Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Dan Snyder Fallacy

On Friday, Mike Vandermause went back on his "stumping for Ted Thompson" campaign, rising to Thompson's defense as criticism has mounted against him as he has not changed his approach to offseason moves.

(Incidentally, the use of the word "approach" in regard to Thompson and free agency is a pretty liberal use of the definition. But, I digress.)

With the signing of a backup safety in Anthony Smith from the Steelers (who did not even offer him a restricted free agent tender), it appears that once again any upgrades of the primary talent of this team is going to be coming from within or from the draft.

Last year, people seemed okay with that. After all, the Packers were coming off of a 13-3 season and a deep playoff run, and only lost two starters from their lineup in the offseason. Steering clear of the free agent market and stockpiling much cheaper draft picks seemed like a logical thing to do.

But this offseason, the Packers are not only coming off a 6-10 free-fall from grace, but are implementing another major scheme change that leaves a lot of questions at to whether the talent we already have is suitable. You would imagine that this might be the year to make a Ryan Pickett or Charles Woodson-type signing.

But, Vandermause plants facetious argument Number One on us, by protraying anyone who suggests that Thompson isn't making the right moves not only as incorrect, but as complete idiots.
Dealing with the lingering effects of the Brett Favre trade last summer followed by the Packers’ disappointing 6-10 record was bad enough. But when Thompson failed to land any players in the early stages of free agency, his critics began braying like rented mules.

The rallying cry from a restless fan base went something like this: “Do something — anything — to upgrade the roster and appease us.”
Now, I don't consider myself crying about not getting Haynesworth, Peppers, and Canty (as some in the Packer Blogosphere were wont to have). It wasn't sensible for even a moderately aggressive GM, and completely alien to one like the very conservative Thompson.

But whiffing on the one guy reports have stated they definitely wanted (Chris Canty) is concerning, whether that makes me a braying mule or not. The guy on the next tier that was highly rumored to come to Green Bay, the Chargers' Igor Olshansky, signed on in Dallas without even an apparent contact made by the Packers. Now, reserve linebacker Kevin Burnett is one of the only starting-capable guys left out there, and again, Thompson's pursuit is reported as "unclear".

In the immortal words on Mike Sherman, "it is what it is". We shouldn't be shocked at Thompson's moves (or lack thereof), but we should consider that his free agent splurge in 2006 didn't set the team back a dozen years and actually had two very good payoffs in Pickett and Woodson. We should also consider that it is the GM's job to provide his coaches with the talent that they need to win football games, and like the zone blocking experiment, throwing unproven draft picks at a scheme is far from any guarantee that it will work.

But Vandermause then uses his second fallacious argument, one that I've seen for several years by Thompson's defenders in the blogs and forums, but was rather surprised to see it used by a professional journalist.

The old "Well, do you want Ted Thompson to turn into Dan Snyder?" argument.
Thompson never will let the urge for a quick fix get in the way of common sense, and that drives his critics nuts. They want instant gratification, which is in stark contrast to Thompson’s measured approach to building a team.

Redskins owner Daniel Snyder might be considered the anti-Thompson in NFL circles.

He grew up a staunch supporter of the Redskins, and when he bought the team a decade ago proceeded to act out like a fan. That is to say, he threw millions of dollars at the most attractive free agents in a quest to achieve immediate success.

In the eyes of many Redskins fans, no one is smarter or more popular than Snyder in the spring. But when the Redskins consistently flop in the fall, no one looks more foolish.
The one thing that I agree with Vandermause on is that Snyder is the anti-Thompson. For every deal Thompson seems afraid to make, Snyder goes out and not only makes the deal, but offers double everyone else's offer. While you can count all of Thompson's free agent signings on one hand, you would need to use all your appendages to count up Snyder's, and you'd probably still not have enough digits.

But, this doesn't make Thompson=Smart/Snyder=Foolish. It makes them mirror images of each other, each reaching the farthest poles of conservative and liberal use of the salary cap. One sacrifices today to live for tomorrow; the other lives for today, ready to sacrifice the future.

