The Cost of Letting Matt Flynn Go: The Endowment Effect All Green Bay Packers All the Time
Seattle Seahawk Matt Flynn
Possibly the worst photoshop job on a NFL player ever

So who thinks Matt Flynn should have been franchised now?  I will be the first to admit that in my heart, I desperately wanted Flynn to be tagged and traded, and maybe while I’m dreaming some idiot team like the Raiders would offer a first rounder.  My head of course said otherwise, sure the potential reward is high, but so was the risk; what would happen if the Packers were stuck with a $14 million guaranteed check?

In the end, general manager Ted Thompson was right in letting Flynn go without a fight and Flynn signed a very conservative 3-year $26 million deal with $10 million guaranteed with the Seattle Seahawks.  More money that you or I will probably make in a lifetime, but loose change in comparison to the 5-year $90 million contract Peyton Manning just signed, or even the 5-year $60 million contract that Kevin Kolb signed last year.

My question is why fan perception of a player so different from a NFL GM?  Even the media, which presumably has a better idea of what NFL GMs are thinking are still more like fans when it comes to predicting player value (although this might have to do with the fact that the media caters to fans and not to NFL GMs, so they could be deliberately doing this).  Answer, the endowment effect.

Simply put, the endowment effect is the theory that there is a difference between the price of buying and selling a good when you own that good.  A more academic explanation would be that:  “This effect is a manifestation of “loss aversion”, the generalization that losses are weighted substantially more than objectively commensurate gains in the evaluation of prospects and trades (Kahneman and Tversky 1979; Tversky and Kahneman, in press).  An implication of this asymmetry is that if a good is evaluated as a loss when it is given up and as a gain when it is acquired, loss aversion will, on average, induce a higher dollar value for owners than for potential buyers, reducing the set of mutually acceptable trades” – Experimental Tests of the Endowment Effect and the Coase Theorem, Kahneman et al. 1990

Confused?  Packers fans, in this case represent the owners (while some of us are lucky enough to actually own Packers stock this really means emotional ownership of the team, like when we say “my team” or “we should bench AJ Hawk”) put more value in a good, this case a player such as Matt Flynn, when we “own” him than if we were to “buy” him.  The biggest factor in this theory is that ownership inflates the price of a good, especially when the owner has grown attached to the good (which was definitely the case between Packers fans and Matt Flynn)

For a more personal perspective, imagine you have your favorite couch: your wife hates it, you dog has peed all over it countless times and it’s ripped all over the place, but hey you’ve had that couch since college and you love it.  Now let’s assume the couch is worth $100 and someone offers you $110, you might still turn them down since your attachment to the couch overrules your “economic common sense”.  But if you were offered $200, then you might be inclined to part with it, as the value now becomes more attractive than its sentimental value.

Kahneman et al proved that owners valued their goods at nearly twice the actual value that buyers were willing to pay.  Reapplying this back to Matt Flynn, fans thought that a reasonable contract for Flynn would be a 5-year $60 million dollar contract much like the one Kevin Kolb signed last year; after all Kolb and Flynn had the same story as backups who showed promise and were “young rising stars”.  But low and behold Flynn signs a contract just about half the amount that fans were willing to part with him at.  Again, had Thompson franchised Flynn at $14 million, he would be paying around double what his actual yearly salary ended up being, and Thompson’s contract would have been fully guaranteed.

I think the main point that I want to get across is that as fans, we see the game in a very different light than people who actually work for the NFL.  As fans, we want our team to be good, damn “extenuating circumstances” like cost, scheme, or team chemistry.  If you want an example, just look at the Washington Redskins, who essentially cater to their fan’s wishes by making splashy free agent signings every year in order to raise excitement.  So while their fans are happy during the offseason, they rarely are happy during the post-season.   Matt Flynn made us very happy during his career with the Packers (especially for beating the Lions), but Ted Thompson was probably happiest when he let Flynn walk away.


Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s


46 thoughts on “The Cost of Letting Matt Flynn Go: The Endowment Effect

  1. Great post, Thomas. Who would’ve ever thought to come to Jersey Al’s website to get a little continuing education in economics? Fantastic! Thanks Thomas. 🙂

  2. Flynn would not have, by himself, brought a first round pick but if we would have coupled him with our 1st round pick then someone would have let us move up in the first. Seahawks got a great deal… I’d say that’s easily the best FA signing this off season so far. I thought he would bring about 3mil more a year than he did. They’re lucky everyone else had their eyes on Manning and the other teams are stupid for not going for him. The dolphins are the odd man out when it comes to finding a QB. They’re going to be screwed for years… you gotta feel for their fans.

