Cory’s Corner: Let’s appreciate the talent grabber — Ted Thompson

It’s hard to believe that this will be Ted Thompson’s 11th NFL Draft in a couple weeks.

The Packers general manager understands that the draft and develop philosophy is the best recipe for sustained success in the NFL. And if you don’t believe me, just take a peek at the money the Redskins and Cowboys have splurged in free agency, with nothing to show for it.

It still amazes me that Thompson still gets an overwhelming amount of hate from fans. Last year, the Packers led the league with 34 original players on the season opening roster. That’s 64 percent, which isn’t bad.

Of course everyone knows that Thompson’s first pick was future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers. But if 23 other teams didn’t let Rodgers slip through their fingers, we’d still be talking about how excellent Thompson is at noticing and cultivating talent.

Take Johnny Jolly. He was a sixth round draft choice that started 39 games before his codeine arrest. And even after he came back from his suspension, Jolly was still serviceable by starting eight games in 2013.

Or Mason Crosby. Obviously kickers aren’t taken high, but Thompson saw something in the sixth round pick. Now Crosby is only 17 points away from tying Ryan Longwell as the team’s all-time leading scorer.

Then there’s Josh Sitton. He was picked in the fourth round but has blossomed into arguably the best guard in the league. He earned his second Pro Bowl appearance this past season and has started every regular season he has played in dating back to 2009.

Of course people are always going to point out Terrence Murphy, Brandon Jackson, Brian Brohm, Patrick Lee and Jerel Worthy. But the biggest draft busts of the Thompson era will always be first rounders Justin Harrell and Derek Sherrod.

But to only have seven lemons from the first three rounds is pretty good.

Drafting is not easy whatsoever. First, you have to study and grade all the players either in person or on video. Then, you have to sift through all the minutiae and double talk from a player’s handlers. These guys obviously want to see the best for their guy, but in doing so, they don’t always give all the facts. Next, you have to understand how a player fits into your team and/or city. And finally, you have to be honest with yourself if you can sign a player. Because it doesn’t do the player or the team any good if the player is going to hold out for an extended amount of time.

Thompson’s stress level went up exponentially when he made the correct decision to go with Rodgers after waiting on the waffling Brett Favre. Many fans still criticize him for that, but he made the right call. Rodgers sat for three years. It was hard telling how many years he was willing to ride the pine if Favre came back.

And there are those that would like Thompson to be more active in free agency. Just remember that NFL free agency is a completely different animal than the NBA or MLB version. An NFL free agent is going to be nagged by an assortment of injuries, but will still command a high dollar. Thompson’s philosophy has been that he can bring in young kids at a cheaper rate in an effort to save that cap space for the team’s preeminent players.

It’s not easy, but Thompson’s eyes and instincts are some of the best in the game.

And that’s why “Double T” should be appreciated and not hated.

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Cory Jennerjohn is from Wisconsin and has been in sports media for over 10 years. To contact Cory e-mail him at jeobs -at- yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter: Cory Jennerjohn

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  • croatpackfan

    I sign every of your sentences. He is magician.

    • TedTomsin

      Isn’t that the truth Croat. He really is a magician. It’s a beautiful thing watching a master at work. The draft is what Teddy Tee lives for and where he shines the brightest. TT is the reason the Packers are one of the best year after year. Some of these young punks and some old farts hate him mainly because of Favre let’s be honest.
      They can never get over the fact TT was right and they were wrong.
      Ted

  • TedTomsin

    Cory, this article belongs in the Packer Hall of Fame. I’m serious!! One of the best articles I ever read.
    Ted

