1) Introduction: I think the biggest mistake that fans make when criticizing front office personnel like general managers is using the same rubric and time frame as they use for for players. Take Ted Thompson for instance, whose first pick for the Packers was a quarterback deemed too short with a weak arm when the Packers already had the best quarterback in franchise history. Naturally, we’re having arguments now on whether Aaron Rodgers is better than Brett Favre (personally, I still think its Starr, but Farve and Rodgers should be legitimately in the conversation).
Thompson was also roundly criticized for picking a cornerback to play safety from a college no one had ever heard of or drafting another wide receiver even when the Packers had fantastic depth but Nick Collins, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb have all been fantastic players who have made Thompson look like a very smart man. Overall, Thompson should not be graded per game or even per season, but over a span of 5 years or more.
- Age: 61
- Born: 1/17/1953 in Atlanta, Texas (There’s an Atlanta in Texas?)
- Height: 6’1″ (man, he was a short linebacker)
- Weight: 220
- College: Southern Methodist
- Rookie Year: 1975
- NFL Experience: 10 years as a player, 22 years as a scout and front office executive
3) Expectations coming into the season: High. In the last 5 years the Packers have won the Super Bowl, been in the playoffs every year and managed a 15-1 season. Added to that the Packers have always had one of the youngest and deepest rosters in football and always have had a very healthy salary cap situation. Thompson also has reportedly great rapport with head coach Mike McCarthy and his staff and Packer’s “system” of draft and develop has benefited all parties more often than not. The Packers were expected to win the NFC North again and make it to the playoffs.
4) Season highlights/low-lights: Thompson’s highlight is definitely sticking to his guns and grabbing rookie Eddie Lacy at the end of the second round; multiple news reports linked Lacy as high as the top half of the 1st round while many others had linked Lacy in the 3rd or 4th round due to serious injury reports. Lacy ultimately providing fantastic value as he became the focal point of the offense when Aaron Rodger was injured, while Lacy’s injury concerns didn’t really manifest themselves too significantly this season. Thompson’s lowlight is also getting caught off guard not having a decent backup to Rodgers as neither Vince Young, Seneca Wallace nor Scott Tolzein were really the options, but Thompson was luckily able to sign Matt Flynn in free agency mid-season and who essentially saved the season (while Flynn might not have won the Packers any games, he wasn’t as responsible for losses like Wallace or Tolzein was).
5) Contribution to the overall team success: Significant. Thompson has essentially drafted or developed every player on the Packer roster outside of Ryan Pickett in 2013. Furthermore, Thompson has hit on a lot of undrafted rookies like Sam Shields and Jarrett Boykin. While the 2013 squad was perhaps not as deep as it has been in previous years, the Packers still managed to record a 8-7-1 season and qualify for the playoffs even with key players like Aaron Rodgers, Randall Cobb, Jermichael Finley and Clay Matthews missing significant time.
Arguably his drafting percentage in the early rounds has not been as good as in the past, but this is likely more an effect of regression to the mean more than anything else; simply put no team drafts particularly well, with the success rate of high draft picks being something like 50-50 (if you don’t believe give me an example of a GM who hasn’t made his fair share of misses). Also keep in mind Thompson has lost a lot of scouting talent over the last three years with Reggie McKenzie becoming the GM of the Raiders, Jon Schneider going to Seattle and John Dorsey heading over to Kansas City.
6) Contributions in the playoffs: N/A. Arguably a GM’s contribution cannot be accurately assessed in one game alone, even if it is a playoff game. Arguably, as long as the team deserved to be in the playoffs (which is subjective), the GM should be commended. The Packers had a good chance of beating the 49ers in the wildcard game (remember the 49ers needed a last second field goal to win) but fell short not because of personnel but due to the team playing worse than normal.
Season Report Card:
(B+) Level of expectations met during the season
(B) Contributions to team’s overall success.
(N/A) Contributions to team during the playoffs
Overall Grade: B——————
Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.