arguably more sensible effect: giving the Bucs a chance to evaluate the bottom of the roster before they headed into the offseason. A bottom of the roster they've thoroughly overhauled, in part because of what they saw at the time.

Did the Bucs tank? Yeah, probably. Am I going to be happy about that? No. I'd like the Bucs to win every game. I like seeing them beat an opponent. It sure beats that dejected feeling at the end of even a meaningless game when they give up the ghost. But it was also arguably the right thing to do for the future health of the franchise. Time will tell whether they were right on that count.