The NFL Draft: Time for Ted Thompson to Come Out and Play

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Ted Thompson
GM Ted Thompson

Welcome to NFL Draft Week.

It’s the week many Green Bay Packers fans have been waiting for.  General Manager Ted Thompson will finally wake up from his offseason hibernation and will get to work setting the Packers up for another Super Bowl run in 2013.  As usual, he largely ignored free agency and will rely on the draft to restock Green Bay’s shelves with fresh talent.

This offseason has been one of some discontent for some Packers fans.  Donald Driver retired, Charles Woodson was released and Greg Jennings signed with the Minnesota Vikings.  That’s three veteran leaders that Green Bay won’t have this year, not to mention three fan favorites as well. The Packers also hung onto Jermichael Finley, which drew considerable scorn from fans also.

Fear not, Packer faithful. It’s not all bad.  Clay Matthews signed a five-year contract extensions and all signs point to Aaron Rodgers having his extension done before training camp.  As long as Matthews and Rodgers are in Green Bay, the Packers should remain in the upper echelon of teams in the NFC.

That said, Thompson realizes both those players need talent around them to get Green Bay from being one of the best teams to THE best team and he will do that through the NFL draft.   One could almost say, in recent years anyway, the draft has become Thompson’s personal playground.

In fact, the NFL basically is a schoolyard.

While other general managers act like children and go out and get the hottest names with big contracts because their parents (owners) pamper them with money they cry for, Thompson sits idly in the corner almost by himself.  While everyone else is “oooh”-ing and “aaah”-ing over the other teams’ newest toys/acquisitions, he sits by himself studying and working hard and trying to be the best he can be.

Does this make popular with everyone? No.  Fans get all antsy every season when Thompson flirts with a free agent that eventually signs with another team while the Packers focus on the draft.  It’s not the most exciting method in the world, but fans need to realize what Thompson realizes:  an NFL franchise cannot be run like a fantasy football team. 

Super Bowl titles aren’t won in March.  The team that signs the biggest free agent almost always never wins the Super Bowl.  Ask the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles how those big spending sprees worked out.   Redskins owner Dan Snyder is the biggest schoolyard bully of them all with how much money he has thrown at (and wasted on) big name players since he bought the team.

Let’s look back at the NFL schoolyard. Years go by, and those kids grow and evolve.  Those that had those shiny new toys and had everything handed to them? Well, they’re working but they are financially unstable and have been mainly underachieving. They have some good things, but had to settle for junk at times as well.

 As for Thompson? He’s had a team in perennial Super Bowl contention and is financially stable.  He has one of the deepest rosters in the league and all the kids that previously ignored him are now in awe of what he has.  The one who went against the grain and did things his way, even though it wasn’t always popular, ended up the most successful.

Let that be a lesson not just for building an NFL roster but for life as well: what is popular is not always right.

The bottom line is that Thompson’s way has worked and is working.  For fans to feel entitled to a Super Bowl title every year and then get whipped into a rage when it doesn’t happen shows just how spoiled some Packer fans have become.  Fans should expect great things from their team every year, that is their right, but to call for Thompson’s head when the team won the division title despite major injuries is downright delusional.

A general manager builds a team for the regular season.  To build a roster on the assumption that the team has already clinched a playoff berth before Week 1 is a flawed mindset and it’s one Thompson disagrees vehemently with.   His job is to build a roster to make the playoffs and be in position for a playoff run.  Once the playoffs start, it’s a total crapshoot and it’s on the head coach more than the general manager.

So relax, Packers fans. Your team is in good hands and don’t fret that it’s not making headlines in March or even April. Making headlines from September through February is much important and not to mention much more fun.

Keep calm and trust Ted.

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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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  • Tarynfor12

    Couldn’t say it any better and wouldn’t even try…perfect.

    • PatMc

      I agree with Tarynfor12 – 100% agree with a perfect job..thank you Kris.

  • Big T

    Remember last year when I called everyone out on Finley. I said he was a cancer and would end up being like T.O. and Randy Moss etc. Well his time has come, he has fathered 5 children with several hoochie mammas, and they now want their money. Finley is toast… At the Packers expense. Everyone but TT and MM could see that one coming. Told you so………..

    • Dobber

      Fully believe that Finley will be motivated this year–a contract year. Great for one year of production, but then he’ll price himself out of the Packers’ budget…and I fully expect him to be a fat cat when he gets paid. See ya.

  • packett

    Thanks for the nice article. I’m not disputing your confidence, but just not sure I think TT is a great drafter. One could define a good talent evaluator by number of draftees remaining with packers after 5 years, or number of starters on the team by their second year, or number of impact players gained in first 3 rounds. Or, perhaps you have other metric that you feel he measures above 31 other GMs. So by what do you define TT as a good drafter? For the moment…let’s exclude UFA. Let’s just look at his ability to pick and compete against 31 other GMs.

