Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

31 Jul 2013

The Tree of Thompson

Bill Barnwell checks in with a look at the general manager tree branching out from Green Bay, and examines the total value of all the draft-day trades that Green Bay has managed to make under Ted Thompson.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 31 Jul 2013

6 comments, Last at 17 Jan 2014, 2:17am by abercrombie kl


by Noah Arkadia :: Thu, 08/01/2013 - 12:20pm

Good read. I especially liked the trades breakdown but I also didn't realize how little GB uses free agency.

The man with no sig

by David :: Fri, 08/02/2013 - 5:31am

I felt it was a bit lacking, and didn't really acknowledge the luck involved (well, it did, but only in reference to the accumulation of draft picks)

In particular, the free agency breakdown is poor. Paraphrasing, the argument is that Thompson doesn't pick up veterans in free agency, except for Charles Woodson - so when you do get veteran free agents, make sure they're good ones.

Which is fantastic advice, and something I'm sure no other GM has thought of - always get good veterans!

This is not to disparage Thompson, who has done an excellent job as the Packers' GM, just that I don't think the author identified, or coherently explained, an actual plan and philosophy of the Thompson GM tree (or of Thompson). His actual activities and priorities have changed depending on what state the team is in (as it should). As such Thompson's overriding philosophy appears to be "Try to make the team better, in whatever way is possible". More pragmatic, but perhaps harder to learn from and replicate

by Noah Arkadia :: Fri, 08/02/2013 - 10:09am

I don't understand your criticism. At all. He mentioned the luck involved, detailing all the bad picks and UFAs that didn't work out, and how unlikely Woodson's climb to fame was. He also talked about Thompson's change in philosophy, from accumulating picks and actually signing a few FAs when he was building the team to taking more chances in the draft now that the team is up, but less in FA. He also went into how he prioritizes taking the best players even if they are not apparently needed, and how he might have actually gone against that (or not) by drafting RBs this year.

And yes, no matter what your philosophy is, it won't work unless you actually get good players!

The man with no sig

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Fri, 08/02/2013 - 8:13am

No mention of John Dorsey, now the GM in KC, seemed a bit odd. Though perhaps since he started as a scout for Green Bay in 91 he fits more as a branch from Wolf, but he's been with the Packers pretty much continuously since then (left for a year to follow Holmgren to Seattle) so he served under Thompson for as long as he did under Wolf.

Also no mention of Sean Payton, who was the other option for head coach when McCarthy was hired and that it ruffled feathers on the board of directors that he went with McCarthy and not Payton.

I agree that luck has played a factor in all this and I'm not sure it got covered well enough. It's fairly well known by people that frequent these boards the role luck plays in football. The major "philosophy" that the successful teams seem to follow is to try and minimize the impact of luck. Getting more draft picks to throw at the wall is one way, even though that seems to be a way to maximize the chances of good luck. You minimize overall impact by doing what you can to maximize your chances at "good luck" and minimize your chances at "bad luck".

Sift through more players, be that draft or free agents. Spend money on the players that you have the most knowledge about, so sign your own free agents not other free agents, and if you do sign other free agents try not to spend a lot. Woodson was fairly cheap when they picked him up and while risky due to injury concerns the talent was pretty clear.

There are plenty of solid sourced stories about Thompson putting in bids on free agents. He was a round lower on the pick offered for Lynch than what Seattle offered. He offered a 2nd round to Minnesota for Randy Moss. Stuff like that. Try to get the most for the least, simple concept, and you often don't get the players when you do that. But you pretty much never overpay either. That gives you more cap options, which makes you less dependent on luck.

With a core of well known players and fairly clear areas of need you can target talent a bit, hence the trade ups, and really I think the Bulaga pick fits this as well. Bulaga was a need pick not a best talent available.

As mentioned this isn't unique to Thompson. He just takes parts of it to levels other GM's don't. It will hurt him at times, but it shouldn't hurt so much to knock the team out of play off contention.

by Turin :: Fri, 08/02/2013 - 12:34pm

GB picked Bulaga when they already had Clifton and Tauscher. Granted, both of them had trouble staying on the field in 2009, and they were certainly glad to have Bulaga when Tauscher couldn't finish the 2010 season due to injury, but I wouldn't call using a first-round pick on someone who you know won't be a starter "picking for need." Especially not after how they were bounced from the '09 playoffs (ie: a total defensive collapse).

by abercrombie kl (not verified) :: Fri, 01/17/2014 - 2:17am

Greetings! Very helpful advice in this particular post! It is the little changes that will make the most important changes. Thanks a lot for sharing!
abercrombie kl