Ron Wolf vs Ted Thompson: By the Numbers All Green Bay Packers All the Time
Ted Thompson and Ron Wolf
Ted Thompson and Ron Wolf

With the conclusion of the 2013 season, Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson hit a milestone of sorts with a team: he just completed his ninth season at the helm of the Packers’ football operations.

Know who else made it that long as GM in Green Bay? Thompson’s predecessor and mentor Ron Wolf.  Both men have won a Super Bowl but yet Wolf is held in legendary status with Packers fans and Thompson, to date, is not.

With the passionate debate about Thompson and his activity (or lack thereof) in free agency that consumed much of the offseason thus far until Thompson signed Julius Peppers,  ow figures a good time to compare Thompson and his mentor and how their times as Packers general manager compare and contrast.

As the saying goes, “the numbers never lie.”

Regular season record:

 Wolf: 92-52

Thompson: 86-57-1

 Wolf took over a team that was in ruins with only three winning seasons in the past 24 years.  The cupboard for talent was pretty barren and it wasn’t until Wolf traded for Brett Favre in 1992 and signed Reggie White in 1993 that marquee talent would stay in Green Bay.  Wolf also didn’t have a losing season and had only one non-winnjng (8-8) season in 1999.

Thompson meanwhile inherited a team that had an aging but still gifted Favre at quarterback and talent on offense but disastrous drafts by Mike Sherman left the defense in disarray and a team that was getting older by the day.  Thompson had to cleanse the roster and the 4-12 record in his first season as GM showed that.  Thompson had been only one other losing season in 2008 (6-10) and an 8-8 season in 2006 with rookie coach Mike McCarthy leading a young roster.

This might come as a shock to some of Thompson’s detractors but he’s pretty close to Wolf here and not many fans would have fired Wolf.

 Postseason record:

 Wolf: 9-5 (1-1 in Super Bowl) 6 playoff appearances

 Thompson: 6-5 (1-0 in Super Bowl) 6 playoff appearances

 Wolf went 2-2 in 1993-1994 when the Packers won their wild card matchups but subsequently lost to the Dallas  Cowboys in the divisional round each season.  The Packers made it to the NFC Championship in 1995 again losing to the Cowboys.  Green Bay qualified for the next two Super Bowls (XXXI and XXXII), winning the first and losing the second.  Wolf went one and done only once as GM, losing to the 49ers in a heartbreaker in 1999. He missed the playoffs his final two years with Green Bay.

In a mirror image of Wolf, Thompson missed the playoffs his first two seasons with the Packers.  Thompson lost to an NFC East team in the NFC title game as well, losing a nail biter to the Giants in January 2008. Thompson missed the playoffs the following season in Aaron Rodgers’ first season as starter but has made the playoffs every season since (tied for the current longest streak in the league with the New England Patriots) and won Super Bowl XLV in February 2011. Thompson went one and done three times (2009, 2011, 2013) so if those numbers show a pattern, Packers fans should expect at least one playoff victory this coming season.

This is probably where the most consternation with Thompson lies.  However, the Packers’ failures in recent playoffs are not necessarily all his fault. The team faced injury epidemics two of the past three years (2013 in particular) and a GM is tasked primarily with getting a team into the playoffs.

Thompson has done that.  It’s tough to win a Super Bowl. Even Ron Wolf understood that.

Division Titles:

 Wolf: 3 (1995-1997)

Thompson: 4 (2007, 2011-2013)

 Winning the division had more significance when Wolf was general manager, but it is still a pretty big deal.  Packer Nation celebrated like it won the Super Bowl thanks to Yancey Thigpen’s drop in the 1995 season finale to give the Packers the NFC Central title. Championship merchandise flew off store shelves.  Wolf followed that up with two more consecutive titles.

Thanks to league expansion, division titles mean less now with Thompson as GM thanks to four divisions in each conference instead of three when Wolf was around.  Still, Thompson has eclipsed his mentor in thus area and it is to be commended. With so much parity in the league, only the Packers, Patriots and Broncos have won their divisions each of the past three years.