    • Rob

      The metric was: consistently competing in the playoffs!

    • Dobber

      Based on the current depth chart or the depth chart at the end of last season (if you prefer), how many starters were NOT drafted by TT or signed directly as UDFAs (remember that the analysis and signing of UDFAs is as much a part of the draft as anything else)? Now extend that to the whole roster.

      I think this would be a good post idea: make that comparison to other teams in the NFC North (just to keep it from being too time-consuming). I think the metric would work out pretty well in TTs favor.

      • Chad Toporski

        Great idea.

      • PatMc

        Currently, entering the draft this week:

        35 players drafted
        32 FA (UDFA)
        02 Waivers

        69 total players (all since TT took over as GM.

        Lot of Guys like Barclay who isn’t a star but stepped in when needed last year. There are teams that would love to have him and he would be starting for some of those teams.

    • Oppy

      I don’t know if this still holds true in 2013, but at one point, all of TT’s draft picks while GM of the Packers were still active and playing in the NFL (excluding players who had retired for health reasons).

      I recall reading an article that quoted another GM stating “that is remarkable”.

      • Barutan Seijin

        Don’t think that was ever true. TT’s first draft was 2005. Kurt Campbell & Craig Bragg never played in the NFL. Will Whittiker & Marviel Underwood played one season and were gone.

        • Oppy

          Underwood was in the league through 2008.

          Whitticker spent time with the Dolphins, Redskins, and Raiders up through 2007.

          Kurt Campbell was with the Raiders and Titans during training camps and on practice squads through 2008.

          Bragg falls under the same umbrella, spending time with the Jets and Bears training camps and PS.

          Perhaps I should have not used the term “active and playing”, I did not mean to imply necessarily on an active roster. My bad.

    • Stroh

      Per Ron Wolf. A good draft is one where you eventually get 3 starters. A very good draft 4 starters and a great draft that can lead to SB’s is 5 starters.

      ’05 Rodgers, Collins, Poppinga all started. One is a Franchise QB another a perennial pro bowler. Grade A

      ’06 5 starters w/ one still a starter. Grade A

      ’07 2 starters and a kicker. Give it a C-

      ’08 3 starters and the backup to the Franchise QB. Grade B

      ’09 Raji and Matthews give it a B+ minimum. And Brad Jones just got extended and will probably be a starter soon.

      ’10 as of this moment 3 staters and 2 more players on the verge of starting in Neal and Starks and another couple of backups. Grade B and might get better.

      ’11 INC, only Cobb is a starer, but its still too early to judge a few of the others. Sherrod, Green, House and others close to starters. Again INC too early to tell but a couple are likely to become starters.

      ’12 clearly to early to judge since rookies don’t ofter start on SB contenders as rookies.

  • Razer

    I like TT. I think that he manages the team well and will set us up for continued winning seasons. I also understand that managing the cap has become one of his prime objectives. In order to serve that beast he has stuck to lower priced draft picks to stock the team. That is okay except that he foregoes help in known areas of need for project based bodies. We could have shored up our D-line without hoping that guys like Worthy and Daniels might help. Ultimately, we loose seasons with awful D and O-lines. He needs to expand his tool box to fill in some of the holes.

    • Rob

      If the fix was there for a reasonable price, don’t you think TT would jump at it? But if the fix is only temporary and may not even workout AND hamstrings you from obtaining a longer lasting solution for seasons to come, does it really help or just cause more problems?!

      Sometimes you can find a real deal on a used car, but even then you’re inheriting all the reasons the old owner got rid of it!

    • Razer

      There have been reasonable priced guys in the 2-3 million dollar range that could make the D-line complete. Guys like Cris Canty or Cullen Jenkins have good miles left in the tank and did not sign big with other teams. They are more expensive than Daniels or Worthy but then again they know how to play at a high level. I guess the question is “what is a reasonable price”?

      Let’s look at it from the cost side. How about this – we flounder on the D and O-lines for the next couple of years while Rodgers gets more experience playing catch-up while laying on his back.

      • PatMc

        The rumor is that the QB and the Team are 2 – 3 million apart from signing a long term deal! Maybe that is why Canty or Jenkins where not signed.

        Also, bringing Jenkins back creates problems as it fosters the idea that a player can leave and then come back. Better to pass on Jenkins so players know coming back isn’t an option. It helps in negotiations on salaries.

  • James Tweedle

    Great article, Kris. Couldn’t agree more. In Ted We Trust

  • cow42

    ” As for Thompson? He’s had a team in perennial Super Bowl contention”

    did you even watch the last 2 Packer playoff performances?

    i wouldn’t exactly call them super bowl contenders.