    1. Zack there was no way we could ever have paired Flynn with a draft pick in a trade. The tags had to be set by March 5. Free agency began March 13.

      Flynn is a tradable player only if he does not sign the $14 million guaranteed franchise tag — that would have had to be arranged between the team and the player, to he detriment of the player, and only possible if some other team had made a hard contract offer to Flynn MORE THAN A WEEK BEFORE FREE AGENCY. Doing that is **collusion**, and is usually punished by the league by stripping the teams involved (in the case including the Packers) of their draft choices.

      So even if TT had tried it it would not have worked, because we would have lost any draft choices gained in the trade (and probably more).

      A Tag and trade on Flynn was never a realistic option — New England got away with if for Cassell under a different set of rules and the situation that existed this year was deliberately negotiated into the CBA to prevent the Cassell tag and trade from happening again.

      Like everyone, I want the Packers to get every possible advantage. But can we please live in the real world when evaluating what actually happens?

      1. Ed, we could have executed a tag and trade on flynn if we had acted within the deadlines. The purpose of this article is taking a look back at what COULD HAVE happenned within the deadline not after the deadline so your argument hit a dead end there. The tag and trade was a realistic option. There is precedence within this organization with the same management that we have now. Also Cassell was a valid example of how this could be executed. Do you even have an example of someone getting punished for executing tag and trade? I’d be willing to bet your answer is no. As far as the rules, what has changed? don’t give a vague reference if you’re trying to disprove my point of view, give me the specific thing that has changed that would have made this not work if you’re such an expert. This is operating in reality so just because it’s easy to say now that it didn’t happen that it wasn’t realistic doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a valid option not to mention even those of us who liked the idea acknowledged that it probably wasn’t going to happen. Pretty much everyone on this blog at least acknowledged the possibility of this happenning so where were you durring those discussions? Affraid to put yourself out there? Do you feel smart for coming out after the fact and acting like it wasn’t a possibility?

        1. Well there might not be any example of a trade and tag scenario getting penalized because any situation were a tag and trade was deemed collusion would likely have been blocked by the league and called “inappropriate communication with a player” or whatever they want to call it.

      2. Not to mention how does tagging him for 14mil not make him tradeable? you can’t just say that he’s not tradeable and not give justification… makes you sound like you don’t know what you’re talking about.

        1. Well considering that the best offer Flynn was able to get included $10 million guaranteed over 3 years, it seems highly unlikely that some team would be willing to risk have Flynn play for $14 million guaranteed over 1 year if he didn’t want to renegotiate. From that perspective, the Seahawks didn’t just save $3-4 million, they probably saved more like $10-20 million when you think that they would had to offer Flynn a much bigger contract to lower the cap hit of a franchised quarterback

          1. I’m not so sure. Flynn made it very clear that he just wanted the chance to start and prove himself not price gauge the hell out of who he decided to play for… Plus the organization could have worked it out with him before the tag and trade… yes it turned out to be the right call to not do a tag and trade because seatle nabbed him for the lowest amount that they possibly could and they did so without giving up the pick that they would have had to in a tag and trade but they risked him going to FA and if another team wanted flynn then they would have been in a bidding war… so the advantage to a tag and trade was there.

            1. So, you are serious when you say that Matt Flynn is worth $14.4M on a guaranteed 1-year contract? A guy with two starts to his credit in his career? Your risk in tagging the guy is that Flynn and his agent would sign the tender before the trade is effectuated, which would hook the $14.4M contract. What happens then if (when) the target team backs out of the trade, due to their own cap issues or other reasons? Can you justify keeping a second-string QB that is making more money than Rodgers? That is insane thinking, Zach.

              1. read my post again… I promise you I didn’t say or imply that he’s worth 14mil. He would obviously work out a contract restructurization prior to the tag and trade…. O.o it’s not insane. It’s been done before and it will be done again if not by us by someone else

            2. In essence, Flynn is betting on his two performances, I think he’s already proven that he is capable of playing at a starters level, how good a starter is a different issue, but IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT THE MONEY. Also if there wasn’t a bidding war for him during free agency (and his contract with Seattle would seem to indicate that), I highly doubt there would be a bidding war with draft picks and money being involved.

