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May

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.

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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

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18 Responses to “On Ted Thompson: Someone Needs to Write the Green Bay Packers Version of Moneyball”

  1. PackerPete says:

    I think you just volunteered to write it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

    • Adam Czech says:

      If only I could talk Packers management into giving me the necessary access……

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. DaveK says:

    I’m sure a bunch of other GM’s and owners would love to read that book also. Green Bay has one of the best GM’s in the league and I’m willing to keep his system and methods a secret until long after he retires! But, I agree I would love to read about it one day. The Favre story, rebuilding a old and declining roster, Rodgers development, etc…it’s all a story that needs to be told.

    You’ve probably read ‘Next Man Up’ by John Feinstein. If not, it is a great book and it offers a lot of what you are looking for on another great GM. (Ozzie Newsome of the Ravens) Feinstein spent a year in the organization and the Ravens game him complete access to meetings, draft room, locker rooms, players, etc…

    It would be great if the Packers and TT would agree to something similar but give the author the caveat that it can’t be published for 10 years.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • Adam Czech says:

      The reviews on Next Man Up were poor so I didn’t read it. I should pick it up though. Critics tend to be harsh with Feinsten books because he’s so popular.

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  3. Chad Toporski Chad Toporski says:

    Certainly not taking anything away from Thompson, but a successful person surrounds himself with other successful people. And I think that is part of what TT has done in Green Bay. Not only does he have the right personnel staff working on player evaluations, he also has a great set of coaches to further evaluate and then develop these young players. And without those components, his work in acquiring the players would be less fruitful.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

    • Pete Kliman says:

      In addition, this staff seems to have a team chemistry without the large egos. Case in point,I remember how unified they were during the very sensitive Favre dilemma .

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • Adam Czech says:

      Agreed. And the staff makeup would make the book that much more interesting. What role does Thompson play in setting the policies and strategies that make the Packers staff so successful?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  4. Pete Kliman says:

    Let’s not forget the successful years in Seattle and his playing days as a pro, which should be included. The plot already has plenty of meat on it and he’s not finished yet.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • Grant says:

      I really have trouble picturing Thompson as a guy that played linebacker for 10 years in the NFL. Beneath the “Aw shucks” facade, there must be a very strong work ethic and passion to have stayed in the league that long as a backup and special teams player. TT the GM kicks those guys to the curb all the time.

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  5. Tarynfor12 Taryn says:

    To me it seems that TT isn’t overrun with a “horde”of prospect names as many scouts perhaps/do get paid on how many they endorse and make the team or get paid well to truly evaluate”specifics”which would and does seem to take TT far away from the media endorsed schools and players.
    My book on him would be titled,
    You Drafted Who?
    Ted Thompson…Out of Our Sight and Out of His Mind”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • Adam Czech says:

      Good title. Another one: “How to win a Super Bowl With 7 Fullbacks on Your Roster”

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  6. PackersRS says:

    Great article Adam.
    I agree that these guys won’t talk much, but expect a lot of books to come out 10 or so years from now, when TT and MM are done with football.

    Can’t wait to read how both men built the 10′s Packers dynasty, and what went on with the 11′ and 12′ title defense.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  7. cdk4205 says:

    I’d like to see a couple championships in tow to make the story even more readable. A two year playoff streak isn’t a dynasty (even in the parity of the NFL). I don’t want to minimize the effort to date, just say it needs to develop to make the story even more enticing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • Adam Czech says:

      I don’t think we need more titles to make book better. I guess the focus of my book wouldn’t necessarily be on the Packers success. It would be more about Thompson’s methods and roster-building philosophy.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  8. [...] Adam at AllGreenBayPackers.com says Someone Needs to Write the Green Bay Packers Version of Moneyball. [...]

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  9. Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

    Another book I’d like to see is from Andrew Brandt about the “Favre Fiasco…” He knows where the bodies are buried.

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  10. ehyahknow says:

    The Iron Curtain of Green Bay. We’re not cheese we cut it.

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  11. [...] need a book, maybe several. I still wish Ted Thompson would give someone access to write the Packers version of Moneyball, to be published long after Thompson retires, of [...]

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