The Green Bay Packers Are At A Fork In The Road All Green Bay Packers All the Time
NFL, Green Bay Packers, Ted Thompson
What Ted Thompson is currently looking at–metaphorically speaking.

Imagine this scenario: you’re traveling with your family on a vacation.  You mapped out the route you would take and foresaw smooth travels ahead.  What actually happens, however, is road filled with bumps and potholes and you suffer some damage and keep getting detoured from your ultimate destination.

For Ted Thompson, with perhaps his legacy as general manager for the Green Bay Packers in the balance, such a moment is at hand.

Ever since the Packers won Super Bowl XLV, Thompson’s ultimate destination has been a return trip to the title game.  Many, including Thompson himself, thought the Packers were in prime position for multiple Super Bowl runs and some even uttered the word “dynasty” when looking at Green Bay’s long term prognosis.

Instead, Thompson’s team has suffered through multiple injury plagued seasons while the defense continues to suffer blowout after blowout like a cheaply made tire on an RV.  The offense is the engine that keeps the vehicle moving at a decent speed but what good does that do with consistently flat tires on defense?

Heading into the 2014 offseason, Thompson has to put solid rubber underneath the Packer vehicle in order to take some pressure off the offense and keep that engine from overheating. The defense must get better (and fast) if the Packers want any chance of returning to the Super Bowl.

Aaron Rodgers was dead on when he said one window has closed for the Packers and another has opened.  The franchise quarterback is 30 and will turn 31 late in the upcoming season. The clock is ticking.

Thompson has relied heavily on drafting talent and developing it along to replace aging stars.  This method has worked well in spots, the wide receiver position is a case in point.

It has been an utter disaster on defense. The Packers have yet to find a suitable replacement for Nick Collins and also haven’t fully replaced Cullen Jenkins either. After both these players left the team via injury and free agency, the performance of the Green Bay defense has gone into a tailspin.

That is why this off season is crucial for the Packers. The Packers managed to stay afloat without Rodgers for half of 2013 but they’d have been in even better shape had the defense even resembled competence. Thompson has not been the best in terms of drafting defensive talent and that was on display for all to see in 2013.

There have been reports the Packers will (finally) wade into the free agency waters to help improve the defense.  Both Thompson and Mike McCarthy attempted to squash that rumor at the Scouting Combine and many fans seem to expect more of the same out of  the Packers again.  It’s hard to blame them, really.

That said, Thompson has no choice. Based on his aforementioned history drafting defensive players and the continual poor preformance of the unit as a whole, it’s time for Thompson to choose the road less traveled.

Call me crazy, but I think Thompson sees it the same way.  Don’t fret when the Packers aren’t listed as one of the first teams some of these big name free agents plan to visit.  Thompson will wait for values to drop before rushing and potentially severely overpaying a player. That is just good business sense.

This year’s free agent class is deep. That plays to the Packers’ advantage. They don’t need a Brian Orakpo or D’Qwell Jackson.  It’d be nice, but the Packers don’t need a huge name to transform the defense.  Even a decent safety would have been an improvement and thrown in a healthy Casey Hawyard alongside a resurgent Tramon Williams and a (hopefully) long-term locked up Sam Shields and the secondary becomes much stronger.

To get that safety does Thompson draft someone or does he take a free agent?  The Packers need not one but TWO safeties and to think Thompson will hit on both in the draft is crazy looking at his history.  Green Bay’s best bet would to bring in someone in the early rounds (not necessarily the first) and a veteran to balance the unit out.

That is just one of many decisions Thompson faces this offseason. The Packers are at a crossroads and each decision Thompson makes will have an effect on how smooth Green Bay’s travels are not just in 2014 but in the next several years to come.

Thompson has delivered one Super Bowl title on his journey as Green Bay Packers general manager.  With his steady hand at the wheel, the Packers can continue to be amongst the NFL’s best for the next several years.

He is currently at a fork in the road however and whichever path he chooses will be felt for the next several years.

Choose wisely, Ted. The future of Green Bay’s fortunes is in your hand.


Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for 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


60 thoughts on “The Green Bay Packers Are At A Fork In The Road

  1. A veteran safety that knows what he is doing. Also, we have been missing that other pass rusher so I would dip into free agency for that. I even think J.Allen would be of great value to use as part of a rotation.

