After a rocky start, Packers GM Ted Thompson is the one laughing now.
By: Braden Gall | 2/6/11, 11:01 AM EST
-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden)
Green Bay Packers GM Ted Thompson and quarterback Aaron Rodgers are forever linked in NFL history. And Thompson is just fine with that.
The journey for the current most important Packer employees came to a head during the summer of 2008, when Thompson had to make the toughest decision in his career as an NFL player, VP of Football Operations and General Manager.
A native of Atlanta, Texas, Thompson was an undrafted free agent linebacker by the Houston Oilers out of SMU. He made only eight career starts in 10 seasons but played on special teams in 146 of his possible 147 games – a testament to his gritty, hard-nosed mentality.
His first big mark on the front office of an NFL franchise was his performance as the VP of Football Operations in Seattle. Along with Mike Holmgren, Thompson helped rebuild the Seahawks organization, before taking his current GM position in Green Bay. Thompson proved to be the architect of the only Seahawks team to ever make it to the big game, when Seattle made it to the Super Bowl the year following Thompson’s departure to Lambeau Field.
In 2005, he began his tenure with a bang by releasing two fan favorites – longtime Pro Bowl safety Darron Sharper and starting guard Mark Wahle. Thompson then entered his first draft with the team, netting Aaron Rodgers, safety Nick Collins and linebacker Brady Poppinga (currently on IR).
In 2006, he made his second key move by firing head coach Mike Sherman and hiring familiar Packer face Mike McCarthy – who served as O.C. and quarterbacks coach in Green Bay previously. The move was met with mixed reviews, as McCarthy was a relatively unknown head-coaching candidate at the time.
A.J. Hawk, Thompson’s second first-round pick, has not lived up to the hype, Hawk did have his most productive year in 2010 filling in for injured starters Brad Jones, Brandon Chillar and Brady Poppinga. But in the middle rounds, Thompson found gem Greg Jennings and contributors Johnny Jolly and offensive linemen Daryn Colledge, Tony Moll and Jason Spitz.
By 2007, the will-he-or-won’t-he saga of No. 4 began in earnest. Much to the chagrin of Brett Favre, Thompson refused to give in to internal (and external) pressure to trade for head case Randy Moss. However, he did pull the trigger to trade for running back Ryan Grant from the New York Giants for a sixth-round pick. The 2007 NFL Draft netted running back Brandon Jackson, linebacker Desmond Bishop, wideout James Jones, kicker Mason Crosby and fullback Korey Hall. Thompson’s bunch finished with a 13-3 record and hosted the NFC Championship Game.
The first few years of Thompson’s tenure were filled with unpopular moves. He let well-liked veterans walk in free agency. He did very little during the off-season, implementing a stingy spending philosophy – the Packers had a league-low team salary in ’06 and ’07. Despite his shrewd roster maneuvers - how about signing undrafted free agent Tramon Williams in November of his first season even though he had never played a down? – smooth was not a word that came to mind when describing Thompson’s leadership in Green Bay.
But nothing was like the summer of 2008.
Favre had announced his retirement on March 6 earlier that spring. Green Bay brass addressed the issue by selecting two quarterbacks in the 2008 draft, Matt Flynn and Brian Brohm. The War Room also netted Jordy Nelson, JerMichael Finley and Josh Sitton as well.
Thompson, along with McCarthy, made very public statements that the Green Bay Packers were moving forward with Aaron Rodgers as their starting quarterback. When Favre expressed his desire to unretire – for the second time – Thompson’s hand was forced. Trading the most iconic Packer of all-time (no offense Starr, Kramer or Nitschke) had to be one of the most difficult decisions any GM has ever had to make. Thompson was criticized heavily.
While Green Bay finished with a 6-10 record, Rodgers became only the second NFL quarterback to top 4,000 yards passing in his first season as a starter (Kurt Warner – 1999). The Jets meanwhile, after trading for Favre, made a strong early push for the playoffs but stumbled to the finish line, barely missing the postseason. Favre then pulled his Real, Comfortable retirement two-step again.
In the offseason of 2009, Thompson hired new defensive coordinator Dom Capers, charging him with totally revamping the porous unit. To help, he selected nose guard B.J. Raji with the ninth over pick and traded back up into the first round to select outside linebacker Clay Matthews Jr. He also landed lineman T.J. Lang, starting fullback Quinn Johnson and would-be starting outside backer Brad Jones (currently on IR) later in the draft. After only two seasons, Thompson’s 2009 first-round haul could rank among the best in league history.
His 2010 draft provided the Packers their starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga (first round), would-be starting free safety Morgan Burnett (currently on IR), playoff dynamo and future starter at running back James Starks as well as contributors end Mike Neal (IR) and tight end Andrew Quarless.
With his frugal offseason spending and draft-focused architectural style, Thompson has a clear and definitive game plan set in place for his organization. But his decision to go with No. 12 over No. 4 will forever be his legacy.
Three seasons later, Packers fans have forgotten (until his Hall of Fame induction) all about Mr. Wrangler himself. That is what two playoff berths, a trip to the biggest sporting event of the year and the highest career QB Rating in NFL history (98.4) will do for an organization.
Plus, and thankfully so, no one has seen how Rodgers looks in crocs.
Most Popular Articles
Sign Up For Our Newsletter
Get the latest news and find out what our Athlon Sports experts have to say each week.
Contests & Promotions
Athlon Sports Fantasy Racing!
Enter the Athlon Sports Fantasy Racing game. Just head over to athlon.myfantasyracing.com and register for your chance to win a chance to watch a 2014 race from the grandstands. You'll also have a chance to win other amazing prizes such as an autographed Kyle Busch helmet.