  • NemoOutis

    Oh, please, Cory, things are not so black or white. It isn’t a matter of choosing between hatred for, and appreciation of, Ted Thompson. He makes individual decisions that fans either agree or disagree with. To those who say, “In TT we trust,” I respond, “Sometimes.” On balance, I tend to
    disagree with his approach of almost totally ignoring free agency, which seemingly is indicative of a rigid ipersonality. Also, TT tends to let problem areas fester for several years before he acknowledges them and takes corrective action. Examples: the running back by committee approach before he drafted Eddie Lacy; several years of weakness at the safety position before drafting Clinton-Dix; and, the current problems at ILB. During his early years as GM, he let several free agent offensive linemen leave and it took years to rebuild the O-line. The new emergency, the lack of depth at CB, is similar, a problem that he himself created and has yet to address except for recently resigning a fourth-string safety for $2.55 million. That leads me to my last observation and that is the appearance of favoritism. There is a small cadre of exorbitantly paid players, several who wouldn’t be on any other team’s roster and then, there’s the rest. Look, I realize that being GM for the Packers is a difficult job and his decisions will be scrutinized by the fans. The GM will make some good decisions and he will make some bad ones. In the past decade, TT has a total of one Super Bowl victory, despite being blessed by having an elite QB fall into his lap in his first draft. As he approaches retirement, TT’s reputation ultimately will be determined by whether or not his decisions add to that total. If that happens, he will be appreciated.

    • croatpackfan

      I think if you want to find bad things, you’ll find them in and around every person and his/her decisions. We can argue about this or that decision made by TT, like or not that decision, but the results Packers scored, shows that in general he is top GM in today’s football. And, what is more important, he is leaving behind himself capable GMs now serving with other teams or still behind TT. I understand that the size of any person is not judged by his work, but by his successors whom that person taught how to do the job. And I think, today, when you have candidate for GMs position, if person is TT student, that person has huge advantage towards others…

    • TedTomsin

      Captain Nemo, how old are you? Just curious.

      Ted

      • Thegreatreynoldo

        Now Ted, I am old enough to remember the ’70s. I like TT (top 5 GM), but I do think he makes mistakes.

        • TedTomsin

          I know he makes mistakes Reynoldo. He’s so good that sometimes he has an abundance of great players and has to keep a more seasoned player over a green rookie and it kills him because he simply has no room. Such was the case in Charles Johnson who will be a super star receiver starting this season for ….THE DAMN VIKINGS!! I’m sure he loses sleep over that one.
          Ted

    • The Marathon Man

      Richardson is a second-team safety, not a fourth. He is considered the #4-ranked safety on the team, but he is also one of the top special team performers along with J. Bush. TT did not resign Tramon or House because Cleveland and J-ville paid stupid money to sign each of them – would you have paid House $6.25M per season, even with $50M in cap space? $7M for Tramon at this point in his career? – which is why Cleveland and J-Ville are Cleveland and J-Ville. The Packers will be fine at CB.

  • On balance, TT is a top 5 GM in the NFL since the year 2000, and everyone who is not a hater knows it. I’d rank Belichick, Newsome, Schneider and possibly Colbert better. That’s it.

    TT is a whiz on the offensive side of the ball in the draft. I do wish he was a bit better on the front 7 of the defensive side, but he’s far from terrible.

    That said, Nemo does have a point about his rigidity about free agency. His refusal to participate in the mid level FA pool has undermined the team in the past. If his rooks/2nd year players don’t step up, the team has sometimes really been hurting. (Think Brandon Jackson, Zombo/Walden/Chillar, Peprah, MD Jennings, McMillan, etc…)

    All in all though, about 28 of the 32 teams are envious of our front office annually. Only haters have convinced themselves otherwise.

    • Ed Schoenfeld

      Chillar was a free agent

      • Thanks. Forgot that. He still wasn’t very good. But at least he wasn’t expensive. 🙂

        • Thegreatreynoldo

          Chillar was a role player. Rangy LB. Did his job well, IIRC. Also think he got a sizable extension for the era.