    1. Allen is old, and a pure 4-3 DE who isn’t likely to play for cheap, especially if it’s the Packers. You wanna see 31-year old Jared Allen dropping back into coverage? I’ll pass…

    2. A couple days ago I posted my wish for a competent veteran safety. Reflecting on these posts, I say we are SPOILED FANS! Rodgers, Favre, Starr. Thompson, Wolfe, Lombardi. McCarthy, Holmgren, LOMBARDI.

      Oooo, I can see the posts already. Lombardi in the same sentence with Thompson. ……


  2. Right on with the TT evaluation and what, if anything he will change in his FA way of thinking. I for one, each year hope for another Woodson signing, a mid tier name you’ve heard of that may be a difference maker anything! This year, even with all the cap $ and obvious needs, I will expect nothing….it’s easier on the blood pressure. That story is old. I am just as concerned with this coaching staff from top to bottom, their ability to develop talent and incorporate new players into the system….once again Rodgers goes a long way in hiding weaknesses that extend to the sidelines and press box

  3. I can’t figure this out. All this talk about the back end that never stops. That’s not the problem, folks. Pack can go waste another #1 on a DB and blow a bunch of FA money on a S, but it’s not the fix.

    The Packers could field a secondary with Lott, Sanders, Woodson and Atwater and still get lit up.

    The root cause of the Packer defensive problem is no consistent push and pressure from the front 7. Not to always get a sack, but to move the QB off his spot, his rhythm and compromise his comfort. Make him make the mistakes that create the turnovers. That’s what this defensive concept has always required – turnovers. Those come from consistent push.

    Fix that and you fix the defense.

    1. So true Savage57. I have always held the belief that controlling the trenches is the key to this game. The same is true on the offense.

      While the author makes decent points, the ticking clock of Rodgers is the key point. Our best chance to win, is with Rodgers playing at a high level. An inconsistent defense or weak O-line sabotage the season and road to the top. The fork in the road amounts to placing your trust in unknown college kids and wasting more of Rodgers career.

    2. Savage57, you nailed it. This is why the Packers defense gives up so many big plays. I pointed this fact out after the playoff loss to the 49ers but the geek who constantly quotes my and other people’s posts said the Packers D overall sack stats proved me wrong.

      1. The Packers were 8th in the NFL in sacks last year….with their best pass rusher having a down year due to injury. None of the FAs are going to be missed for their pass rush. Sure there is room to improve but it is unrealistic to expect big improvement from outside acquisition.

        It is far more likely that replacing the horrible coverage guys at ILB and Safety would improve the middle of the pass defense. And it was the middle of the field where the problems occurred, not so much the edge, where Williams and Shields did fine.

    3. Packers’ lack of pressure, QB hits and Sacks is a myth.

      Take a look at the numbers over the years; the Packers are typically in the top 1/3 of the league.

      1. blown coverages on key downs, IMO, is the Packers’ biggest problem. How to fix that? Hell if I know.

    4. I agree they need a more consistent pass rush, especially on 3rd and long when it seems like it fails the most. I hope you were being tongue in cheek though to make a point when you mention 4 hall of fame dbs and say they’d still get burned.

  4. 1. Shields is gone.
    2. Hayward is never healthy.

    Just because WE draft them and develop them doesn’t make them great players. The problem in all of this is that TT will NEVER be the high bidder. The only time we can get a FA is when we are the ONLY bidder. Players are worth what the market says they are worth, not what Ted Thompson says they are worth. And so, we start a collection of rookies, UDFA, and department store greeters.

    I’m not saying sign Shields at $10m a year. But let’s at least understand that we’re competing in the same league as teams who will.

    1. Problem is those players that sign “market level” contracts are highly overpaid 9 times out of 10 and don’t perform to the level of their contracts. The sooner the FA signs a FA contract the more likely they are to be busts and cap killers.



        1. You are emotional like a little girl. Grow a pair and try defending your position with facts, if you can. Stop hiding behind management’s skirt little boy.

          1. LOL. Where in your post do YOU say anything that even resembles a “fact?”

            And now, I’ll go pour another cup of coffee while yet another Archie post is swiftly “hidden due to low comment rating.”

      2. Why in the world would Shields have signed a contract like that even last year?

        It take two sides to agree to a contract, and both sides need to think the contract is in their long term best **self** interest.