It's like coaching a basketball player who is afraid to foul, afraid of contact, afraid to be aggressive, and suggesting that they step up their intensity a bit. That player points to "Bruno", another player on the team that always fouls out by the end of the first quarter of every game, usually with a couple of technicals to boot. "You want me to play with more intensity," he asks, "but if I do, won't I be just like Bruno?"

"Ah," you say, "I see your point. I sure don't want two Bruno's on this team." And the player continues to play scared.

You see, there's a middle ground, a balance that a GM can take towards offseason moves. Even an ultra-conservative GM like Thompson can afford to break out some bucks for players...not the super high-priced players like Haynesworth, but for a guy who can truly come in and improve your team (like Woodson and Pickett did three years ago). It's not signing someone for the sake of signing someone, it is recognizing that your coaches need to make this defense work and they need an infusion of talent to make it happen.

I may be wrong on this, but my feeling is that if the talent you had in a 4-3 couldn't generate a pass rush or stop the run, do you really think making those same players take on new, unfamiliar positions in a new scheme is going to improve that?

Vandermause chortles at Snyder and his lack of success in the postseason:
The Redskins have qualified for the playoffs just twice in the last nine seasons under Snyder and never have advanced past the divisional round.

But that didn’t stop the free-spending Snyder from doling out $171 million in contracts last week for Haynesworth, cornerback DeAngelo Hall and guard Derrick Dockery.

In stark contrast, the only unrestricted free agent Thompson signed in 2007 was cornerback Frank Walker, yet the Packers went 13-3 that year and advanced to the NFC championship game.
Yes, recent memory is usually the most vivid, but if you are going to play the "Snyder never makes the playoffs" card, let's apply the same rules:

If the Packers do not upgrade the talent among the starters on a team that went 6-10 last season, and in addition, do not bring in any veteran starting talent familiar with a 3-4 defensive scheme, do you really believe that the Packers will improve by at least four games and make the playoffs in 2009?

Because if they do not, it means that Ted Thompson's Packers will have only made the playoffs once in five seasons. Statistically, how does that compare to Snyder's Redskins making the playoffs twice in nine seasons (by the end of this season, perhaps twice in ten seasons)?

The ratio doesn't lie. That would be batting .200 versus batting .200 (maybe even .300). Just because Thompson isn't Snyder doesn't make him more successful. Thompson needs to make the moves necessary to make this team successful, regardless of what those moves might be. Vandermause hits that nail on the head to finish his article: "Thompson should ultimately be judged on the Packers’ record this season, not how much money he spends on free agents."

Exactly. And given Vandermause's own comparison with Snyder, he may have just set the bar for how he should be judging Thompson if the Packers do not make the playoffs this season.

Unfortunately, that bar is limited to Dan Snyder. It's funny how Vandermause and others that find it necessary to mock anyone critical of Thompson never use the front office of the Patriots, the Steelers, or the Giants as the measuring stick.


Anonymous said...

Dear C.D.,

I don't quite understand the unrelenting TT disdain. I have rarely heard any positive comments from you. It appears you are the antithesis of Vandermause. I cannot read this blog or packerchatters anymore because of the continual negativity. I wish there were fair reviewers, not such polarized ones. Maybe someday.

Packer fan in Chicago

C.D. Angeli said...

Well, Chicago, that is always your choice. I think if you look through my posts, you will find enough positives about TT in there. But, I don't even think this one was "negative" towards TT. Negative towards a columnist who refers to people who criticize Thompson as braying mules? You bet. Negative towards a columnist that uses Dan Snyder as the only measuring stick? You bet.

I have never called for Thompson to be fired. Ever. But I have no problem looking at the situation and giving a critical analysis. Defense is a problem? Check. Trying to switch to a 3-4 without the right talent? Check. Signing only backups and reserves from the FA pool again? Check.

Fair reviewer? Well, that's for you to judge. The question I might ask is if you are a fair and unbiased reader, or are you sensitive to anyone offering criticism to guys that you like?

tempest4543 said...


