On Ted Thompson: Someone Needs to Write the Green Bay Packers Version of Moneyball
Of all sports, baseball and golf seem to generate the best books. I’m not sure why this is, but I have a couple of theories. In baseball, reporters have more access to players and coaches than they do in any other sport. This helps would-be authors build relationships and uncover tidbits and anecdotes to craft a well-executed long-form narrative.
Golf offers a few pressure-packed moments during majors that turn regular guys into mythical figures that talented writers turn into books about life lessons and the deeper meaning of hitting a small white ball into a cup. Either that or talented writers get so bored watching golf that they write a book to keep themselves interested.
Football has some interesting books, but not nearly as many as baseball or golf. Access to players and management is also severely restricted in football when compared to other sports. This unfortunate fact makes it extremely unlikely that my dream project will ever see the light of day: A behind-the-scenes peak at Ted Thompson and the Green Bay Packers modeled after Michael Lewis’s Moneyball.
Moneyball examined how Billy Beane and the small-market Oakland A’s used innovative scouting and player evaluation methods to overcome a shoestring budget and remain competitive with the likes of the Yankees and Red Sox. Many people think Moneyball is about statistical analysis, but it really isn’t. It’s about innovation in the stubborn world of baseball. It’s also about Beane’s mindset as he tries to remain one step ahead of fellow GMs that have more resources and bigger budgets.
That’s the kind of book I want to read about Thompson.
I know Thompson is shy, builds through the draft and avoids free agency, but I want to know more. Does he utilize any sort of quantitative analysis like you find on Football Outsiders? What, specifically, is he looking for when evaluating little-known rookie free agents or castoffs from other teams? What sort of demands does he put on his scouts? How does he define value?
What does he do when he gets angry? What is a conversation like between Thompson and another GM? Why does he think many of his draft picks on defense are prone to injuries? How often does he alter his overall roster plan? Is he just as shy and awkward dealing with players as he is with the media?
What does he do when he knows he just fleeced a GM in a transaction? Is he confident enough to know when he fleeces another GM? How rattled does he get when it become obvious a draft pick is a flop? How rattled did he get when he told a certain QB thanks, but no thanks, when the certain QB wanted to un-retire and play again for the Packers?
The list could go on and on. I suppose you could argue that these are questions fans would want answered about any GM in any sport. But most GMs provide at least a little bit of insight – a brief glimpse inside the factory to show how the sausage is made – every now and then. With Thompson, the doors to the factory are sealed shut and the blinds and always drawn.
As long as the Packers continue winning, most fans will be fine with Thompson remaining shrouded in secrecy. For fans like me who want to study Thompson and contextualize his methods and mindset as much as possible, we’re just out of luck.
Unless Thompson one day decides it might be nice to have Brad Pitt play him in a movie, we will likely never see the Packers version of Moneyball.——————