    “One could almost say, in recent years anyway, the draft has become Thompson’s personal playground.”

    you act as if he’s been crushing the draft lately. the last two Packer drafts have produced exactly 2 actual players… cobb and hayward.

    gotta do better than 1 players a year.

    • Oppy

      DJ Smith, Davon House, Mike Daniels, and Nick Perry don’t count as NFL players culled from the dradt in 2011/2012?

      Hate to break it to ya, the NFL isn’t all superstars. All of the above players have shown they can play in this league.. Health and opportunity, with a pinch of growth, is all that is needed.

      • Barutan Seijin

        So your argument is that TT did well because he drafted some guys who have hardly played?

        For whatever reason, those guys have yet to be productive. Maybe they will be. Maybe they won’t. Ifs and maybes aren’t going to win games — or the argument.

        • Oppy

          If you field a team where multiple 1st and 2nd year players are finding the field enough to be productive, you’ve probably got some relatively poor starters.

          This is where the “develop” part comes into play.

        • Stroh

          Its called development. You can’t expect mid/low round choices to become starter early in their careers on a team that is already a SB contender! THe past 2 drafts have multiple players on the verge of becoming starters. Just cuz they aren’t doesn’t make a poor draft. Gotta give 3 years.

    • Stroh

      Any team in the playoff count as a SB contender. The past 2 drafts have a lot of guys who are still far to early to judge. You cant expect a SB contending team to have multiple starter on day 1. It takes time for lower round guys to develop and other to get over injuries.

      • cow42

        spin it however you like.
        hope and pray that some of the young guys pan out.

        but as of RIGHT NOW the last 2 draft classes have produced only TWO contributing players… it is what it is.

        MAYBE IT’S THE DEVELOPMENT ASPECT THAT NEEDS TO IMPROVE! i’m starting to question the coaching staff.

        over the last 3 seasons we’ve seen…
        -poor game plans
        -poor in game adjustments
        -plateauing players (mediocre development)

        • PatMc

          Draft classes include UDFA’s which are scouted as well. The bottom line is the GB team owns the division the last two years. They beat Seattle at Seattle (except for a terrible call).

          There are only two teams that really beat them (SF and Giants). They still need four players (OC, DE, maybe a S, and a RB). Last year the offense left too many 3rd and 1’s because they didn’t have a RB to pick up first down. The best defense is an offense that puts up 40 plus points and eats the clock.

          Going into the draft GB is returning over 40 players who will be on the 53 man roster. They are in great shape thanks to TT.

          • PatMc

            Currently, entering the draft this week:

            35 players drafted
            32 FA (UDFA)
            02 Waivers

            69 total players (all since TT took over as GM.

            Lot of Guys like Barclay who isn’t a star but stepped in when needed last year. There are teams that would love to have him and he would be starting for some of those teams.

            Last 3 seasons GB has dominated the division by beating them. Agree it is time to improve the running game but it also takes time to evaluate players from one draft class (including UDFA’s).

            If 5 or 6 drafted players are starting on game day (in sept) then GB has bigger holes than coaching.

            • Dobber

              “If 5 or 6 drafted players are starting on game day (in sept) then GB has bigger holes than coaching.”

              Only if they’re on the outside looking in when the playoffs roll around. If those players are still starting in January, then it’s good drafting AND good coaching! ;)

  • Pat Rooney

    I disagree with Ted. Yes he is more then likely the best at draft time. BUT Hay lets be smart too, don’t you think a very good running back would help lift the best offence even to a bigger step. Greenbay needs a good running game to help out the defense. What do you think TED?

    • PJR

      just to add to what I said earlier, As usual, he largely ignored free agency and Passed up some very good running backs that would help on both sides of the ball.

  • FITZCORE1252

    Anybody that tries to put a label on a draft/draftee after 1-2 years should be ignored at all costs. It takes a good 3 years to make any kind of a judgement (good or bad), and that may be premature… I lean toward 5.

    What’s that you say? The Pack won a SB in ’10 with an uber young roster and recent draft picks haven’t made a huge impact *yet*? Ya don’t say!!! Common sense is unfortunately becoming a rarity.

    GBP 4 LIFE

    • cow42

      so we get to wait 5 more years?
      because i don’t see any players from 1,2,3,or 4 years ago getting ready to be breakout stars.

      5 years, huh?

      Rodgers’ prime years are shrinking.

      I was 100% in TT’s corner when he took over control of the roster. He rebuilt the team through the draft… kept it young… let it grow.

      but times are different now.

      YOU HAVE AARON RODGERS IN HIS PRIME… CAN’T BE WAITING 5 YEARS A POP.

      MAKE YOUR MOVE NOW!

    • cow42

      oh – and how long are we gonna lean on that out of the arse SB run? that team was only even in the playoffs thanks to deshawn jackson.

      10 years from now tt will still be getting the “hey it worked in 2010″ pass.

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