Thank you for the comment. I have no particular fondness for TT. I have a great fondness for the Green Bay Packers.

If Thompson is not doing the job, he should be fired. If he does not have success this year, he definitely must be looked at.

However, I do not agree with the general tone of many Packer fans who appear to have a personal hatred toward him.

I also get very depressed when I read your comments, because they make the situation often look hopeless. Maybe that is not your intention. But it is what is represented. Please don't mistake that for TT love. It is not. It is hope that the Packers indeed can turn this around. Otherwise, they need a new regime.

Thank you again.

C.D. Angeli said...

Well, thanks Tempest. Appreciate the good vibes.

I don't think I try to make things "depressing". In fact, I think the Packers are walking a thin line between success and failure, and I don't think it really takes too much to push the team over that line either way.

There's a lot to respect about Thompson. He's really cleaned up the cap, he really improved the climate of the team as it relates to holdouts and contract disputes, and he is committed to his plan, come what may.

But, the danger comes in believing so hard in your plan that you avoid the actions that really might be in the team's best interest. I predicted years ago that Thompson's approach would result not in great success or great failure, but extended mediocrity. Time will tell.

Go Pack!

Anonymous said...


Thanks again for the clarification. A couple of final thoughts. I wonder how the new defensive staff views the players on the roster. Surely they must be aware of the apparent lack of talent on the defensive side of the ball. Why would they sign up for the job if they felt they would fail?

Also, McCarthy and Thompson must know they are on thin ice. Do they all really think there is sufficient talent on the current roster? It doesn't make sense.

Thanks again.

C.D. Angeli said...

The good thing about Dom Capers is that he has so much credibility that he has little to lose. If the Packers have a rotten season, he is going to get a DC position elsewhere.

And, if you really think about it, if the D improves but the offense falters, Capers may be the man to be promoted to HC in the event MM gets the axe.

But, I do think there has to be some consternation right now inside the Don Hutson Center. I think you are looking at an experiment that can go, at best, okay, and at worst, horribly wrong. You can make a case that we may be have to upgrade six or more positions along the defensive side of the ball in the next year or so.

tempest4543 said...

Hi C.D.,

Thanks for your comment. And sorry about all the name differences in my posts. I was not sure what to put. But I will be the same from now on.

I think your comment, "I predicted years ago that Thompson's approach would result not in great success or great failure, but extended mediocrity" may be true. However, they did go 13-3, which was the best record since the Super Bowl years. Perhaps it was an aberration. This year will certainly tell a lot.

But another claim, "I think you are looking at an experiment that can go, at best, okay, and at worst, horribly wrong" I don't agree with. There is a non-zero probability that the new defense will succeed greatly or even moderately. It could also tank. Actually, I think a DC makes a HUGE difference, as evidenced in the Bates year. Clearly Sanders was in over his head. We have clearly four pro-bowlers on defense and arguably five (Barnett when healthy). We should have a legitimate defense, which severely underachieved last year. I could be wrong, but the assumption that it will certainly be worse and probably much, much worse is not necessarily valid. But again, we will see come September.

C.D. Angeli said...

Tell you what, Tempest...that 13-3 season added a lot of credibility (and time) to TT and MM. One article I've been bopping around lately is if 2007 is the aberration or not. What if 2008 is the aberration? See what I mean? I think 2009 is going to go a long way in deciding that.

And I will agree 105% that Dom Capers brings this change instant credibility, too. But, the scheme still smacks a bit as a move of desperation, and worse, smacks as a move very, very similar to the ZBS change. The ZBS was a move made to copy what others were having success with, whether we had the talent for it or not. And, I think it is clear that our offensive line has been, at best, average since moving to that scheme.

Now that the two holdover tackles from the Sherman regime appear to be on their way out, that scheme is going to be even more under-the-microscope in 2009.

So, the 3-4, despite the great talent you cite (and I agree with), is still going to be utilizing players out of position (Kampman, Pickett, Hawk, Poppinga) until the "right fit" talent comes along. I think it has more room for struggles early on, and the benefits (if any) will be seen 3-4 years from now.