It’s Time For The Gold Plan

January 4, 2024 - by David Arnett


A record 20 teams are still alive for the playoffs heading into the 2023 NFL season’s final weekend thanks to the extra wild card and a whole bunch of parity. And yet that still leaves 12 out-of-contention teams with nothing to play for this weekend. 

Actually that’s not quite right. 11 of those 12 teams can potentially gain something by losing this weekend (sorry Carolina) but none of them can gain anything by winning.

There has to be a better way, right? 

Well there is- it’s called the Gold Plan (named for its originator, Adam Gold, all the way back in 2012) and for a little while there it had some real momentum (particularly in hockey, where it started.) But you pretty much never hear about it anymore.

The basic idea is that teams get points for every game they win after being eliminated from playoff contention. Worse teams still have a better shot at securing a top draft pick (since they typically play more games after being eliminated) but they have to earn their spot by winning, at least occasionally. 

Is the Gold Plan perfect? Of course not. Few plans are! Here’s a great piece from Sean McIndoe on some of the Gold Plan’s flaws, with solid counterarguments against all of them.

But the much more important question is whether the Gold Plan is better than the also-flawed status quo? And the answer is: Of course it is. 

In the immortal words of Nuke Laloosh:


But don’t just take Nuke’s word for it- let’s go look at those 12 eliminated NFL teams again in a Gold Plan world. Here are the Gold Plan standings heading into Week 18:

Carolina is obviously a lost cause because they got fleeced by Chicago don’t own their own pick. But look at what happens right below them: 

-The Pats-Jets matchup becomes crucially important, with the winner likely to end up with a top-2 pick and possibly winning the Caleb Williams sweepstakes.

-5 teams have spoiler opportunities which they suddenly care a great deal about:

–Arizona (vs Seattle)
–Washington (vs Dallas)
–NY Giants (vs Philadelphia)
–Tennessee (vs Jacksonville)
–Chicago (at Green Bay)

-The Raiders-Broncos winner has the opportunity to move up several slots with some outside help.

-And the last two teams can at least give their home crowds something to cheer for in their respective finales:

–LA Chargers (vs Kansas City)
–Cincinnati (vs Cleveland)

All told, 11 fan bases get a better experience and 7 games immediately become more watchable.

So… how’s that not better?

Update (1/8): Here are the final Gold Plan standings for the 2023 NFL season. Some select highlights:

–The Jets earn the #1 overall pick by winning in New England.
–The Giants and Titans are both rewarded (rather than punished) for successfully playing the spoiler role yesterday.
–The Chargers and (particularly) the Commanders are punished (rather than rewarded) for mailing it in down the stretch.
–The Raiders earn a higher draft pick than the Broncos by beating them.

Those all seem like good things, right?

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