The Best and Worst of Packers GM Ted Thompson – Part 1: The Hits

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Green Bay Packers GM Ted Thompson
Green Bay Packers GM Ted Thompson

Since January 14, 2005, Ted Thompson has been the driving force behind the reincarnation of the Green Bay Packers. At times he has been reviled by a huge portion of Packer Nation, and recently has been lauded as the eccentric genius architect of the deepest and most talented team in the league. To encapsulate his triumphs and failures of the past 6 years I have created a top ten list of hits and misses (coming soon).

The Hits


1. Drafting Aaron Rodgers:

This draft pick caused me and my friends to scream and throw our draft guides at the television. “Get Brett Favre some weapons! Our window is closing! Why does The Albino hate us?” we shouted between moments of rage filled couch punching. Aaron Rodgers is arguably the best quarterback in the league, which is the most important position in all of sports.

2. Hiring Mike McCarthy:

It took some guts to bring in the coordinator of the worst offense in the NFL to be your first hire. As my screen name may indicate, I was an extreme doubter of McCarthy and may have even called for his head on a platter on this very website. Two things have become very clear after the Packers beat the Steelers in the Superbowl; Thompson found the right man for the job, and I good sirs, am an idiot.

3. Trading Brett Favre:

There seems to be a theme here, Ted Thompson’s greatest moves were also his most controversial. This moment in Packer history will be discussed for years to come. In the end it was the perfect time to make the franchises biggest change in two decades.

4. Signing Charles Woodson:

Thompson has been very selective in free agency is like saying Gilbert Brown was slightly overweight, but Charles Woodson is the second greatest free agent signing in Packer’s history. I will give everyone one guess as to who is #1 on that list.

5. Drafting Clay Matthews III:

Trading up in the draft is not something that Thompson appears to be comfortable with, but he left his comfort zone and moved up to draft one of the most feared young defenders in the NFL. Matthews was the least known of the three USC linebackers drafted in 2009, but he has been a force from day one.

6. Drafting Greg Jennings:

When Ted Thompson chose Jennings with the 52nd pick of the 2006 draft most people said, “Who?” It became quite obvious in Jennings’ first preseason that Thompson knew exactly what he was getting in Jennings.

7. Signing Tramon Williams:

Perhaps Thompson’s greatest strength is his ability to find value in the scrap pile of players on the periphery of the NFL. Williams has developed into a top 10 cover corner in the NFL.

8. Drafting B.J. Raji:

It seems like a no brainer on the surface. The Packers needed a nose tackle and Raji fell into their lap with the 9th overall pick in 2009. But there were plenty of people wondering if Michael Crabtree might look good in a Packer uniform. Raji is the best young nose tackle in the league
.

9. Trading Javon Walker:

Trading the extremely talented but malcontented Javon Walker for a second round pick in the 2006 draft to the Broncos seemed like a fair deal at the time. It sounds even better when you realize Thompson drafted Greg Jennings in the second round of 2006, and the last time Walker made a headline he was getting beaten,  robbed and left in an alley in Las Vegas.

10. Not Bowing to Criticism:

Throughout his career as a Packer, Thompson has never waivered from his plan of how to build a successful team. Whether it was his future Hall of Fame quarterback constantly lobbying for free agents, or moronic fans like myself who screamed to anyone that would listen that Thompson is a complete moron. Thompson stayed the course and has built the most talented team in the NFL from the inside out.

Have at it one and all, I expect nothing less than your most scathing review of my first guest post for Mr. Jersey Al Bracco. The more controversial list of Thompson’s Top Ten
Misses will be on its way soon…

 

Dan “FireMM” Blakley is a frequent  commenter on AllGreenBayPackers.com, for which we are grateful. He has a knack for leaving intelligent comments with a decent dose of humor and self-deprecation. (See his screen name, which first appeared after the Detroit loss last year) We enjoy his contributions.

  • http://packerpalace Gerry

    Trading #4 is #1. Who knows how many years he would have hung around with no one to tell him NO!!

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      But that was dependent on the Packers having a replacement ready. So the pick of Rodgers comes first.

