1) Introduction: Ted Thompson took over as General Manager for the Green Bay Packers in 2005, relegating Mike Sherman to the sole role of Head Coach. Thompson has met with more than his fair share of criticism through his years with the Packers. Cutting big name veterans in order to meet salary cap requirements and being the one to eventually trade away Brett Favre made him a target for a massive number of disgruntled fans. His approach has been vindicated, however, with the Super Bowl XLV Championship under his belt. The team is now built for future success, as key players and depth have been built steadily through the draft and a few select free agent signings. In fact, only 3 current players on the roster were not acquired by Thompson: Donald Driver, Chad Clifton, and Scott Wells.
Position: Executive V.P., General Manager & Director of Football Operations
Years as Packers GM: 7 (2005-2012)
3) Expectations coming into the season: “In Ted We Trust” and the “Ted Thompson Way” have become hot phrases the past year. Ted Thompson proved to Green Bay fans and the NFL as a whole that his process of drafting and grooming players works; thus, he was expected to continue his success in that area. Though any rational fan could never expect him to make the big splash in free agency signings, we did expect him to deal with his upcoming free agents from the team in a cost-effective manner.
4) Highlights/low-lights: In regard to value, the best NFL contract of the year was arguably the one signed by wide receiver Jordy Nelson in October. The 3-year, $13.35 million contract extension included incentives that could take it to $15 million over that span. For some perspective, the franchise tag for this year at the wide receiver position is $9.4 million.
As for Ted Thompson’s biggest blunder, I don’t think many would dispute it being the way he handled Cullen Jenkins. Or rather, the way he handled the defensive line. With Jenkins allowed to walk, there was a rather big void to fill, and many were putting their faith into second-year defensive end Mike Neal. Unfortunately, Neal’s injury problems led to another disappointing season. Whether by retaining Jenkins, drafting a better prospect, or signing a free agent, Thompson failed to adequately plug the hole along the line.
5) 2011 NFL Draft: Thompson made three trades during the draft, giving up 5 picks and getting 6 in return. The 10 picks he ended up having led to some rather mixed results. Randall Cobb was the most influential draft pick this season, while Ricky Elmore was probably the most disappointing. Elmore was the only draft pick cut from the final roster, though OL Caleb Schlauderaff was traded to the New York Jets for an undisclosed draft pick. DT Lawrence Guy OL Derek Sherrod, and RB Alex Green all wound up on injured reserve at different points during the season and each having had varying levels of success. Ryan Taylor proved himself as a more valuable tight end than D.J. Williams despite their draft positions, and though Davon House only appeared in two games, he still has time to prove his potential as a cornerback.
6) Overall Player Management: Some of the notables moves made by Ted Thompson during the offseason were: signing A.J. Hawk to a new, restructured 5-year contract; re-signing Charlie Peprah under a 2-year contract; letting Atari Bigby, Brandon Jackson and Cullen Jenkins walk off in free agency; cutting Nick Barnett, Brady Poppinga, Brandon Chillar, Justin Harrell, Brett Swain, and Mark Tauscher; re-signing Josh Sitton to a 6-year deal; and trading away Quinn Johnson. He also netted a few undrafted free agents with some good potential, including Tori Gurley, Vic So’oto, Jamari Lattimore, Brandon Saine, and M.D. Jennings.
Unfortunately, some important players’ futures with the Packers are still up in the air with the season over and free agency knocking. Thompson still needs to figure out what to do with Matt Flynn, Jermichael Finley, Scott Wells, and Ryan Grant. Some less significant, yet still intriguing, free agents are Jarrett Bush and Erik Walden.
7) Conclusion: Overall, the offense and special teams units benefitted more from personnel moves this year than the defense did. The work of a General Manager is complicated and each move is always a calculated risk, but for Ted Thompson, this was just a slightly above-average year. He made some great contract deals and picked up some good rookie talent, but also misjudged a few prospects and took the wrong side of the gamble with a couple key positions.
Season Report Card:
(C+) Level of expectations met during the season
(B-) 2011 NFL Draft Grade
(B-) Overall Player Management Grade
Overall Grade for the year: B-——————
Chad Toporski, a Wisconsin native and current Pittsburgh resident, is a writer for AllGreenBayPackers.com. You can follow Chad on twitter at @ChadToporskiFollow @ChadToporski
20 thoughts on “Ted Thompson: 2011 Green Bay Packers Evaluation and Report Card”
Worst defense in the league = C
Best offense in the league = ???
The success or failure of a team can only be credited to the GM at a certain level. It takes the players and coaches to do the rest. Thus, grading Ted Thompson goes far beyond just how well the team performed.
3rd best offense in the league = A
3rd worst offense in the league = F
15-1 regular season record = A
0-1 postseason record = F
Overall = C
His moves, especially ignoring the OLB position AGAIN, and making huge error letting the rare skills of #77 Cullen Jenkins go were the main problems with the defense all year long.
Despite that, it was the offense fumbling and dropping and misfiring vs the Giants that proved fatal.
Ted needs to bring in some more Pickett/Woodson type FA’s this spring such as DE Adam Carriker, OLB Manny Lawson, or OLB Jerry Hughes. Those guys are all HUGE upgrades to the #&*@% that we currently have at those positions.
And each of those guys will be fairly priced. Probably could get all 3 of them for the price that Hawk is getting.