          1. Is that the best you’ve got Davida? That’s a lame comment man… At least criticize something I say instead of just throwing out a random insult. Lol who wants to bet that davida the marathon man and Ed schoenfeld are the same person and he switches names to ad validity to his argument. If not i still dont care I don’t take you seriously at all.

          2. Let’s try to keep it civil here. If you don’t like what Zack is saying, prove him wrong, don’t just sling retorts

      3. Actually trading a tagging is a legitimate option. For instance, Matt Flynn is franchises on the 5th and gets traded on the 13. Yes this is technically collusion, but it’s essentially impossible for the league to find out, especially at the combine where agents, scouts, coaches and GMs area all mingling around Indy. I’m sure New England and Kansas City had a handshake deal in place considering the money involved in franchising a quarterback, which is was even higher in the old CBA. Proof would be the fact that you always say trade and tags go through between two front offices with a lot of connections (i.e. Bellichick-Pioli)

        1. Again, you run the risk of the trade falling to pieces in the meantime, and GB would then be left holding a $14.4M bag. Since GB was only $7M below the cap, TT would then be forced to jettison a couple guys earning starter pay in order to accomodate a back-up QB. Let’s not get into the danger of, like the article says, self-inflating the value of a second-string QB.

    2. No he wouldn’t have. Tebow only garnered a 4th, and he was a 1st-round pick who actually led his team to a playoff win. Flynn MIGHT have been worth a third, no more.

      1. Tebow will not fit into any conventional nfl system, is universally recognized as a project QB, and is not NFL ready at this point. It was awesome to see him pull the broncos out of their crap and with a few years behind a vet QB who knows what he could become but if he did not have one of the best run games and defenses in the league he would have had a terrible season. mark my words and feel free to bash me next year if I’m wrong but if tebow starts next year for the jets they will have a sub .400 record. Flynn is an NFL ready QB and the games that he has played had unreal implications… if I were a team in need of a QB he definitely would have been my first choice this off season. are you saying that you would take tebow over flynn to start next year if you had to choose? I’ll say this again and I hope this is the last time I have to say it… FLYNN BY HIMSELF WOULD NOT HAVE BROUGHT A FIRST ROUND PICK IN A TRADE BUT IF WE COUPLED FLYNN WITH OUR FIRST PICK, SOMEONE WOULD HAVE LET US TRADE UP.

        1. If Tebow starts for the Jets, they’ll already be sub .400 so it won’t be entirely his fault. I’m not sure the risk of moving up 10 spots or so in the 1st would be worth while in comparison to the risk of having a $14 million dollar back up quarterback behind your $8 million dollar franchise NFL MVP quarterback.

          1. The Jets were a .500 team last year. yeah TT agreed with you about it not being worth the risk. I can’t say that it was a bad decision because I wasn’t there… all I’m saying is that we could have found someone to agree to it. I can’t account for things like if the deal fell through. I’m a gambler through and through so I would have probably gone for it. TT is a little more conservative and definitely a better GM than I would be which is why I just write on forums. I think I offer interesting points of view but as we’ve discussed in the past I’m glad TT doesn’t listen to me… with the exception of signing hawk to 6mil/yr. He should have listened to me when it came to that.

  3. there is also the anti-endowment effect, which is less irrational than the endowment effect. you know are more likely to know the latent defects of what you own, than any prospective buyer is. TT is pretty good at not overvaluing his own with Hawk being the glaring exception (go figure). In fact TT may be less subject to the endowment effect than anyone in pro-football. Look who he is willing to let walk, and is consistently accused of undervaluing his own. compare Mike Sherman, a natural born sucker, who got sold one bill of goods after another–Joe Johnson–because he thought what he did not own was solid gold and got snookered every time by GM’s not laboring under any endowment effect illusions.

    1. isn’t the “anti-endowment” effect in essence just holding out information from your competitors? Like if a players reputation precedes him (like say Brett Favre), then you get more than he’s actually worth. Conversely, the buyer assumes more of a risk since he knows less, which again is standard economic theory.