      • FireMMNow

        Trading #4 could easily go as #1 in some peoples eyes, but I think drafting Rodgers took more guts and foresight. TT kind HAD to trade Brett, he did not HAVE to draft Rodgers.

    • Lucas

      That’s almost like the argument made that the best draft pick GB has ever had was Tony Mandarich–because if they had taken Barry Sanders, they never would have tried to get Brett Favre.
      The “addition by subtraction” is a backhanded compliment to the next player. I refuse to give Aaron a backhanded compliment. Or Bishop.

  • Ron LC

    An official welcome out of the closet and on to the firing line, Dan. Can’t find any disagreement on the ten.

    Heard Javon interviewed last week. He is out promoting his “new” life. Hope he stays the course. A guy with so much talent throwing everything away was a real tragedy.

    FYI – I predict that his lack of interest in the Oline until recently will be a miss.

    • FireMMNow

      Thanks Ron.

  • Ed Schoenfeld

    You forgot
    4b Signing Ryan Pickett

    and

    1a Cutting Wahle, Rivera, and Sharper. None of the cap discipline and ‘keeping your own’ philosophy is possible without those initial moves.

    • Grant

      Interesting. I was thinking that Sharper might be on the list of misses. I don’t remember exactly how much he was set to make though and how much cap space was available

      • Oppy

        Packers attempted to deal with Sharper and renegotiate. It is my understanding Sharper flatly refused to renegotiate his contract. THe Packers wished him well.

        • Ed Schoenfeld

          Sharper had a contract provision such that the packers could renew with some (at the time) huge bonus and multi-million salary from renewal year one — it was really a poison pill that was impossible to pay.

          The bigger problem is that Sharper’s contract and especially Wahle’s ($10+ million for a guard in 2005 — I’ll remember that insane number forever) would have put 20-24% of the packer’s 2005 era salary cap on two players who were not a proven star QB. The contracts were really symptomatic of how the inmates had come to run the asylum under Sherman. The Packers probably could have made the cap space by cutting or not re-signing younger, rising players and shoving the cap effects into bonus money amortized over a long time and creating immense “dead cap” numbers — thus initiating a downward spiral into cap hell that would have gutted the team’s future.

          Stating from day one that he wasn’t going to let that happen was Thompson’s first and most important challenge as a GM. If he hadn’t made the right decision there — one he was hounded for by some fans — none of the rest is even remotely possible.

          • Dan “FireMMNow” Blakley

            The issue is, what is overpaid today is underpaid tomorrow. Numerous contracts sound outrageous when they are handed out. But in an environment of skyrocketing revenues, some of those deals turn out to be good deals by year two. Wahle was tremendous for Carolina, and injuries that were not part of his past shortened his career, but even then it was 4 years after Thompson let him go.

    • FireMMNow

      Pickett has been very good, but not spectacular. He has been a solidifying presence on the field and in the locker room, but I am not sure he is top ten worthy. Top 15, but I do not think top 10.

      I agree on letting sharper go, but letting Wahle and Rivera go may have a spot on my “worst” list. He let two pro bowl calibers leave and it took him 4 years to find replacements. The packers are still searching at LG to find someone in the same class as guys that were on this team when TT got here.

      • Oppy

        Letting Wahle and Rivera go was not a judgement call, it was a unfortunate need and harsh reality.

        Packers salary cap was an utter mess. While I’m not suggesting letting them walk was a “hit”, it wasn’t a “miss” by any means, either..It was a necessary evil.

        It should be of some consolation that neither Wahle nor Rivera played at the same sustained high level too much longer in their careers after GB, so that should help alleviate some of the pain, too.

      • Ed Schoenfeld

        Rivera played 1 season for Boyz and spent another on IR. When Thompson released him, Rivera was a 33 year old guard with no knee cartilege. Wahle did better, but in 2005 cap levels no guard in the universe was worth $10 million. It’s a business, and cutting Rivera and Wahle was the right business call.