  • Since ’61

    I have been a supporter of TT and I agree that he is one of the best GMs in the league. If he is judged by his team’s record, his winning percentage is second only to NE during his tenure as Packer’s GM. No other GM has won more than one SB since 2005 and only NE has been as effective or better in reaching the playoffs, including GB’s 4 consecutive division titles. But we should consider that TT’s role as GM of the Packers includes a factor that no other GM in the league deals with. TT does not work for a rich NFL owner. TT and Packer’s President Murphy have custodial roles in their respective jobs with the Packers. A rich NFL owner can choose to allow his GM to gamble on the salary cap for a season or 2 with high priced FAs and accept the risk of cap hell for a few seasons, ala New Orleans. A rich owner can fire a GM who makes poor FA signings and hire a new GM to clean up the mess. Not as true in Green Bay. Part of TTs custodial role is to leave the team in reasonably good financial shape, at least salary cap wise. Remember that it took TT a few seasons to clean up the mess left by Mike Sherman. Remembering that I think that TT and Murphy have said “never again”. Like everyone else I wish that the Packers had another SB or 2 during the “Rodgers” era and we’ll never know if an FA signing here or there would have achieved it, it’s all speculation. We do know that the injury to Rodgers in 2014 and the far too numerous injuries in 2013 doomed both of those seasons, but TT cannot control injuries. I do know that it is a lot better to feel that we have a good chance every season, then to feel the way we did during the 70s and 80s when we hoped that the Packers would win more that 4-5 games for the season and when 8-8 gave us hope for the next season. What will we do when the time comes that we look back and realize that TT and McCarthy did a great job for the Packers? Thanks, Since ’61

    • You know 61, I usually agree with you, but here I have to say that I think GB has the deepest pockets in the NFL. TT doesn’t spend a lot of the cap because he is by nature a fiscally conservative dude who trusts his own talent evaluation ability in the draft more than he does in free agency.

      The Packers don’t pocket their annual surplus, it goes into a rainy day fund. So throwing the cap out of it, their “Rainy Day” fund is in the hundreds of millions now. It’ll surpass a billion soon. And that can only be used to better the team or its facilities. 100% by football. 100% for football. How much better to we have it as fans than, say, Queen fans, who have an owner who bilks their constituency out of 3/4 of a BILLION dollars for a new stadium that he could afford on his own?? Just because he has the threat of moving and he can do so.

      GB can’t move. GB’s business profits only get spent on business, and as a result, there’s a LOT of $$ left over annually. If only every company could operate on this same platform, the world would be a better place.

      • Since ’61

        Bearmeat – I appreciate your comments and agree completely that the Packers are in strong shape financially. And as I mentioned I think that we have TT and Murphy to thank for that in how well they have handled their respective roles. And yes, if every company could operate on the same platform the world would be a better place. Fortunately for us fans at least we have the Packers. Thanks, Since ’61

  • Big T

    The herd or flock on here can debate all they want saying TT is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Fact of the matter is….. if he pulls the trigger on 1 or 2 FA’s we have 2 more rings. Not that I dislike TT, he just cost us a couple of rings that’s all. I know the majority on here only care that we have a winning record and everything is honky dory. Vince and I like the rings. TT, always a bridesmaid, never a bride. Yes he was involved in a fairy tail season where a brilliant qb and his team played out of their minds and won a ring despite of him.

    • Yes, TT has flaws. We all agree on that. BUT can you admit that if TT doesn’t have the stones to fire the Sherminator, tell Favre to go blow, pick ARod, C Wood, Pickett and Collins (all considered iffy), we have no rings?

      The fact is that he is one of the best in the biz, which has led to GB having (According to Bill Barnwell at Grantland.com) “Annually the deepest roster in the league and at a bargain price. For this reason GB could forgo the 2015 draft entirely and still be a Super Bowl favorite.”

    • SchenySchen

      Just curious which years you have chosen as the years TT cost us the SuperBowl?

      • I’d say TT’s best years were not 2008 and 2013. He made significant gambles both those years that cost the team.