  4. Two games, one win and one loss are the extent of Flynn’s football history. He got what the market would bear. This verifies the study you reference Thomas. Tagging him would have been a blunder of monumental proportions. GB would have been caught on the wrong side of the QB bubble.

    Hope Matt does well and can get the big bucks in 15′.

  5. I just want to thank you for what could be an oppertunity of a life time in seattle, he smile that pete carroll has brought to my face with the signing of matt flynn. As a die hard fan you have to admit that the signing of matt for the amount of money was a good one. we actually bring in a QB that has the smarts of the game. a QB that will not fly around to make things happen with out thinking, we all know what happens when you do that very bad things happen. matt hasselback didn’t have a strong arm either and he did ok. Correct me on this when i say that matt flynns smarts of the game are much better then TJ and MH.

    1. Wouldn’t go as far to say Flynn is more knowledgeable than Hasselback (If that’s MH).

      But he’s a smart, hardworking, genuine kid. I’ve supported him since he took the QB2 job, despite people wanting a veteran QB every offseason.

      I still believe he has what it takes to be a championship QB. He needs the supporting cast, he doesn’t have the talent of Rodgers, Brady, Brees… But he already knows how to move safeties with his eyes, how to make proper audibles to take advantage of defenses…

    2. I think Seahawk 12th man fan just proved the endowment effect, now that Seattle has has ownership of him.

    3. As a fan who is saddled with Tjack as his team’s QB, I can see how you would be thrilled to get Matt Flynn (or just about anyone…)

  6. So,TT felt the comp pick of a 3rd or 4th for Jenkins was the better value than resigning him in the long term.
    The money to Hawk was to secure a good that appeared more valuable than what can be bought or had at the moment.
    Be nice if I’m off on this.

    1. I’m under the impression that Ted Thompson doesn’t see next years free agents as compensatory picks outright, its probably more of a bonus for him. More likely, he didn’t want to put so much money on an older linemen who had injury issues. Yes we could have desperately need him this year, but not resigning Jenkins means the chance of resigning Clay Matthews is that much more likely.

  7. Great post. This helps explain why it is impossible to trade with some guys in fantasy football

    It’s just unfortunate the GB couldn’t get something out of him this year that would help the team.

    1. Well everyone is insane in fantasy football, though I would be willing to wager that there’s less sentimentality in fantasy football leagues where money is being wagered

  8. Real Good article, I got my finance lesson for today, and I agree TT is likely very happy seeing as how things turned out. That said, now I just hope TT doesn’t turn around and trade a draft pick to Denver for a $3 player that’s being paid $3M!

  9. I guess if Matt Flynn brings the Lombardi trophy to the people of Pacific Nortwest after 1 year he plays for Seahawks like he brought the National Championship trophy to the LSU in his senior year, he will have many mega deals around the league.

      1. Many thanks to the GreenBay-Seattle connections. I was disappointed that GreenBay did not go all the way last year.

    1. No offense, but he’s in with a new team and the offense has to be tailored to him for the best efficiency. Chance of him winning the Super Bowl this year: very low. Chances of him getting a Lombardi trophy in 3 years: pretty good.

  10. Messrs. Kahneman, et. al. have obviously never been to Lane Bryant with mrs. Steve Cheez!

  11. Is that the best you’ve got Davida? That’s a lame comment man… At least criticize something I say instead of just throwing out a random insult. Lol who wants to bet that davida the marathon man and Ed schoenfeld are the same person and he switches names to ad validity to his argument. If not i still dont care I don’t take you seriously at all.

    1. Everyone calm down and be civil, this website is for dialogue and debate, not flame wars. If you really think that they are all the same person, then don’t feed the trolls.

      1. I’ve noticed I’ve brought a lot of heat lately… but if you look at most of my points I really don’t lash out until people become insulting… I try to keep to football as much as possible. When people throw out insults I get heated sometimes. Maybe I should just ignore it but I don’t feel that I should have to sit there and take someone insulting me quietly. I am a very opinionated person and I go onto forums so that I can discuss things with people not be insulted especially in a case like this where it’s completely uncalled for. I offer apologies when I feel like I got over heated and said something I shouldn’t have. In this case I feel like I was as civil as he allowed me to be and I offer no apology. I would say the same thing if he wrote the same thing to me tomorrow. plus trolls are disgusting and should be called on it every time they rear their ugly heads.

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