      • Ed Schoenfeld

        I’ll politely disagree with you on Pickett. He has been a top ten nose tackle for the past 5 years. Without him, the Packers don’t have a DL from 2006 through 2009, with him they had a good run defense and, in 2010, a 2 man starting D-line that got them to the superbowl. That huge pass defense we had because we coild play nickle with 2 down linemen all season long? It starts with Ryan Picket in a three point stance.

        I’ll even put Pickett ahead of Woodson as a signing — Woodson kind of fell into TT’s lap when no one else wanted to let him play corner. Picket is the only first tier free agent Thompson ever went out of his way to pursue and sign in a competitive bidding environment.

        • Dan “FireMMNow” Blakley

          I disagree that Woodson fell into TTs lap. Woodson has made it clear that he did not want to come to Green Bay. And I think we can all remember how he looked in his first pre-season…like he did not want to be here. TT paid more than anyone else for Woodson.

          And yeah, Pickett has been a top 10 NT maybe, Woodson has been a top 4 corner and DPOY. Woodson has had a greater impact in my opinion.

  • StarksisbetterthanGrant

    I don’t know if the Wahle and Rivera situation was that bad FireMMNow. I agree that they were talented players during their time with Green Bay, and we have struggled to find replacements…but they both signed HUGE deals a UFA’s. Rivera had back issues right off the bat for Dallas and fizzled out of the league quickly. Wahle was what he was with the Packers, a talented player that really never bloomed into the pro bowl guy we hoped he’d be. We were also going to a zone blocking scheme, so I think TT wanted to try to hand pick some gems….that he never really found.

    The real blame in that situation needs to go to Mike Sherman for his short-sighted views and not extending Wahle before he became an UFA. Once he was there, the Packers couldn’t afford him.

    • Dan “FireMMNow” Blakley

      The quarterbacks that have been in place during TTs tenure have been the franchise. I believe you have noted that in the past. Protecting them should be priority #1. You may have a case with Rivera that he was on the tail end of his career, but Wahle was in his prime. While TT sat on 30 million dollars in cap space, Wahle went on to be one of the better guards in the NFL for Carolina and made the Pro Bowl in 2005.

      • Ron LC

        Dude!! Who says we ain’t very classy.

  • Jer

    One of the benifits to the Favre decision that wasn’t talked about a lot at the time is that by letting him go they took their team back.

    Nobody will ever again think of Brad Childress without seeing the images of him picking up Favre at the airport and following him around like a little puppy down in Mississippi. How do you have any credibility with your players after displays like that? They knew who ran the show.

    Because of what TT did, McCarthy can say with credibility that no player is bigger than the team.

    • Dan “FireMMNow” Blakley

      The trade of Brett Favre was, as I eluded to, the biggest change in the organzation in nearly 20 years. Your point is extremely valid though. I thought it would be better to leave the explanation of that point short, to be comprehensive on it would have been exhausting. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • numby

    I will even add Ahman Green to that list of “cap” casualities. Thompson states that he would rather get rid of a player one year early than one year late.

  • Andy

    In Sherman’s years as GM (in addition to coach), he draft only 3 linemen! Of those three, only Scott Wells panned out and he was drafted in the highest round (6th). Sherman completely neglected the OL and it’s one of the first big moves that TT made. Rivera was past his prime and Wahle was commanding too much. While TT didn’t find great replacements, he made the right moves for the future — as usual.

    • Dan “FireMMNow” Blakley

      Thompson has missed more on the o-line than he has hit. It is his one weak spot in the draft process in my opinion.

  • aaronqb

    I would put hiring Mike McCarthy as #1. McCarthy has hired strong assistants, provided an atmosphere for players to thrive, built process, works well with Thompson, etc etc. Player transactions must be second to this hire.

    • Dan “FireMMNow” Blakley

      I thought about it, but I decided you cannot win in this league consistently without a great QB. Lots of average coaches win a ton of games with elite QBs. see Shanahan, Caldwell, Sherman, etc. But not many great coaches win a lot of games without elite QBs. But I definitely gave it some thought.

  • Mojo

    I’m going to actually select your number 10 hit (Not bowing to Criticism) as the number one. “By staying the course” or “sticking with the plan” most of the items above #10 were accomplished.

    Good job FireMMNow on this topic. Also enjoy reading your posts on the other topics.

