The final games of the USFL’s final season take place this weekend and a quirk in the schedule has provided the league with an opportunity to make a very interesting rule change related to tanking.
While the New Jersey Generals (8-1) and Birmingham Stallions (8-1) have separated themselves from the pack as the best teams in the league, the Michigan Panthers (1-8) and Pittsburgh Maulers (1-8) find themselves sharing space at the bottom of the standings.
The Inaugural USFL Playoffs are SET 🏆🙌
RT if your team is heading to Canton! pic.twitter.com/eww6tAo6yV
— USFL (@USFL) June 12, 2022
It also just so happens that the Panthers and Maulers will close out the season against one another, with the loser cementing their spot as the worst team in the league. The silver lining of that situation is that it means you’ll get the No. 1 pick in the 2023 USFL Draft, which led some to wonder if one or both of the teams might try to tank the game in order to secure that spot.
The league decided to switch up the rules and make it so the winner of this game, not the loser, will earn the No. 1 pick in next season’s draft. The decision was announced by EVP of Football Ops Daryl Johnston via social media on Friday.
The 1st overall pick in 2023 draft ✅
The 1st pick in EVERY round of 2023 draft ✅
— USFL (@USFL) June 17, 2022
“We’ve got an unusual situation in our final week of the regular season in the USFL,” said Johnston. “The 1-8 Michigan Panthers are playing the 1-8 Pittsburgh Maulers. Under normal circumstances, the loser of this game would be awarded the first draft pick in the upcoming draft. But we’re going to change the rules right here, so this weekend whoever wins the game actually gets not only the first pick in the 2023 draft but the first pick in every round of the 2023 draft. Making sure there’s no shenanigans going on.”
Of course, there’s also the larger issue of whether or not the USFL will even exist in 2023 given the lackluster pop culture appeal of the league this season. Still, if they’re trying to create a little bit of juice to get people to watch a game between two 1-8 teams, they’ve done it.
Furthermore, the rule change caught the attention of football fans, who had some strong reactions to the idea.
Can't wait for the Panthers to win and draft Shea Patterson again!! https://t.co/GQaoV5fjAO
— Chris Perfett (@chrisperfett) June 17, 2022
Another example of the USFL making things up on the fly, but this turning lemons into lemonade — in a week with no playoff implications, this at least makes Week 10 matter in some way. https://t.co/GuaWTu7ofP
— Bryan Knowles (@BryKno) June 17, 2022
I like this a lot! https://t.co/31oXBgKqCp
— Brandon Howard (@bhoward_81) June 17, 2022
Love this idea. https://t.co/uhiZ1q1D4c
— Mark Drumheller (@x_drumheller) June 17, 2022
The Tank Bowl is for the 2023 Draft! https://t.co/WNVr9iRs35
— The USFL Podcast (@USFLPodcast) June 17, 2022
Ironically, the Panthers had the No. 1 pick this season, so it remains to be seen just how of an advantage this gives teams anyway.