        Sorry guys, pet peeve got tweaked.

    3. It might be juuuust a smidge too early to write off Hayward, who played in all 16 games as a rookie and was a legit DROY candidate…

      Those of you who love to quote the PFF metrics might remember that Hayward was rated as the #2 corner in the entire league as a rookie – but even here I will still contend that PFF isn’t really to be trusted. That doesn’t mean he isn’t good, though.

      1. I agree. I’m not worried about Hayward. He’ll be fine this year. In fact I think this may be part of the reason for Thompsons’ willingness to let Shields test his value in the market. I fully expect Hayward to be back and ready to be an impact player next season, with Shields, or without…

  5. We don’t need a big name free agent? What did Reggie White or Charles Woodson do for us? Go get one of the top safeties in free agency. Forget Raji and draft an inside linebacker. If we’re at a cross roads on defense, get rid of Capers and move on. Our D is a joke and his system is the reason.

    1. If TJ Ward is a free agent, get him from Cleveland. He would take care of the safety problem and we can then go forward in the draft. We can find a big guy that can make 12 tackles anywhere. $8 mill for Raji is Ludacris.

  6. I have said the same thing as Savage57 above for a while…the defense starts and ends with the front seven.

    We will now here the rants as to the signs being offered from the ‘hopefuls’ of Perry and his great ‘uncontested,totally unblocked’ sack of Luck,how Neal has found his niche,how Matthews can make all the difference’if healthy’,how tweaking the scheme will make all great,how Jolly is a must resign because he’s the best DL we have even after a 3 year hiatus,which should open up many eyes to the other point…why/how is that possible?!

    The very point that the average grade for our DL was a C or C- (if truth be accepted) but truth is hard to take when denial is an easier path.

    Some say players need three years to learn,I say that may be dependent on the who,when and how obtained and that reasoning shouldn’t be a blanket statement.

    There is a chant for TT to move up in the draft,trade back into the 1st like in 09′ with Raji and Matthews..can we afford such action and still abide by the ‘three year rule’…absolutely not!

    This year is a crucial one and much more than some will accept for the defense and the ‘steps forward’ needed for those of prior drafts and the much needed skipping of ‘steps’of those coming on board.

    I keep hearing Jerry Reed singing the words from Smokey and the Bandit….”We got a long way to go and a short time to get there”..cause our front seven really drive like sh$t.

  7. ‘Tis the season of misinformation and misdirection. I wouldn’t trust MM & TT saying at the combine that it is just business as usual this offseason. They have over $30 mil in cap space and bigger needs than they have had in recent years.

    TE & NT are left bare with pending FAs–re-signing their own is an option. I love Hyde as a Safety, which eases that need, but they still need another guy. The LB group that was exposed as horribly substandard (especially for a 3-4 defense) in the playoff game @ SF a few years back is still not the focal point of the defense that they should be.

    They simply cannot go into the draft with all those needs unaddressed. I would like to see them all addressed with a mid-level guy. If I had to pick one spot for a big-time addition, it would be ILB.

  8. The packers need to sign a veteran safety. they had the worst production from the safety position of anyone in the nfl last year. they were always a step late and way too many missed tackles. I think burnett will bounce back, but banjo, Jennings, Richardson etc are not really even quality backups. THey are awful as starters. Hyde might make the transition, but you never know. I hope TT breaks the bank on a guy like jarius byrd. No picks from the safety spot last year. just cannot happen again in 2014.

    the draft class has a few safeties, but they all seem over rated. I like buchannon and pryor a little bit. but the first round guys they are talking about are all missing something in my opinion.

    sign a veteran that can shore up the back end of the defense.

      1. According to ProFootballTalk, Byrd will not be franchised by Buffalo. I would be elated along with the rest of PackerNation if TT signed him.

    1. I say your half correct, we need several of these guys. One will not make a difference.
      The pack let mcmillon go in december and he was never picked up. Out of football. Shows the level of talent Ted went and got with his draft and development plan.

    2. I say your half correct, we need several of these guys. One will not make a difference.
      The pack let mcmillon go in december and he was never picked up. Out of football. Shows the level of talent Ted went and got with his draft and development plan.

    3. I say your half correct, we need several of these guys. One will not make a difference.
      The pack let mcmillon go in december and he was never picked up. Out of football. Shows the level of talent Ted went and got with his draft and development plan.