So what does this all mean?

 Before the Peppers signing, the calling for Thompson’s job was approaching the levels of lunacy.  While fans are understandably upset with the Packers not having won another Super Bowl after the team was pegged as another potential dynasty, most GMs in the league would kill for the results Thompson has gotten.

Of course, there are things to note in this comparison: free agency has evolved considerably from when Wolf was in charge until now.  Wolf, however, has endorsed the Packers’ current approach and has praised the job Thompson has done.  For Thompson, there is probably no honor out there greater than that of earning Ron Wolf’s respect and admiration.

For those fans still down on Thompson, do you consider Wolf a Packer legend? If you do, then the numbers suggest Thompson should be in the same class as well. It might be tough for you to accept but one thing is true.

“The numbers don’t lie.”


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


51 thoughts on “Ron Wolf vs Ted Thompson: By the Numbers

  1. As far as the regular season record goes you have to take into account last year and Rodgers being out for so long. It’s possible their regular season records would be almost the same if Rodgers had not been hurt.

    1. When you start down the ‘what if’ road, there’s always the ‘what would Wolf’s playoff record look like if Favre didn’t throw all those Int’s?’. 🙂

      1. TT would have another SB appearance, and possibly another Lombardi, if Favre takes the check down to Ryan Grant instead of forcing the ball to Driver.

        1. Neither Ron Wolf nor TT has taken any snaps for the Packers over their time in GB. All they do is arrange pieces. Still, for a team with a non-meddling owner the buck must stop at the GMs door.

          If we want to be critical of Favre and his INTs then we also need to be critical of ARod and what some have voiced as his inability to come up big in playoff games…but don’t get me wrong: you have to win a lot of big games to have the ongoing success (and SB wins) the Packers had under each QB.

          That said, we have to be cognizant of the fact that ARod might be a great regular season QB and only an average post-season QB…which means the SB window everyone talks about with ARod might be a construct of our fantasy.

    2. The difference in their regular season record comes down to their first year. Wolf was 9-7 and TT 4-12.

      Wolf was given full control immediately and could immediately begin re-making the team.

      TT had Sherman forced on him for one year by Harlan (which Harlan later regretted) and had to untangle the cap mess that GM Sherman created.

      1. Wolf also had a franchise QB in place for his entire reign as GM, whereas Thompson had to transition from Favre to Rodgers. That along w/ the media circus Favre created had something to do w/ the 6-10 season in ’08.

    3. Say what you want, but he had an opportunity to do something great and he wasted it. His ego as a great be all/end all draft guru cost the team a chance to do something really special. He was satisfied. The great ones never quit trying to be better. He became satified with himself. He quit.

  2. It doesn’t take long for a franchise to be mismanaged into no-man’s land. I think that people want TT act like Elway, with an all chips in approach. Bronco fans have seen the best of Manning and should get ready for the long road back.

    Barring all the injuries we had another good year, almost great year. We are young, talented and fairly well coached. Yes, we had some draft picks that didn’t pan-out and some unfortunate luck but this is a good team. Not only is it a solid team, it has the heart of a winner. Our fight down the stretch and our final game against San Fran tells you that we have the right kind of guys in the locker room. We are missing a couple of pieces and had too many guys standing on the sideline but this is a good team.

    TT rebuilt us and the cap from the Sherman disaster and we have been pointed up ever since. He has made the tough decisions, like Favre, Driver and Woodson for the long term health of the team. He will use the draft to finish what he started in this year’s FA and he will still be hated by some fans. We will win the division this year going away and people will still be moaning about Cullen Jenkins or some 9 million dollar FA safety that we didn’t snag.

    I wouldn’t want his job but I am thankful that he is a Packer. He has brought the right kind of person to Green Bay and given us something to be proud of. Look around the league and tell me who is doing a better job on all these fronts.

