There’s no evidence that either the Colts or Jets deliberately tried to lose games last year, but there’s plenty of evidence of the value of the Colts having lost more games than the Jets did.
Indianapolis finished the year at 4-12. The Jets ended the season at 5-11. The one-game difference resulted in a three-spot gap at the top of the draft, which resulted in the Jets giving up three second-round picks for the privilege for trading places with the Colts.
Three second-r0und picks to the Colts, for simply being one game worse than the Jets. Would you have even known the Colts’ final record last year without looking it up? (I didn’t.) 3-13, 4-12, 5-11, 6-10, who cares? A non-playoff year is a non-playoff year, and no one hangs a banner after almost qualifying for the postseason. (Well, maybe the Colts would.)
So, again, once it’s clear that a team isn’t going to make it to the playoffs, the smart business move is to lose, lose, and lose some more. It’s also smart to never admit it — and to strenuously object to any suggestion that, for example, a decision to bench a franchise quarterback who won two Super Bowl for an underachieving backup is aimed in whole or in part at losing as many games as possible and, in turn, getting the highest possible spot in all seven rounds of the draft.
For as long as there’s a draft with a final order based solely on how poorly a team did the prior year, there’s an incentive to do as poorly as possible, once the playoffs aren’t a possibility. The added haul that the Colts will receive over the next two years makes that clear, and they got there simply by being 4-12 as opposed to 5-11 or 6-10 or whatever their best record could have been without qualifying for the postseason.