    • Dan “FireMMNow” Blakley

      Thanks Mojo, it very well could be #1. But wouldnt it be more fun if he did exactly what the fans wanted? Sure the franchise would be bankrupt and look more like the redskins than the packers…but then you just restart the franchise like in Madden.

  • Mr. Bacon

    #11 – Having the Biggest NFL Yellowbook in the league. After last year, you cannot argue that Ted Thompson doesn’t care who goes down on his team, he has the right person to sign from the Free Agent talent pool.

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      Welcome back Mr. Bacon. Sizzling as always…

  • Stu

    Nick collins?!?! Finley?!?! Sitton!!!!

    • Dan “FireMMNow” Blakley

      Collins is close but I actually think he is slightly overrated. I know this will get me killed, but it is my opinion.

      Finley – what has he really done yet? If he gets hurt again he will be a could have, would have, should have. In two years he could be on this list.

      Sitton – Thought about it, he might make the 2012 list. I want him to do it again and truly dominate the way he can every week. Of the people you listed, I gave him the most thought.

      • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

        I actually agree with you on Collins. And it’s never a popular thing to say. He drops too many easy INTs, among other things.

      • The Delivery Guy

        My Favorite TT story though is all the scouts going to Central Florida or whatever school it was to watch RB Kevin Williams (who Millan grabbed in the 3rd round) while TT quietly invited some OG named Josh Sitton up to GB for a chat.

  • Dan “FireMMNow” Blakley

    Thomspon released Diryal Briggs. He was great on STs last year. I read that he had 8 tackles in the regular season and 4 in the playoffs in 5 games. The hamstring injury must be pretty bad.

  • Brad

    Nice list…How about NOT trading for Randy Moss? Hope that doesn’t make the other list.

    • Dan “FireMMNow” Blakley

      Gulp…

  • iccyfan

    I was going to chime in with the selection of Nick Collins until I saw it at the bottom, and frankly I’m shocked with the over-rated sentiment. If Polamolu is the standard, how is Collins over-rated and who is better right now? Serious question from a fan who admittedly doesn’t know the subtle nuances…

    • Dan “FireMMNow” Blakley

      Polamolu was injured in the playoffs last year and the superbowl, and it really affected him. I am not an expert on safety play, but to me what sets guys like polamolu, reed and even a guy like LeRoy Butler back in the day apart is their feel for the game and anticipation. I think in his prime, Ed Reed was the best safety that I ever saw play. Incredibly athletic, the hands of a WR and just an uncanny ability to process information. Collins is a spectacular athlete, but I do not think he creates as many plays with his football intelligence as the elite guys in the league. Very good player, but surprises me every time he makes the pro bowl.

  • PackersRS

    Oh! No mention whatsoever to Hiring Dom Capers? That is the single most important defensive move TT has ever made, and that includes drafting Matthews and Woodson.

    Just look at the numbers, since arriving in GB, Dom Capers’ D has been top 5 in every major defensive category except running yards, where it’s ranked 6th.

    • PackersRS

      *getting Woodson…

      • Mojo

        Did MM hire Capers RS, not TT?

        • Dan “FireMMNow” Blakley

          Exactly. I attribute the hire of Capers to MM. TT has made it very clear that he lets MM handle his staff, which is a very good thing. Therefore, the retention of winston moss, shawn slocum and James Campen will not be on the misses. Otherwise Capers would have been in the top 4.

          • PackersRS

            OK, thanks for the clarifier guys.

    • Bubbaloo

      Yes, I’m a little late into the game but MM DID hire Capers. Not TT. But still it was a real good move. And Dan, I was right there with you on draft day, throwin’ stuff at the TV, and even at times hoping the Pack would lose just so “Albino Ted and McPuffy” would get fired. NOT any more, I have forced down several plates of Crow, and I have changed my prodigal ways. Watching other teams spend big in free agaency only to see them do it again 2 yrs later has taught me to just trust TT, he’s usually got the “next” guy stockpiled on the roster somewhere, or finds them on someone’s scrap heap.

