Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Thompson should stick to the system

McGinn wrote wrap up of the game on Sunday, which quoted Ted Thompson taking responsibility for this team's struggles.  The Packer blogs have jumped on this quote and are hoping that this indicates that Thompson will abandon his philosophy and transform himself into the Anti-Thompson.  The Anti-Thompson trades up in the draft and picks according to need, and never trades back in the draft unless someone offers a silly deal.

Just because this season is a disappointment is not cause to abandon the system that Thompson learned from Ron Wolf.  The draft is often referred to as a "crap shoot."  For good reason, the draft involves probability and chance.  

Most casual gamblers understand that for each game there is a system, or a set of rules based upon probability.  For example, stand on 16 if the dealer is showing a 6, but hit on 16 if the dealer is showing a 10.  Following the correct strategy will not ensure that you win every hand. Far from it.  But religiously following the correct strategy will ensure that in the long run, you are better off.  The absolute worst thing that you can do is to get frustrated (or worse, desperate) and go off on a "hunch."  Or to get desperate and draft based on need "just this once."  (See Wolf's comments below on this topic.)

Drafting is about probability (with the caveat that the teams with better scouting have a better understanding of the true probabilities that any given prospect will develop into a solid player). There is no sure thing.  Trading down to accumulate picks makes sense because instead of 6 or 7  pulls at the slot machine, Thompson usually comes away with 11 or 12.  That is not to say that Thompson should never trade up (and, indeed, Thompson reportedly explores trading up in every draft) it all depends upon the value available.  The point is that now is not the time to abandon a system that, through Wolf and on to Thompson, has a pretty long and proven record of success.

An important point to remember is that the system does not (and is not designed) to win every hand or on every draft pick.  The point is to win in the long run.   If you stand on 16 when the dealer shows a 6, and the the dealer draws a 10 and a 3, you lose.  That doesn't mean that you "should" have played your hand any differently.  It just means that you lost a hand.

Similarly, the temptation is to point out the instances where a draft pick didn't work out and use that as evidence that Thompson doesn't know what he is doing.  This is wrong.  Just like the mistaken notion that "I should have hit on 16" is wrong.  Not every draft pick is going to pan out and that is just the way it is.  

From the outside, it is almost impossible to distinguish between a "bad pick" and a pick that just didn't work out.  Thus, I think it is much more useful to look at a GM's body of work as a whole. Here, as far as the draft is concerned Thompson's body of work is certainly solid.  He has my trust that he knows what he is doing in that department.  There is no need to panic and start hitting on the 16 when the dealer shows a 6.

This post is already getting lengthy but I have just a couple thoughts on drafting for need. From the mouth of Ron Wolf.

On drafting Jon Michels:

I had an opportunity that year to trade down, which would have left on our board Tony Brackens, plus I would have gotten another third rounder out of it. But I opted not to do that. That was one time where I was blinded by taking a need pick. We needed an offensive lineman. It was an idiotic decision on my part.

On drafting Jonathan Brown:

I took Jonathan Brown over Steve McKinney, who is still a starting guard for the Colts. Which was stupid. Again, it was a need pick and I was being hard-headed.

Stick to the system, Ted.

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