Sunday, September 19, 2010

Grant Vs. Jackson, Uncivil-War Edition

Since this an election year, my current-affairs spiel.

When Ryan Grant went down for the season with an ankle injury, the pundits among us (which does not include me; I am merely a researcher with a mean streak) immediately ticked off two imperatives:
1) Fantasy-football players must pick up Brandon Jackson; and
2) The Packers must trade for Marshawn Lynch. Even noted fantasy baller (what he does can't be real) Aaron Rodgers made that call.

Sorry to stick a pin into the hot-airheads of the blogosphere, but the chances of that happening are less than the chances of a remake of Can't Stop The Music, with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as the Village People.

There are two reasons for this, both of which are obvious as the rhymes in a Jonas Brothers song:
1) Ted Thompson doesn't want to; and
2) The Packers don't need Marshawn Lynch -- in fact, the presence of Marshawn Lynch on the field -- on the field, not in the locker room -- would be a detriment to the Packers.

The first reason is pretty obvious. Ted Thompson's guys are Ted Thompson's guys,and if you're not one of Ted Thompson's guys it's really hard to be one. A friend of mine got drunk with Ted Thompson one year at the Senior Bowl, and he said that Thompson was the sorriest drunk he'd ever seen, in the sense that even when he was ready to curl up with a bottle of Cutty Sark on the top of a pool table Thompson was still analyzing football talent, and expounding on the shortcomings of Whisper Goodman. Football is Ted Thompson's life, and his afterlife, and his after-after-afterlife. He wants to come back as The Duke. All he wants out of this life is a six-foot-seven 350-pounder who can run a 4.2 40 and keep his pads two inches from the ground.

The second reason is less obvious, and has to do with the underlying message of this blog, which is that teams have tendencies and play to tendencies, and the best teams fit their personnel to their tendencies. The Packers are a passing team. They are all about Aaron Rodgers spreading around the ball to Jennings and Jones and Driver and Finley, because that's where the talent is, where the yards are, and where the points are. The Packers run one running back almost exclusively and ask comparatively little from him: 15 carries, four yards a carry, catch passes out of the backfield, pick up the blitz.

Brandon Jackson can do this. Marshawn Lynch is not going to do significantly better than this, and he might do markedly worse, in the sense of the Packers netting fewer yards with him than without him.

Here's what I mean. The Packers are not currently tempted to run Brandon Jackson 20 times a game. They want to run him 15 times a game, get their 60 yards, and fling the ball all over the field with the rest of their plays. If the Packers were to pick up Lynch they might possibly be compelled to run him five more times a game. The Packers gain an average of eight yards per pass and three and a half yards per run. Taking five plays away from the passing game and adding them to the running game costs the Packers four and a half yards per play, or 22.5 yards. That may not seem like much, but what team wouldn't want an extra 22.5 yards to mess around with? They come in handy.

Swapping around football players like Pokemon cards is fun. Who doesn't like to dabble in human trafficking now and then? The problem is that people get so wrapped up in proposing the most lopsided trade possible -- Breno Giacomini for Randy Moss, anyone? -- that they neglect to think about how a team behaves and what it really needs to function properly. In the case of the Packers, they simply need a running back to play the part of a pantomime horse, to stand up there and pretend to be something it's not without distracting from the main activity on stage.

Ted Thompson would understand.

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