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A "Good" Problem?

by Nick Vitrano

The very nature of the word problem is that little good envelops the situation.  But on the eve of the NFL’s final roster cut deadline, you will hear the following used in a number of circumstances, be it team or position analysis: “It’s a good problem to have.”

I’m a frighteningly analytical fella, frequently paralyzed by over-thinking a decision as simple as what to eat.  It makes managing a fantasy team particularly difficult.  For that reason (and many others), I would make a lousy real GM and I’ve never understood the “good problem to have” treatment. 

Black and white decisions are so much easier, so much more comforting, aren’t they?  Like, if I’d like to keep 4 tight ends, and it just so happens that my 5th TE is a pretty solid dropoff from #4, it’s pretty simple…cut that dude and move along.  There’s no trepidation over what to do or what might be down the line…no fear of regret.  It’s a much more pleasant night’s rest.

But Ted Thompson, GM of the Green Bay Packers, said something to me a couple years back that I have never forgotten.  It always makes me smile this time of year.  And it lent some clarity to the aforementioned cliché.

Fresh off of a Super Bowl XLV victory, Thompson and the Packers agreed to a contract extension in February of 2011.  Thompson, the most criticized man in the history of the organization (see Brett Favre) didn’t need to ink his name to a multi-year extension.  He had nothing left to prove to the team, the town, the league, nor himself.  He had the last laugh.  He had won.  You would think he would have relished the opportunity to get away from it all and just rest his bones and, more critically, his mind.  Presenting precisely that to Thompson (along with a laundry list of his career accomplishments) I asked Thompson: “Why would you sign up for this again?”  His response: “Because it’s hard.”

It’s hard.  Awesome.  That which makes the position entirely unattractive to most is that which draws Thompson (and the successful GMs) back.  To them, the tough cut is absolutely a good thing.  It’s a fantastic character sketch and a worthwhile revisitation of the greatest of sports truths…winning never comes easily.