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.——————
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. Follow @KrisLBurke