With The 2011 Packers Roster Set, Ted Thompson’s Odyssey Comes Full Circle

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Green Bay Packers GM Ted ThompsonIt’s hard to believe where we were three years ago.

I’m not going to recap the events of training camp in 2008.  They’ve been well documented a thousand times over.  Instead, let’s look in depth at the leader of the Green Bay Packers football operations, general manager Ted Thompson and his transformation from a reviled figure to a revered one.

Heading into the 2008 offseason, Thompson was still not really well liked by a large amount of the Packers fan base despite the team being an ill-fated pass away from a trip to Super Bowl XLII.    Cheesehead Nation had not yet embraced his “draft and develop” method of building a roster and implored Thompson to jump into free agency to bring some “instant talent” to the franchise.  Thompson refused to budge.

Throw in the tumultuous training camp of 2008 where Thompson jettisoned a certain three-time NFL MVP and Thompson’s approval rating amongst Packer fans was at an all-time low.  Throw in a dismal 6-10 season and it was getting close to the pitchforks and torches being brought out and used at 1265 Lombardi Avenue.

Websites and blogs went up on the internet with the sole purpose of leading to Thompson’s ouster.   Some extremists even said they’d refuse to cheer for the Packers until Thompson was terminated.

Entering the 2009, the stakes got even higher for Thompson.  In addition to trying to rebound from the 2008 campaign, Thompson was faced with the prospect of having to face his former quarterback that he traded away twice a season as Brett Favre joined the Minnesota Vikings.

The funny thing is that despite arguably Favre’s best year of his career and his Vikings beating the Packers out for the NFC North title and coming within a hair of the Super Bowl, the tide slowly was beginning to turn in Thompson’s favor.

One key factor was the emergence of Aaron Rodgers as the Packers starting quarterback.  Rodgers put up good numbers in his first season as a starter, but he was overshadowed by a putrid defense that led to the Packers adopting the 3-4 in 2009 under Dom Capers.  In 2009, Rodgers had numbers that nearly equaled Favre’s but the Packers were ousted in the first round by the Cardinals.

Despite the defeat, the Packers appeared on the right track.  It was becoming clear Thompson made the right call in going with Rodgers in 2008.  That argument was basically put to rest and the fan base was beginning to warm up to Thompson’s methods.  This team had great promise fans noticed, and they were cautiously optimistic Thompson was on to something as the 2010 season got underway.

The rest is history.  The Packers finished 2010 with 15 players on injured reserve and the fans finally got to see the method to Thompson’s madness as the Packers made a magical run to the Super Bowl XLV title.

Now we arrive at present day.  The Packers recently announced their 53 man roster to begin their defense of their world championship.  Whereas three short years ago, second guessing would have been amok and the questioning of Thompson’s ability would have had no end.

Instead, I notice one common refrain from Packer fans across the World Wide Web:

“In Ted we trust.”

I can’t help but chuckle and think how far we as fans have come in the period of just three short years.  From being ready to throw this guy out on the street to toasting him as a genius has been a strange yet ultimately fulfilling journey.

Please note I am not knocking fans for having their doubts about Thompson when they did.  I was in the same boat, although terminating him to me was a bit preposterous, even after the losses to Detroit and New England this past year.  We want to win every year and we get cranky when things don’t go the way we want them to.  Such is the nature of being and NFL, and in particular a Packer, fan.

That said, I’m sure most of us have never been so happy to be so wrong.  All you need to see is www.firetedthompsonnow.com and what was added to the site after the Packers won Super Bowl XLV.

A divided nation three years ago, Cheeseheads all over the world now stand united and are solidly behind Thompson as he continues to build what is arguably the deepest roster in the NFL.  He no doubt had some tough choices to make, but if you have too many good players on a team, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Ted, Packer Nation is behind you.  It might have taken longer to get there, but that Lombardi Trophy sitting in Lambeau Field gave us all the evidence we needed.

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Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com.

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  • http://www.pocketdoppler.com BigSnakeMan

    The image transformation of Thompson has been nothing short of remarkable. Of course, that’s largely because he never deserved all the derision he received in the first place.

    Now, however, the pendulum seems to have swung too far in the other direction. I’ve always been a TT supporter (some would say ‘apologist’) and his vision for building the Packers has now been validated with a Super Bowl title. On balance, I’ve always believed that Thompson has been good for the Packers, but that doesn’t mean that every single one of his decisions should remain unexamined and/or unquestioned.