The biggest surprise was the money spent on Hawk who regressed noticeably, he didn’t let him test the waters like Jones to be able to leverage the deal. Had Jolly kept his nose clean he would have added a lot to the D-line and Chillar’s injury left no veteran LB depth at all. Although Collin’s was a big loss the defense did not play any better when he was healthy which is puzzling. He must concentrate on defense and I am sure he knows that. He has done an amazing job of improving overall depth (Sherman left him none) via the draft and undrafted free agents and winning the Super Bowl to boot. There is not a better GM in the NFL when it comes down to it.
I think depth is one of the most underrated aspects of the roster. Players suffer injuries all the time, and it is those teams with quality depth who can withstand the weekly injury reports.
Yeah, signing Hawk to such a large contract was the worst decision that TT has made as GM… the only decision he made that rivaled making me that mad was trading Darren Sharper to the Saints in ’05. At least with Sharper there was something to be said in his defense (Sharper was 29 and had a few injuries his contract year). With Hawk there’s no defense to be made (no pun intended). I think that someone tried to say that he re-signed him to such a crazy contract because he communicates really well . Well his communication skills didn’t prevent us from becoming the 32nd ranked defense this year… maybe you’re talking about when he conveyed the bird pretty effectively to the sideline this year… that was the only time that his communication skills shined as brightly as a 6mil/year contract reflects.
The problem is that the decision was bad only in hindsight. A lot of people were on board with the move after last season. I’m sure we’ll all be monitoring the situation with A.J. Hawk in the coming months and throughout training camp.
Alas, the most unfortunate part is that Hawk wasn’t the only one to regress from last year.
I’m not saying that you’re wrong, maybe there was a lot of people on board for that deal. I’m just saying, why? It’s not like we signed him to a 1 year deal as undrafted free agent to give him a chance to prove himself and then he showed us the ability to be one of the best in the league. He has proven THROUGHOUT his career that he is average at best and below average at his norm. And he had been in the league about 4- 5 years at that point. If in a half decade a linebacker doesn’t have a break out year then you don’t sign him to a 6mil/yr deal. At that point he has proven that he is not an all pro which is the type of player that kind of contract should be reserved for. And now we’re suffering the salary cap ramifications that come from a bad decision like that. We need salary cap room to bring in some pass rushers and possibly DB’s and we have contract years coming up in the next couple years for Rodgers, Jennings, etc. to keep in mind. 6mil hurts alot when you keep those things in mind.
I just recently started blogging about the Packers because I finally found a website where there’s more depth to statements made by bloggers than “He sucks” or “F*** you” or other obscenities and drunken , brutish unthought broken sentences left by fans who spend more time throwing out personnal insults than they do talking football (thanks Al and contributers! awesome site) but had I been here when they made that deal you guys would have read my shocked and furious (albeit edited to PG) statements.
Just to clearify, all of this is my justification for why I think this is TT’s worst decision ever made as GM. I’m not saying that I don’t support him, I do. He’s an amazing GM and has worked wonders for us so far. Every GM will make a mistake eventually but I just didn’t expect one this big from TT. Especially considering his tendency to be frugal… it’s surprising to see him spend that much for an under achiever.
You know, I’m wondering how much the lockout affected Thompson’s ability to manage the players. Food for thought… what might have happened had they been able to trade Flynn during the draft?
There’s no doubt in my mind that the lockout had a big effect on TT’s ability to manage the players. I’m with you 100% on that.
As far as Flynn goes, there’s no telling really. Flynn would have carried some value, obviously, but remember that the league didn’t take real notice of him until his performance vs. Lions. Mostly because he did what neither Favre, Rodgers, or Star did their entire careers in ONE GAME… on top of that he did it against an above average defense. The implications there are astronomical.
Just to clearify, I’m 99.9% sure that what I’m about to say won’t happen, simply because we don’t have the cap room and even if we did it just doesn’t match TT’s pattern of strategy and philosophy. That being said, if we franchised Flynn and traded him we should be able to get one of the top 2 pass rushers in the draft. I can’t say that I think we would have been able to do the same last year.
Thge problem with evaluating the GM is that their action is usually not felt until the funture. Was 2011 the result for the 2011 draft or 2009, or 2008, or you get the idea.
Evaluating his full body of work since 2005, I’d say he rates a B maybe a + added to the B. I think this is a very high grade for a GM. A good year next year and his grade would rise to an A.
GB is lucky to have him and the trend into the future is positive.
So true, Ron.
Agreed. I think he got his GM of the year award due to his work in past years, not really for what he did in that particular off season. He has shown mastery up to last year. This last off season has been his worst, in my opinion, since he’s been with the packers. I won’t go over why because all of my reasoning has already been discussed.
Does anyone know what the salary cap ramifications of cutting hawk would be?
According to Rotoworld.com, AJ Hawk’s salary this year is $4.4 million with a $250,000 workout bonus and a $300,000 roster bonus. The total for all of that would come to about $5 million.
Get some moderate level FA talent in April at a few positions on D.
And draft RDE, ROLB and (depending on Collins status) S/CB early on..
“Because of this setup, NFL contracts almost always include the right to cut a player before the beginning of a season. If a player is cut, his salary for the remainder of his contract is neither paid nor counted against the salary cap for that team. A highly sought-after player signing a long term contract will usually receive a signing bonus, thus providing him with financial security even if he is cut before the end of his contract.” provided by http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salary_cap#Salary_cap_in_the_NFL
Maybe I just don’t fully understand but based on this I didn’t think it would be 5mil. Even if it is, it’s better to fix the mistake now than commit to him and have to take the same hit next year. Damage control at this point.
To be completely honest, I’m not sure how the cap really works. I was putting out that information in hopes that someone could use it for further enlightenment.
Just want to say thank you to all the new commenters I’m seeing lately. Welcome aboard and hope to see more comments in the future!
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