    • Don

      Of course, every free agent signing automatically becomes a pivotal player and the difference between having a ring and not having a ring. Draft picks may turn out to be busts, but free agents never do. Especially the ones retro-signed after the season is done. If pulling the trigger on 1 or 2 FA’s automatically means 2 more rings, why stop there? How about 4 FA’s and 4 rings? Or 10 and a ring every year?

    • Since ’61

      Big T – exactly which 1 or 2 FAs would have resulted in 2 more SB wins. What would the cost be for the 2 FAs in terms of our other players that we could not re-sign. It’s pure speculation, not fact of the matter. Signing FAs is not a guarantee of anything. If it was the NY Yankees would win the World Series in MLB every year. No team in any sport in any league has spent more money signing free agents than the Yankees since 1973 when George Steinbrenner bought the team. Yes, the Yankees have been successful with 7 world championships and 11 WS appearances but that’s over the course of 42 seasons and counting. Not exactly an annual guarantee, especially in relation to the amount of money that has been spent. Yes, like Vince we all like the rings. And I have no doubt that he would be successful in this era but it would not be the same as the 60s. He could never keep the team together with today’s free agency and salary cap. If anything, Vince was much more of a penny pincher than TT and he would prefer to have his own players that were coached up his way without any baggage or bad habits from prior teams or coaches. NO, if Vince were here today we might have 1 or 2 more rings but I doubt if we would have more free agents. Thanks, Since ’61

  • NemoOutis

    Cory’s article inspired me to search for earlier opinions about TT’s tenure as GM and as a “talent grabber.” Bleacher Report had an April 13, 2010 article in which the author, Derek Lefland, gave TT an overall grade of “C+” for his first 5 years as GM. Lefland was particularly harsh in his criticism of TT’s 2007 and 2008 drafts. Some of those draft picks were good decisions. The good picks are names we should recognize:: Desmond Bishop, Mason Crosby, Jordy Nelson, Jermichael Finley, Josh Sitton; and Matt Flynn. The bad picks, though, are names that, if not forgotten, we all wish we could forget: Justin Harrell, Brandon Jackson, Aaron Rouse, Allen Barbre, David Clowney, Korey Hall, DeShawn Wynn, Clark Harris, Brian Brohm, Patrick Lee, Jeremy Thompson, Breno Giacomini, and Brett Swain. Those were the drafts in which the Vikings selected Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin, and TT missed out on selecting DeSean Jackson, Ray Rice, Chad Henne and Tracy Porter. Lefland believed that, as a result of these two poor drafts, the Packers failed to build upon their successful 2007 season and the Vikings won the next 2 divisional titles.

    • Ed Schoenfeld

      Adrian Peterson was the 7th overall selection in a draft where the Packers (TT) had the 16th choice. Do you (or this Lefland) know if anyone with a higher pick even wanted to trade, or how much it would cost?

      In 2008, Desean Jackson was the 49th overall pick, so yes, Thompson could have selected him, but had already picked Jordy Nelson at 36. Which is the better receiver, really? And if you think it is Jackson, is he enough better than Nelson to make up for not being able to pick, say, Finley as the price of moving up?

      As for Free agents, has everyone forgotten Joe Johnson already? How about Jairus Byrd? He was a great addition to the Saints last year, wasn’t he?

      So if you want to live in a fantasy land where the Packers have all of the picks at any time, or the other teams fall all over themselves to trade away top picks for no value in return, and all of the overpaid free agents play like the stars they used to be, feel free.

      But don’t expect anyone to join you.

      • NemoOutis

        My post simply reported what a Bleacher Report writer thought of TT as a GM and a “talent grabber” five years ago, and lists TT’s draft selections for 2007 and 2008. Readers can form their own conclusions from the list of names. I do not live in a “fantasy land,” as you put it, but I do believe that many who either irrationally hate TT for his bad decisions, or irrationally hero-worship and fawn over him for his good ones, do.