  9. The Packers need to get better on defense up the middle. A disruptive de or dt, Ilb and fs. They also need a speed reciever 4.3 4.4 guy an a te. Use the draft and fa to do this. If we don’t we can expect the same end results period.

    1. Capers doesn’t allow his DE to be disruptive…….his system is to contain the blocker and hold your ground so the LB will fill the gap….That’s why Raji looks bad and wants out.

  10. Since Reggie white, the Packer staff has placed to much of an emphasis on the outside rush. All great defenses start strong up the middle. This approach not only effects the pass but the run as well. The packers are soft up the middle.

    On offense with a legit speed wr an clutch wr like Nelson an slot like Cobb, you can put more emphasis on a Jason Whitten type of te to help with the run game.

    Resign Eds or the ctr from Cleveland, Sam Shields or the corner from Tenn an Mike Neal if the price is right an we win the Super Bowl. TT and MM, think outside the box.

  11. Ted Thompson is Clark Griswold and we’re just sitting in his station wagon waiting to get to Wally World.

    1. Actually, the way it looks to me, if TT is Clark Griswold then many of the posters on this site are John Candy as the clueless security guard…….GoPack!

  12. I heard reports that Shields was asking for north of 8 million a season.

  13. While it is true that a more consistent pass rush would help we still need a veteran safety who can stabilize the back end of the defense and deliver a hit. Plus it’s very frustrating for a defense to bring pressure and then blown coverage or missed tackle in these secondary waste the efforts of the front 7. As Yogi Berra said, “when you get to the fork in the road, take it”. Thanks, Since ’61

  14. I wouldn’t call it a fork in the road. I would call it hanging off a cliff, being held with one had by Aaron Rodgers, with capers hanging on to your feet and MM and tt running around in circles saying not to worry, all is well. This team has four decent players, Rodgers, Mathews and the two kickers after that some are average but most are below standards. Unless major upgrades are made to the defense they are destined to repeat the last years performance or worse. They got into the playoffs but not by their doing.

    1. Eddie Lacy? Jordy Nelson? Randall Cobb? Josh Sitton?

      ‘Average or below?’ Really?

      Let’s not overrate anyone, but all those guys are well above ‘average.’

      Now on defense you might have a point.

    2. Hi Palmda – Kris Burke titled the article with “The Packers are at a fork in the road”. I agree with him. In reply to last week’s article about whether the Packers should take a WR in round one of the draft I replied to that article with a post that basically said the same as Kris in this article. I said the Packers are at a point where the decisions they make in FA and in the draft this year will impact the team for a while and I said I hoped that TT is up to the challenge. In any case he needs to do something, especially on defense, hence the reason for my quoting Yogi. With Lacy, Cobb and Jordy we have more than just 4 good players. Also, I believe that D. Jones and N. Perry will develop into solid players. Let’s not forget Shields and T. Williams, they can both play at an above average level. We’re still a way from the cliff. With this off season we can get over the top if TT and staff can make the right moves. Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since ’61

      1. Hi, Thanks. After watching the playoff’s it is pretty obvious to me at least that the Packers need a lot more than a couple safety’s. There is something wrong with all the injuries last season, more than just conditioning. You don’t see a lot of nagging injuries on wining teams. I don’t know if it is the chicken or the egg theory but I believe that not starting the season with a wining attitude in the preseason carries over to the regular season. MM did not play to win any of the preseason games. He didn’t use his starters and we know how that worked out with injuries. I have said for the last 2 years that it was a miracle that Rodgers didn’t get hurt with the lack of protection and all the sacks he was taking, it finally happened. It will happen again if they play guys like Newhouse. I Know they have lots of potential on the team but unfortunately there all on offense. I don’t think you can win consistently without a good defense. We shall see this coming season if the mindset has changed and MM plays to win? Do you think the wining coaches accept loosing all their preseason games and starting the season on a loosing note? I don’t think so.

