Sunday, May 06, 2007

Mystery Solved

In the old days, writers, particularly those who wrote freelance articles for magazines, were paid by the word. Let’s say you wrote a 2,000 word article and the publication had a rate of 10 cents per word. You would earn $200 for an article. Let’s say your goal was to earn $20,000 per year from writing. That would mean you would have to write 200,000 words per year. A typical novel is about 100,000 words in length. So, the busy free-lancer of the past had to write the equivalent of two complete novels each year. This explains why not that many people made a living as freelance writers.

When you look at columns and articles at many sports-related Web sites, you have to conclude that the old days of pay-per-word must be coming back, because many of these pieces are chock full of breezy, chatty opinions, and tired repetition from other articles, but are low on facts, insights or original content. We’ve commented before at Packers Literary Corner about Sports Illustrated’s Peter King and his “Monday Morning Quarterback” series, which is thoroughly padded each week with tedious stuff such as his political views, notes on trival things his family is doing, or little hassles he encounters in traveling. But Mr. King is by no means alone in his low content- to- word-count ratio.

In the 2007 NFL “offseason”, if there is such a thing anymore, I’ll wager I have read or heard the following statement at least, oh, 15,000 times (I might be guilty of underestimation here):


And when the Packers do things like pass on making offers to marquee free agent receivers or running backs, bizarre conspiracy theories emerge like:

Ted Thompson is sabotaging Brett because he’s jealous of Brett’s popularity.
Ted is trying to force Brett to retire.
Ted Thompson actually works for the Bears.

In fact, the Packers whole offseason personnel strategy has become something of a mystery to the fans. Many question whether there is, in fact, any strategy at all.

But then out of the gloom comes a succinct, fresh and stimulating viewpoint like the one penned by Tom Oates of the Wisconsin State Journal ( in a column dated May 3. After I finished reading Mr. Oates’ article, the offseason mystery was solved and all became clear. He said:

“Indeed it has become increasingly apparent that Thompson is reading out of a 10-year-old playbook, one written by his mentor, former general manager Ron Wolf.

During the Packers’ Super Bowl years, Wolf spent his money elsewhere and handed Favre mid-round picks at the skill positions.”

He cites Packer stalwarts such Edgar Bennett, Dorsey Levens, Robert Brooks and Antonio Freeman as examples of how this method worked so well. All of these players had such successful careers with Green Bay, we forget they were not first or second rounders in the draft. Why did this strategy work so well? Oates says:

“All of those players were good, but none was truly special. The Packers got away with it because Favre was such a dominant player.”

Ted Thompson’s rigid adherence to this strategy is suspect, it would seem, because now Brett is 37 and cannot take over the game by himself anymore. As Oates says:

“He (Thompson) doesn’t seem to understand that Favre needs more help than he once did.”

This is a great, great, column. It clears up a huge mystery for Packer fans. Ted Thompson isn’t incompetent, as so many have argued in the heated debates that take place on message boards and in chat rooms; he’s simply following a very successful business model that his mentor implemented in the mid-1990’s.

It’s obvious to Packers Literary Corner that Ted is trying to build a kick-ass defense in the Ravens/Steelers/Bears model, and he’s hoping that Brett Favre can still make the so-so players on offense look better than they are, because of Brett’s skill, leadership ability and sheer will to win. I would also add, Brett's willingness to spread the ball around and locate whatever receiver is the least bit open. Will this plan work in 2007?

Maybe. If the new kick-ass defense can generate enough turnovers and get the ball back for Brett.

But in any case we can relax and enjoy the rest of springtime and summer. The Packers have a strategy, after all.

Thanks to Tom Oates for explaining this so clearly—and he didn’t require that many words to do it.

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