    The truth, as usual, lies somewhere in the middle. Thompson is capable of mistakes as is anyone else. Fortunately for the Packers, he tends to make less of them than his competitors.

    I think that the best thing that can be said for TT is that he will remain true to his blueprint when the time comes to make the difficult or unpopular choice. That speaks volumes about his integrity.

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      A+ for this comment. The pendulum has swung too far in the other direction. Have the nerve to question a TT move and you get ripped for it. Ted would be the first to tell you he is far from perfect. It’s an imperfect science – you’re dealing with human beings, not robots. Ted has made many moves that have not worked out, but it doesn’t matter as long as more do than don’t.

      As you said, there is nothing wrong with questioning and examining, otherwise, we’re all a bunch of lemmings.

    • Kris Burke

      Well said indeed. Every GM swings and misses, some more than most (cough Mike Sherman cough) and Ron Wolf had his share of bad picks too. As long as the results on the field continue to be as they have been, though I don’t expect a ring every single year although it would be nice, I won’t complain much.

  • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

    looks like the firetedthompsonnow.com site is no more…

    • Kris Burke

      Maybe the owner is hard at work on FireShawnSlocumNow.com? I kid, of course. For the time being.

    • Oppy

      Al, I’m pretty sure the firetedthompsonnow site had posted an apology letter and congratulated Ted Thompson on his superbowl victory if I’m not mistaken.

  • Ron LC

    I’m a TT convert except for ….. You’ve heard that story many times before.

  • TedTheSledge

    I’m not sure the pendulum has yet reached it’s apex with Thompson in the positive direction. The real judgement of whether his philosophy works will be sustained success and not a single SB win. If this team turns into in Ron Wolf speak “a fart in the wind” like the 90’s bunch things will swing back in the negative direction. I don’t want to throw around the dynasty word yet but that is what expectations are now. If his draft, develop, and selectively extend system continues to keep GB at the top the next few years his approval will continue to grow. The good points are the young stars the team has assembled and so far been able to lock up before ever hitting free agency and that needs to continue with challenges ahead. The Pack seems to have navigated the CBA expiration kerfluffel well spending high in the uncapped year (141 Mil is what I saw) and still being in the top half of the league in available cap when 2011 returned to the 120 mil level. So far in 2011 they have been able to retain Hawk, Crosby, JJones, Kuhn and now Sitton on multi-year deals with still more room for at least one more extension. Two draft day trades and 7 departing UFA’s will bring 2012 draft pick totals to 12-13. The 2012 UFA class looks to yield similar comp picks for 2013. One of the last pieces to the plan would be using the draft pick capital received when your roster is solid to add flexibility to draft day dealings and maybe secure future year selections a la New England.

    Still work to be done and still room for Thompson to grow in the fans eyes if they stay the course structurally, and of course stay successful on the field. The 2010 SB may be just the beginning.

    • Oppy

      There’s no question that long term success is not only the measure of Thompson’s methodology, but also his methodology’s goal.

      As fans, we rate Thompson’s success (and the Packers as a whole) based on every positive and negative, every win and loss, every single personnel decision.

      As an NFL executive, Thompson, his peers, and his superiors all know that nothing and no one is perfect, no amount of scouting or prep work will ensure 100% positive results. They all will gauge his success over the duration.

      Popular moves and wise moves are often not the same thing. And, there are often times where the wise move or decision does not bear fruit. Just as sometimes you get lucky, sometimes things don’t work out. Anomalies will occur, it’s about the trend.

    • http://www.pocketdoppler.com BigSnakeMan

      Responding to ‘Ted the Sledge’, I don’t know that multiple championships are required to give TT his due. Ron Wolf’s unfortunate ‘fart in the wind’ comment notwithstanding, I don’t think any less of him because the Packers won only one championship during his tenure.

      The Packers have had exactly two losing (& two .500) seasons since 1992. That’s an amazing run of success in today’s NFL by any measure one wants to apply. In any given year, a lot has to go right for a team in order to win a championship. If Thompson keeps the Packers as a playoff contender most years, as they appear poised to be right now, he will have done his job in my estimation.