        • TedTomsin

          Hey Captain Nemo, why don’t you tell us what category you are in? I think we all know but you’ve been beating around the bush regarding TT quoting other people to make your point. Just say it already. You’ll feel better. Sure you’ll piss off a lot of people but that’s what makes it fun right? Go ahead and bash our living legend. I dare you. lol
          Ted

          • NemoOutis

            Sorry to disappoint you, Ted, but I don’t take the bait of trolls.

            • Nemo – you are the one calling numerous people around here a troll… maybe you should look in the mirror?

              • NemoOutis

                As I said to you last week, you are far better at trolling than I am. Once again, you got me to respond to your comment even though you were not a part of the conversation. You got me. I took the bait. Without a doubt, you are the best!

              • lol. delusional….

              • NemoOutis

                Nasty . . . Adios, my friend, adios.

            • TedTomsin

              I’m a troll? I am a Ted Thompson supporter you putz!! So I guess that answers the question. You hate me because I happen to like what Ted Thompson has done. That puts you in the hate TT no matter what he does category. I knew it anyway but at least I found out the answer and you didn’t even have to say it. You won’t say it because you are too chicken shit to say so. You grabbed this Derek Lefland guy and let him represent you. At least be a man about it. Your a captain for crying out loud!!
              Ted

              • NemoOutis

                You crack me up, Ted. You’re so funny. And so wrong. I don’t hate TT. I just don’t believe that he walks on water. Like I said in my response to Ed, there are “many who either irrationally hate TT for his bad decisions, or irrationally hero-worship and fawn over him for his good ones.” I am neither, but I do recognize that he has made both good and bad decisions. The bottom line for me will be the number of Super Bowls he has to his credit when he retires. The jury is still out on him. Look, when he became GM 10 years ago he had an established Hall-of-Fame QB on his roster. A second one then fell into his lap during his first draft. Having an elite QB like
                a Brady or a Rodgers gives a team a tremendous advantage over the competition. All the GM has to do is to get his elite QB an adequate supporting cast. So far, that has happened only once. There are
                others who post on this site who believe that there would have been more SBs if it weren’t for TT’s bad decisions. I am not one of them because I don’t play the “what if” game. I do not speculate. I deal in
                facts. The jury is still out, though. In the meantime, I refer you and all of the other “rah, rah for TT” cheerleader types to Psalm 146 ESV and urge you to “Put not your trust in Princes . . . ”

              • TedTomsin

                ” I don’t hate TT. I just don’t believe that he walks on water.”
                Well Captain Nemo, guess what? I did see TT walk on water though it was a rain puddle outside Lambeau during training camp. Does that count?
                Ted

              • NemoOutis

                I do. From 1968 to 1991, when Wolf became GM, the Pack had only 4 winning seasons. Wolf turned the franchise around and made it a perennial winner and championship contender. He obtained a little known QB from the Falcons and turned him into an elite QB. TT inherited a very good situation with that elite QB and then had the good fortune of having a 2nd elite QB fall to him in his first draft. Granted, TT hasn’t wrecked the situation he’s inherited and the Pack continues to contend, but, in the opinion of many, 1 SB in 10 years wouldn’t be good enough to get him into Canton. I think that he’ll need 1 or 2 more. If it’s 2, he’s a shoe-in.
                BTW, I liked your anecdote about TT walking on water. You do crack me up at times.

  • montana83

    Trade down and get 2 players. Draft is a crap shoot mostly and the NFL teams that have traded down do the best. The ones that trade up do the worst. Proven fact.

  • montana83

    One more thing – it isn’t just Ted. Our scouts have to be good also.

  • NemoOutis

    For those of you who are interested, “Thegreatreynoldo” posted a comment to Jason Perone’s article of April 8th in which he rated all of TT’s draft selections since he’s been GM. Of the 94 players drafted, Thegreatreynoldo considered 14 of them “home runs,” 27 of them “busts,” and the rest either somewhere in-between or to-be-determined. Is TT truly “the talent grabber”?