  3. Ron Wolf inherited a freakin mess. He put it all together and made it happen. He would fix things mid-season if necessary. If a tight end went down or was not producing, no big deal he just goes out and gets Keith Jackson. Safety problems, he just goes out and gets Eugene Robinson. Etc. Etc. Etc. That my friends is the difference. TT wouldn’t dare do such things and that is why we don’t have 2 more superbowl appearances. It’s called egomania, thats what TT suffers from. My way or the highway, I don’t care what works or doesn’t, just try to cross me bitches…

    1. The reason Keith Jackson came in at midseason in ’95 is because Jackson refused to play in Green Bay after he was traded. He came in only after Wolf refused to budge and Jackson needed to be on the roster for enough games to accrue a season on his contract.

      Read the *whole* history, please.

    2. you were doing fine until you hit “egomania.” One of the more ridiculous assumptions I’ve heard. Like it or not, Ted has his way of doing things – it’s just what he believes in. that’s called staying true to yourself. What the hell does that have to do with ego?

      1. Al,

        The ego complaint about TT is usually projection, IMO.

        After all, these people are complaining that TT would be better off doing things they way they advocate and only some character flaw would cause anybody to think differently.

    3. Bill Johnson of ESPN Wisconsin addressed this last week when a caller on Green & Gold Today referred to Thompson as arrogant. Johnson’s response was how can anyone know if Ted is arrogant or an ego maniac without knowing him? I get the whole “perception is reality” thing, but again, you’re describing a personality trait.

      If Thompson is truly an ego maniac, and maybe he is, then what about all of the moves he has made that have panned out? Do you equally credit those?

      We all wish there were more Super Bowl appearances and playoff games, who doesn’t? But when you look at the success that the Packers have enjoyed (enjoyed, think about how enjoyable life has been as a Lions fans since. . forever. . or the Jaguars), it’s hard to argue that Ted’s personal tastes have hurt the team.

      I’m not trying to convince anyone here to like or hate the guy, those decisions have already been made and there will always be 2 very strongly divided factions. But think about some of the ideas and terms that are being used and their true meaning.

    4. You’re wrong. Remember Howard Green??? Mid-season acquisition at DT during the 2010 title run. Tramon Williams??? A cast-off of the Houston Texans roster. Sam Shields??? Undrafted free agent. I could go on, but you get my point. Many people forget that Ted Thompson was the primary architect of the Seattle Seahawks team that went to Super Bowl XL in the 2005 season. I have read elsewhere that Ted Thompson has a background as a trained stock-broker. And Thompson, like any good stock trader has two important qualities: He doesn’t make knee-jerk decisions, and he has a keen understanding of value. I’m perfectly fine with how Thompson does things. Just look at how guys like Daniel Snyder and Jerry Jones run their teams and count your blessings…

      1. Just saw The Wolf of Wall Street and that blows my mind to think of TT as a stock-broker like that.

  4. The only thing similar between these two is they both had a strong tendency to whiff in the first round.

    1. No stronger a tendency to whiff in the first than any other GM.

      Both also had a strong tendency to outperform other GMs in later rounds.

    2. I’m shocked. Shocked that I am checking the green box on an Archie post in a Ted Thompson article. Shocked that this is not overtly negative and has truth to it. And shocked it took this many posts for him to finally chime in!

  5. Looking only at the Packers playoff record during his watch of 6-5, when you consider that 4 of those losses came at the hands of the Giants and 9ers with 2 each, you have to ask yourself this: was Ted Thompson more responsible for the loss or for the fact that they were even in these games at all.

    So, loss 2, the 2007 NFC Championship game. Was it Ted’s fault that Favre didn’t see 3 open receivers and instead tried to jam a bad throw with his feet all caddywhampus to Driver? NO

    Then, loss 3, the 2011 Divisional game against the Giants? Was it Ted’s fault that 5 DB’s couldn’t knock down a Hail Mary pass just before halftime? Was it Ted that fumbled deep in Packers territory late in the game to ice it for the Giants? NO

    On to loss 4, the day Kaep read-optioned the Packers to death. Was it Ted’s fault that the Packers made no adjustments to what was going on? Coaching is about putting players in positions in which they can succeed. There’s probably some direct responsibility, but everyone, including a former DPOY and almost DPY got flummoxed by this guy. Indirect responsibility as Ted hired MM, who hired Capers? Probably, so for this one I give him half a loss.

