(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.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.
The rallying cry from a restless fan base went something like this: “Do something — anything — to upgrade the roster and appease us.”
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.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.
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.
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.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:
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.
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.