In the aftermath of Seattle's 23-20 win over the Rams, contrasting arguments have appeared from two journalists. Bryan Burwell from STLtoday claims that the Rams need to keep losing in order to pick second in the 2009 draft. He argues that, with nothing to play for, the Rams might as well lose out to be in position to draft the best player possible in April. He says it's, "the best possible option for the future". He goes on to compare winning behind a 2-12 record as "putting a band-aid on a mortal wound".
In contrast, Danny O'Neil from the Seattle Times argues the polar opposite. He claims it's far too soon to be worrying about the draft and that it in fact gets too much attention. He goes on to add that Seattle's problems cannot be solved by one player alone and that, "The Seahawks are going to get better only with improvement from within their roster."
So whose approach is right? To continue...
It's hard to argue that draft position wasn't very important in the 2008 draft. The Atlanta Falcons, having endured a 4-12 campaign were in position to draft Matt Ryan with the 3rd overall pick. Had Atlanta drafted lower down the order they might not have been able to draft the Boston College QB. The Falcons are now 9-5 with their new rookie signal caller.
A good draft and a coaching change enabled Atlanta to recover after a horrible season.
The same can be said for the Baltimore Ravens. O'Neil claims it's important for the Seahawks not to adopt a 'losing culture'. The Ravens ended the 2007 season with a nine game losing streak, only snapped in their final match against a rested Pittsburgh Steelers side. A coaching change and a good draft has turned a 5-11 team into a 9-5 playoff contender.
In their case, losing games late in the year didn't affect their ability to bounce back the following season. Indeed it seems hard to believe any momentum picked up by beating the Rams, Jets and Cardinals will be carried over to the 2009 campaign with so much happening between the months leading up to training camp.
Of the top six teams in the NFL draft last year, 50% currently have winning records. The exceptions are St. Louis and Oakland (two horribly mismanaged franchises) and the Kansas City Chiefs, currently in the midst of a massive make over.
Essentially I would argue that although I have no desire to watch the Seahawks 'lose out' and end the season an embarrassing 3-13, I also don't agree that the draft is unimportant at this stage. Being in position to draft an elite talent who can change the face of your franchise, such as Matt Ryan with the Falcons, is nothing to turn your nose up at.
Drafting either 3rd or 6th for the Falcons meant a world of difference.