    • Thegreatreynoldo

      Thanks for remembering it. Again, I came in late to this discussion (doing the darn taxes – I’ll have to send checks out Wednesday). I don’t mind you using it as evidence. But… I’d have to go through the draft records of Belichek, Schneider, Colbert and Newsome to compare their records to TT’s drafting record, and I honestly am not familiar enough with those teams to do it. IIRC, 9 of the “busts” were in the 7th round, and TT legitimately can claim 2 more home runs in UDFA Shields and Tramon off waivers.

      • NemoOutis

        Actually, it was not my intent to use your analysis or the Bleacher Report article that I cited to in an earlier post as “evidence” to build a case either for or against TT as a judge of football talent. I just found it amusing that Cory would refer to him as “the talent grabber” when the results of his drafts are mixed. Cory and many others who comment on this site appear to me to be so fawning. You make a good point about the UDFA selections of Shields and Tramon as “home runs,” but if you are going to do that, in fairness then, how many of his UDFAs were “busts”? I would imagine that most of them were, but that is true of every team. It is also true that every team occasionally hits a home run with an UDFA; for example, the hero of the Super Bowl, Malcolm Butler was one. Also, how many UDFAs did TT let go who went on to other teams only to be successful? I’m thinking of players like Jumal Rolle. Isn’t that also an indicator of how good of a judge of talent he is? BTW, good work on your analysis of TT’s draft record. I generally agreed with each of your player ratings.

  • Savage57

    If you can bifurcate Ted’s role as GM, you can just as easily admire him for his ability to find young, developable talent in the draft and beyond as you can scratch your head and wonder about his reluctance to balance the prudent use of FA to find serviceable patches and role players for holes in certain position groups while he waits for youngsters to develop into starters. Not stars that want career, second-contract salaries, but C level players that can hold the fort until the young guns are loaded.

    The Packers have endured this at the RB, Safety, ILB and now possibly CB positions during Ted’s tenure. In sales, lacking a focused strategy to address a client’s specific need, it’s called ‘spray and pray’. Ted has shown an inclination to do the same thing in these situations.

    Still, a guy you have to admire for his ability to find crazy-good value on the last day of the rummage sale.

    • TedTomsin

      I can think of no better value than Dr. Samkon Gado from the great Liberty College. lol. I think TT picked him up just to show Sherman his greatness before he fired him. Of course Sherman fought back in the only way he could by not playing Gado at times claiming he was fumble prone. The tension between Sherman and TT was intense that 2005 season.
      Ted

    • Steve Cheez

      I’m trying to figure out what “bifurcate” means.

      • TedTomsin

        me too. Just too lazy to look it up but I have to admit it was an impressive word to use.
        Ted

  • BubblerBoy

    In 2012 Marshall Newhouse started at LT and Jeff Saurday at Center (most of the year). Alex Green was counted on at RB.

    In 2013, M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian (until he was finally cut) formed 1/2 of one of the worst tandems of starting safeties in Packer history (finishing with zero Ints among them). And something called Seneca Wallace was signed as the backup QB just before the regular season began.

    In the 2014 opener in Seattle, A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones started at ILBer. Jones was so bad he was replaced soon thereafter by Jamari Lattimore. All 3 of these clowns signed for peanuts elsewhere during the offseason. Meanwhile DuJuan Harris, Brandon Bostick, and Jarrett Boykin were all key “contributors” to the 32nd best Special Teams unit in the NFL. They have also been allowed to showcase their talent elsewhere.

    For all the talent TT has accumulated, it boggles the mind that he has left certain positions (different ones the past 3 seasons) so devoid of talent — especially when he had the financial resources to sign low to mid-level free agents to fill obvious needs. Let’s hope CB and ILBer (again) don’t turn out to be black holes in 2015.

    TT is a good GM. But the way some writers (and fans) praise him you’d never know his Packer teams had been to just one Super Bowl during his 10-year tenure.

  • thomas_puent

    Sorry, I quit reading when you called Terrence Murphy a lemon.
    the man suffered a career ending injury as he was well on his way to be something great. not a lemon. Just very unfortunate.