    Lastly, Wild Card again against the 49ers. And again we all recall a defense that regressed, but was also playing with half a team. And even then the Pack was only an icy-fingered, pick 6 drop by a rookie away from winning. I’ll go more with the tendency to give credit for having made it – the season was saved because of this cat he decided to draft named Lacy. So he gets a pass on this one, too.

    Long story longer, Ted has managed to assemble a team each year that’s capable of getting a dance ticket, but he can’t do the dancing for them, too.

    At best even the most hating, cynical fan could lay no more than 2 or 3 of those losses at his feet.

  6. I wonder what the results would be if Ron had Rodgers and Ted had Favre for their whole tenures? Favre threw a lot of playoff INTs while most of Arods playoff losses were the result of bad Defense

  7. Wolf is a marginally better GM than Thompson by most any objective measure. Both guys had teams that won one SB and lost one NFC CG. Wolf’s teams had the extra deep run to a SB loss.

    The reason Wolf is “legendary” and TT isn’t is the internet. It was not as big back in Wolf’s day so the picture was painted by the media, not interacting at fan-based website like this one and many others. Fans tend to gloss over mistakes unless they are beat about the head with them. Therefore Wolf’s mistakes are largely forgotten, even tho he had plenty of them. Thompsons’s mistakes are cussed and discussed ad naseum.

    1. So true. The internet gives us more information and instant access, it doesn’t necessarily make people smarter.

  8. Lets NOT forget that back then when Wolf was our GM it was also a lot less widespread talent in the league and the cap had less to do with teams’ success… In other word, as a GM it was a bit easier guys. Think about that. Wolf was a fantastiiiic GM, but I think we undervalue OUR current GM but in time we will give him all his due when he finishes b/c he is a top 5 guy in this league. Top 5

  9. I feel a lot better about Thompson now that he has joined ALL the other successful GM’s and decided to utilize some amount of free agency. The draft is still king, but it’s no longer the only thing.

  10. We get it Jersey Al. You LOVE Thompson. He can do no wrong. But from a guy who does not have a man crush on the man, Thompson’s reluctance to add the final pieces of veteran backup or starter to a potential Super Bowl team has left us without that dynasty. His building on the cheap wasted the final year of Favre and is wasting the middle years of Rodgers. Backing up a Super Bowl is the mark of a great GM. Here is where Thompson falls short.

    1. Ridiculous comment on several levels. First, read the byline, I didn’t write this. Second, if you’re going to analyze my own beliefs, I have been critical of Thompson, mocked him in satire and praised him as well. I look at everything and every move FAIRLY. I am not “in love” with him or MM or anybody. So can you members of the TT “All-Hate Team” cut this BS out? You’re just showing your inability to look at things objectively and thus, lose all credibility.

      1. I love TT so much that one reader suggested I marry him. I just want to go on record and say I would be willing to marry Ron Wolf as well…. 🙂

      2. Geary – it has nothing to do with liking or disliking Thompson. It has to with his record. If you look at his record objectively, is it a good record? Yes.
        Is his record better than nearly every other GM in the league over the same period? Again the answer is YES! This is important because to be fair to TT or any GM you need to measure them in the actual real world environment that they are competing in today. There are maybe a few fans out there who could be bigger Lombardi era/dynasty fans than me, but it is not reasonable to compare TT or Wolf to Lombardi. Since TT has won an SB and has 5 straight playoff appearances, which no other team can claim since 2009, I could argue that TT is the best GM in the league. Too many fans are disappointed because they have a fantasy about another GB dynasty. But again if you are fair you realize that there are no other dynasties out there and haven’t been since the pre-free agency Cowboys. Yes, I know, New England in the early 2000’s. But did they really dominate the league or any of their SB wins, as did Dallas, or the 80’s 49ers, or the 70’s Steelers or Lombardi’s Packers. No, not even close. Why? The league wants a different champion every year. The league has stacked the cards against dynasties, even without the injuries the Packers have suffered the last few seasons. You can blame TT forever, but you can’t name any other GM who has created a dynasty during the time TT has been Packers’ GM. You have a team with a good chance every year. AS Packer fans we should be very grateful that Wolf and TT have given us that chance every season since 1992. That in and of itself is a dynasty. Thanks, Since ’61

