Analyzing Trade Rumors Of Marion Barber To Packers
The NFL trade deadline expires at 3:00 p.m. CDT today. And while it seems unlikely that Packers general manager Ted Thompson will make another move, Packer fans are still hoping for a last minute trade with the Dallas Cowboys for running back Marion Barber III.
In his sixth year as Packers general manager, Thompson has rarely acquired a player via trade. Given that history, yesterday’s trade for safety Anthony Smith was intriguing. After Thompson traded a conditional seventh-round draft pick for the safety, Packer Nation awoke with a thirst for more.
However there’s a difference in trading a seventh-round pick for Smith and giving up a higher pick for Marion Barber. Thompson likes players he already knows, and the trade for Smith was to erase the mistake of releasing the safety prior to the 2009 season. In addition, Thompson had a spare seventh-round draft pick from trading long snapper J.J. Jansen to Carolina last season. Further, Thompson holds on to draft picks tighter than a mother holds on to her newborn child, and giving up one of those coveted picks for a running back in a scheme that features wide receivers seems unlikely.
It’s important to note that the Packers should be receiving at least a fourth-round pick (possibly a third) for losing Aaron Kampman to free agency, so Thompson will have one extra pick next year. Would Barber be available for a fourth? I doubt it, but if he was, Thompson may consider the offer.
Even if Barber were available for a late-round pick, other factors remain. For example, the Packers are a pass-first team. The possibility of upgrading talent at the running back position sounds appealing, but would it make a difference?
In five seasons as Packers head coach, Mike McCarthy has always preferred the pass over the run. After losing running back Ryan Grant for the year, that trend has solidified. Greg Bedard of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel pointed out that in the last two games, the Packers handed the ball to the running back 30 times. In contrast, Aaron Rodgers has dropped back to pass 88 times. To put that into perspective, Mike McCarthy is throwing the ball 74.6% of the time.
Bedard went on to note that the 2010 Packers running game under Brandon Jackson and John Kuhn looks remarkably similar to the 2009 rushing attack of Ryan Grant. Through the first six games of the 2009 season, Grant rushed for 495 yards on 118 carries. The combination of Brandon Jackson and John Kuhn have rushed for 447 yards on 101 carries.
Statistician extraordinaire, Bill Barnwell of Football Outsiders came to a similar conclusion. He wrote that the Packers averaged 5.6 yards-per-carry on first down with Jackson and Kuhn. Last season, Grant averaged 4.6 yards-per-carry on first downs. He also factored in Jackson’s 71-yard run against the Washington Redskins in week five. Barnwell notes that if you take out Jackson and Grant’s longest runs, the new averages are 4.4 yards-per-carry on first down for Jackson and 4.3 yards-per-carry for Ryan Grant.
These statistics beg the question: Does it matter who is playing running back for the Packers? The difference between Ryan Grant and Brandon Jackson is miniscule. Yet Packer fans have been clamoring for Thompson to go out and upgrade the running back position. Not that it would make any difference, but maybe Packer fans should direct their energy towards what play McCarthy is calling rather than who lines up in the backfield. If you throw the ball almost 75% of the time, would it matter if Chris Johnson or Adrian Peterson were lining up at half back?
As Packer fans wait for Thompson to bring in Marion Barber, maybe they should ask what they have in Brandon Jackson. Marion Barber would be an upgrade in short-yardage situations, but would he provide a spark for a pass-happy offense? I’m not so sure.