  • Bubbaloo

    Dan, after re-reading the “Top 10″ I would have to move #10 up to #1. This had to be something he accepted and understood before taking the job. He had been in Green Bay before and he knew he’d be criticized for one thing or another along the way. Yet he walked in with a plan and stuck to it even in the Favre fiasco. Without his willingness to accept that criticism some of the others decisions (moves) may not have been made. (Or might have been altered). Sticking to his guns has been his biggest asset.

    • Dan “FireMMNow” Blakley

      just glad it was worthy of a re-read. thanks for commenting bubbaloo. you may be right.

    • BubbaOne

      Apparently Bubbas’ think alike. Dan, great article except #10 ought to be #1. The GM as captain of the ship sets the tone for the org and has to be willing to take the criticism.
      His first pick of his regime w/ a HOF QB still playing well and he drafts his replacement. Can you say cajones! W/o them he doesn’t hire MM…like Jennings, another time fans and media said “Who?”
      His willingness to be true to his convictions trumps all other decisions.

  • homerunsimpson

    Im not sure if TT is a secret genius or very lucky. Good thing Arog fell in the draft instead of Alex Smith…

    • Dan “FireMMNow” Blakley

      For a while I thought he was just lucky as well, but you can get lucky once or twice, not like 40 times. He is an eccentric, albino, cat loving genius that may live in his moms basement for all I know. But he is our eccentric, albino, cat loving, basement dwelling genius.

  • Chris K

    Terrific article man! Good stuff and I like what made it on this list

  • StarksisbetterthanGrant

    Dear DanFireMMNowBlakley,

    Congratultions on hooking up and creating one of the strongest sports writing teams of this decade. I will soon see you on Sports Illustrated. I enjoyed the article, but would have to add to your list.
    #1: Signing Bishop and Hawk to extensions and releasing Nick Barnett.

    For years I have watched Nick Barnett suck, and for years I have had to watch him do his STUPID samurai sword celebration and wear that CHILDISH mouthguard with fangs. He was an embarrassment to the Packer Organization, and as a grown man I would blush whe he would make an average play and look like a douche bag. THANK GOD HE’S GONE!!

    I also think that Daryn Colledge sucks…..

    • Dan “FireMMNow” Blakley

      releasing barnett may make the misses. that mouthguard struck fear into opponents. thanks for the compliments though!

  • StarksisbetterthanGrant

    (I meant hooking up with Jersey Al)

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      We did not hook up – we’re just friends.

      :)

      • Dan “FireMMNow” Blakley

        Well now I am just confused about our relationship.

  • mcGregor

    Before the Giants choked against the Eagles and then Green Bay, thus allowing the Packers entry into the post-season, Packer Nation was wringing it’s hands re AR’s inability to win games in the final minute.

    Ah..20/20 is SO convenient.

    From what I glean from the various boards, Rodgers will be “the greatest of all time!” Even the media has take up a similar chant.

    Packer fans should be deliriously happy for seasons to come. And rightly so!

    • Ed Schoenfeld

      You say ‘hindsight is 20/20′ I say the proof is in the pudding. ANd I agree 100% about the deliriously happy part.

    • Dan “FireMMNow” Blakley

      this article is intended to be 20/20…you can see me not in 20/20 mode after a tough loss. i will be posting for someone to get fired or cut.

      • BubbaOne

        I do hope hiring Ari Fleischer the bald head, bald face professional liar makes your top ten, make that top 5 misses. I’m a big TT fan but I lost a lot of respect for him at the time for him hiring this clown.

        • Dan “FireMMNow” Blakley

          I assumed the president of the team hired Fleischer, not TT. If you want to blame someone for the Packers hiring Fleischer, blame Brett Favre. He forced them to hire someone for damage control. It is no conincidence that Fleisher was hired at the same time Favre was traded.

  • http://www.packerranter.com Franklin Hillside

    I already know the #1 miss.

    No. It’s not Justin Harrell.

    • Dan “FireMMNow” Blakley

      Franklin, aren’t you a studious looking fellow. I would be surprised if you get my #1. It was not a headline maker. I have a feeling that many of you will disagree with some of my misses, and probably list some that I did not think about.