        1. Palmda – preseason games are meaningless. Coaches are only trying to evaluate players and get some live, on-field experience for the young players. If they win the game it is a nice to have. I don’t remember the score or opponent of any preseason game that the Packers have ever played. My only concern is that none of our starting players get hurt and miss the real games. Who cares if you go 4-0 in the preseason and 3-13 during the regular season. You want to risk Rodgers and other starters in the pre-season for what? I wish that the league would move to 2 preseason games and go to an 18 game season. However, the players won’t go for it unless the rosters are expanded and salaries increased. T%he owners won’t go for that. In any case the preseason does nothing to establish a winning attitude for the real games, the only thing the pfeseason does is expose players to injuries for no reason. It’s a necessary evil but I dread it every year and never watch the games, just check the injury reports. Scheny is right, Rodgers stays healthy we go 11-5 or better. Thanks, Since ’61

    3. “they got into the playoffs but not by their own doing”…….if Rodgers doesn’t get hurt, they go into the playoffs with a bye-week. I understand and agree with the notion that the D needs to be upgraded in areas. Players need to step up in some areas as well. Team health needs to improve, but the notion that we are teetering on the edge of a cliff if preposterous. If Rodgers is healthy and the D even makes a small jump in efficiency(26th to 19th) we will win 11-12 games, win the division and be a legitimate superbowl contender. Hanging on a cliff???? I just don’t see it. GoPack!

      1. I hope your right and I’m wrong. The year the Packers won the Super bowl the hunger was there. I didn’t fell that last year. I saw a lot of players milling around and not being excited. I hope that changes. To improve the defense I believe something must change, either the personal or the coaches. At this point it is the same basic defense as 2013? Not good.

        1. Palmda, I hope I’m right too. For today, I would just tell everyone to be a little patient. Things will sort themselves out. We don’t even know who will be available yet as free-agency doesn’t start for 8 more days. Let’s not whip ourselves into a frenzy about who we may or may not sign when no other teams players are available to us yet. That is easier said than done but your blood pressure will thank you. GoPack!

      2. Name me two stand out defensive players on the Packers. Mathews doesn’t count since he only plays half the season. There is no real skilled make a difference players on defense.
        Hawk who I got on for several years carried this team this year. When he is the best player, that is saying a hell of a lot about an entire defensive team in need. 31 st in passing yardage given up and 17th in run yardage.

      3. Name me two stand out defensive players on the Packers. Mathews doesn’t count since he only plays half the season. There is no real skilled make a difference players on defense.
        Hawk who I got on for several years carried this team this year. When he is the best player, that is saying a hell of a lot about an entire defensive team in need. 31 st in passing yardage given up and 17th in run yardage.

  15. I probably should have typed that whole post in CAPITAL letters, that way you guys would know how important it is…. 🙂

  16. I know the $34.7M in salary cap TT has to work with is burning a hole in fan’s pockets but let’s look at some costs coming up. $5-7M to sign draft picks. 31yr old CB Grimes just signed a 4yr $32M contract. Wouldn’t this make Shields worth at least $7M/yr? #’s rumored for Byrd are $8M/yr. What’s a FA ILB, OLB, or DL going to cost? If Jennings rec’d $9M/yr and TT wants to resign Jordy does he pay him at least $9M/yr if not more? If MM wasn’t blowing smoke that he wanted Finley back there goes at least another $6M/yr.
    And we haven’t even addressed whether Neal or any of the other Packer FA’s resign.
    Even w/ almost $35M, TT still has to budget it…just saying.

    1. Very true BubbaOne. People want it today, even if it hurts us tomorrow. It was only a couple of years ago that Atlanta took the other fork in the road. That franchise had very little real success and is now gutting and rebuilding. But for the vision of TT, there go the Packers

    2. good points, but I wouldn’t earmark anything down for Finley just yet. TT is the one signing players, not MM. MM is only speaking from a skill-perspective, since it is not his job to worry about the dollars.

  17. First I totally agree about the cross roads and thought that the year before actually. I see the problem a little different.
    First,clearly Collings and jenkins needed to be replaced. Problemo and its a big one: Ted and his entire staff of analyst and Tony Pauline came up with three guys who are bums. Three total loss picks. When you needed to him some home runs you struck out. Over and over again because the three amigos have shown nothing to date and probably never will:Perry (not rated highly by pre draftr analyst) Jones, too small to play the position Dom needed him to play, and Worthy – analsyt said he went missing in a lot of games and he sure went missing for two years on this team.
    That is the problem. Poor drafting. Pick skilled talented players with your first and second picks and bums with your sixth round picks.

  18. 3 words: New England Patriots. GB has won 3 straight division titles and the sky is falling. Shame Kris.

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