      • TedTheSledge

        I was more commenting on the sudden shift in fan approval for TT being tied to the SB win instead of a deeper appreciation for what he has been and is building. SB’s are tough to win, granted, and if another one does not come about I wouldn’t consider this regime a failure either. I’m saying that Thompson if he follows through on his plan in the end could go from one of the most reviled figures in Packers history to one of the most revered but I don’t believe that is the case yet. Some fans change of heart on him has come grudgingly and as recently as the Detroit loss last year there were howls that his methods would never lead to success. Too cheap … not enough free agents etc. The value of his efforts are still unfolding and appreciation for it still has room to grow IMO.

        • Bubbaloo

          TedTheSledge, Good post, and very good content!
          I was a Thompson basher! I was a Favre lover!
          No More!
          My take back then was Thompson didn’t do enough (through free agency or otherwise) to bring GB (and Favre) another SB while Favre was still there, and he hadn’t. That pissed off a lot of fans.
          But then, Favre’s un-retiring, and then his Me, Me, Me fiasco during the summer of ’08 was when I started to see the light.
          Favre’s bashing of Thompson pushed me further towards Thompson’s corner, kinda like a “I can beat on my little brother but You Can’t” thing. A-rod’s success during that season certainly helped that cause.
          The coup de grace came when Thompson’s rag-tag group of 2nd and 3rd stringers stepped forward to reach, and then save, a Superbowl.
          I have posted many times that the “Crow tastes terrible’, it does, and I am now reformed, and I now believe. In Ted We Trust.
          Blame it all on Favre.

  • http://Orlando simzap

    Something that gets overlooked with TT is his bringing in good coaches. How he got Capers coming off a 6-10 season where he evicerated the previous DC’s D-line has got to be one of the great stories in Packer history. I can only wonder what Ted promised him. But he delivered with CMIII and Raji.

    • Oppy

      The hiring of Dom Capers was the doing of Mike McCarthy. I’m sure MM consulted TT on the matter- but it has been stated repeatedly by Thompson that those kinds of decisions ultimately are McCarthy’s to make. Thompson handles scouting & player acquisition, contracts, etc. but MM handles most all else of ‘football decisions’, including his coaching staff.

      You can not expect a head coach to have success if he is not afforded control of his coaching staff.

      • http://Orlando simzap

        Oppy I get that MM wanted Capers but what I don’t get is why he took the job. TT had to have sold him he was going to give the D help in addition to the financial compensation.

    • Oppy

      Who would give this comment a negative rating?? WTF?

      • Bubbaloo

        oopy,
        The multitudes of people who have read the NUMEROUS articles where Thompson specifically states that McCarthy has “Full Control over his coaching staff” might give you a ‘thumbs down’! I could understand that.
        AND maybe, just maybe, Capers, who’s a pretty smart guy (and a great D-coach) could see what the Packers were trying to do and saw this as an opportunity.
        Or maybe he took the job simply because it was “The Green Bay Packers”! That’s kinda desirable in itself. Did you ever think of that?
        I’ll give you three (3) THUMBS DOWN for all of the above!

        • Bubbaloo

          Sorry oopy!!!!!
          My post was directed at “simzap”, MY BAD!

        • http://Orlando simzap

          First, however TT did it he got Capers and that’s a big thumbs up that no one mentions. Second, you state the Capers was smart and then say he took the job because of where we were going. We were going into the toilet with a D that couldn’t stop the run. So once again I say he took the job because TT promised him help in gettin 3-4 players, another thumbs up for TT getting those guys. Can’t you give TT a little credit. It wasn’t all MM.

        • PackersRS

          The battle for the thumbs! Almost as important as the “best smack talker” award.

  • http://none GalaxyM81

    Winning is the Greatest Deodorant!

  • Chad Lundberg

    I love how hes built a long term answer for everything, but i guarantee you that he will do something frustrating this season.

    • Bubbaloo

      That’s a pretty safe guarantee, some could say he’s already done it by NOT claiming (or signing) one of the ‘quality (?)’ guards cut by other teams.

  • Bubbaloo

    It seems http://www.firetedthompsonnow.com/ is out of business, or at least not operating at this time. Two years ago I would have been a very active and vocal member of this group, and I gotta admit, the “Crow” tastes terrible! Now reformed, it’s hard to admit that I couldn’t see what Thompson was up to. I know I’m not alone, but it’s still embarrassing. Now the picture is much clearer, especially after watching most if not all the cuts some were questioning winding up back on the P.S., and we still have these guys.
    In Ted We Trust!

  • Mojo

    BigSnakeMan echos the way I feel about TT’s tenure with GB. I too was an early TT apologist because I love the D&D philosophy. However, its not as if TT did not make personnel blunders. For example letting Jon Ryan leave without a suitable replacement was and is a point of curiosity to me. I’m sure Franklin Hillside still ponders the Tracy White release. Currently, I am questioning why Cullen Jenkins was not retained (even before Neal got hurt) if the Pack could have had him at the price the Eagles paid (I know injury history, too old, blah blah blah. BTW don’t we have other old guys on the roster who have been injured?)

    So BigSnakes point on not going overboard on praising everything TT does is valid. I do believe though that TT methodology provides the best possible chance at keeping the window open longer and creating the opportunity for a modern football dynasty.

    • Mojo

      And BTW TT’s odyssey has not come full circle. In that case he would roundly be getting criticized again. It more likely has gone 180 or half circle.

    • Oppy

      It’s my understanding that ST coach Stock personally rallied for the acquisition of Derrick Frost- he was a punter that Stock highly valued coming out of college. At that time, Jon Ryan had shown he had a big leg- sometimes. But he was sorely inconsistent, and had no directional kicking ability that he had demonstrated at that time. Remember, he had shanked a few balls in games.. badly.

      Was it a mistake? Yeah, it turned out to be a mistake. Frost was horrendous, and Jon Ryan went on to do very, very well in Seattle. While it ultimately lays on MM and TT’s shoulders, I have a feeling Stock was shown the door not just because of poor coverage units… I think the Ryan/Frost fiasco was laid at his feet behind closed doors and he was given the opportunity to retire before being fired for it.

  • BrakeBad

    In 2008, when it seemed TT was most reviled, is when I started to become a believer in him. I was a Favre lover at the time but when TT took a hard line when he decided to unretire, I felt almost this sense of relief that the front office didn’t just roll out the red carpet. I didn’t want to lose Favre but the team had been game planning to not have him around.

    I don’t know that the pendulum has gone too far in the opposite direction. Ted is going to make mistakes. They all do. AR will throw interceptions. The CBs will blow coverage. McCarthy is still going to make play calls that will make us want to tear our hair out. But not many NFL GMs have won super bowls. Trusting Ted isn’t about not analyzing the choices he makes or not wishing he would have made a different personnel call. It’s about realizing that the SB winning GMs are an elite group and he is part it. With all the injuries last season, he didn’t get there by being lucky. He did it by being pretty good at his job.

  • Leer

    I have always been a TT believer. He makes more good decisions then bad ones. All GM’s can not say the same. I also agree w/another poster that not paying Cullen Jenkins might end up hurting us? I sure hope I am wrong??? Just my thinking..

  • aaronqb

    If the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction (I don’t think it has), it is for good reason. Winning a Super Bowl with 15 players on IR is incredible. TT has proved to be the best talent evaluator in the NFL and the Packers are very fortunate to have him.

  • Shavager

    Don’t have a big problem with Thompson trying to draft his team, but you can’t overlook available FA’s before or during season especially with injuries–see Howard Green, Erik Walden, Charles Woodson–can’t ignore the impact they’ve provided as FA’s. If Thompson has opportunity for young, talented FA at minimum or moderate cost, why skip an opportunity to improve team now instead of waiting for draft next year? JHarrell and Johnny Jolly-two examples of draft talent recently that’s wasted money for Packers–had to go FA route to replace them last year. Credit Thompson and McCarthy for fantastic turnaround in last 6-7 games last year, from an injury plagued, unfocused, penalty plagued team in first half to SB 45 Title in second half.

  • toolkien

    The full story of Ted Thompson won’t be written until Rodgers’ salary adjusts to elite status. The recent Packers didn’t bloom into what they are now until Favre’s 15% of the total team salary was gone and it was broken up into Rodgers’ second salary and Matthews/Raji’s first salaries. Soon (probably very soon) Rodgers’ salary is going to consume a much larger portion of the salary and the Packers will lose a blue chip level guy from their current roster potency. THEN we will see what Thompson can do. It’s not a knock in any way, it’s a simple reality of the economics of football. He’s been good to perhaps very good. If the Pack can remain top tier for the five years after Rodgers’ Pay Day comes, then Thompson will have earned the great moniker.