        1. One and done in three of the 5 playoff appearances, including the 15-1 year, and knocked out in the second round in one more. That’s the record and I don’t think that adds up as the best GM in the league.

          1. Also I’m not a Johnny Come Lately. I’ve been a Packer Backer since 1965, so I’ve been through the Wilderness Years before Wolfe and Holmgren arrived. I appreciate the level of excellence we are now enjoying, but I also can bemoan the loss opportunities to add to our Super Bowl trophy case. I felt and still feel if Thompson had swung a trade for Randy Moss in 2007 (for a 2007 No. 4, which was OT Allen Barbre and even throw in a No. 5 (WR David Clowney), GB would have been in the Super Bowl instead of the Giants and the Favre-Thompson feud could have been avoided or at least mitigated (He did make the hard call that it was Rodgers’s time, but to shit on one of the greatest Packers of all time was not the way to do it. There had to be a better way.). The mark of the greatest GM in the league is making those final moves to put you over the top (i.e. Andre Rison, Bruce Wilkerson, Keith Jackson, Sean Jones, Santana Dotson, Gilbert Brown, Reggie White, Eugene Robinson, Desmond Howard, Frankie Winters). Building on the Super Bowl win is where greatness is determined. Lost opportunities when failing to spend a little money would have make the difference. But then again that’s only my opinion.

            1. You are missing the point that Wolf operated in a completely different era than the ’90s with regard to the cap, free agency and trading for players. About half the players you listed would never even be available to sign or trade for today, or if they were available the contract biudding would be such that the Wolf would have had to completely gut the team for cap reason before the 1997 season.

              In this era, Thompson has more success oin the past 5 years (SB win, 5 consecutive playoff appearances, and still contending) than any other GM in the league.

              That is the reality that actually exists. The league has put an upper bound on a franchise’s continued success, and Thompson has the Packers at or near that upper bound every season for half a decade. And he isn’t done yet . . .

            2. You lost me at Randy Moss being the missing piece of the SB puzzle. Maybe on a fantasy football team but absolutely not on a real football team

              Moss has never been a part of a championship team but he was part of two epic playoff choke job.

              Favre had one person to blame for failing to make a SB with Thompson as GM. It’s the guy he sees in the mirror every morning.

            3. Geary, your arguments against Thompson are nothing but fluff.

              The truth came out in your last comment. You’re an obsessed Favre fan who will never forgive TT for choosing Rodgers over him. Time to move on…

            4. TT may or may not be the best GM in the league. But his record is as good or better than the others. As I said, I could make the argument either way. Your assertion that Randy Moss would have put GB in the Super Bowl in 2007 is speculation. The team went 13-3 without him and then into OT in the NFC Championship game, one play from the SB. This tells me that they probably didn’t need Moss. As for the game against the NYG, the Packers lost that game because their offensive line was outplayed by the Giants’ D-line and Favre did not play a very good game. I would agree with you that Favre is one of the all time greatest Packers, but not on that day. During the 4th quarter he had 3 chances to lead the Packers to a game winning FG and didn’t get it done. Then his poor decision in OT leading to the decisive INT and winning FG for the Giants. Not TT’s fault and Randy Moss would not have made a differnce. Beyond that what was the impact would Moss have had on the cap. He was not the best guy to have in a locker room either. As for the FAs you list that Wolf signed. If TT did that now, even if he won a SB or backed up the 2010 with another SB win he would destroy the team’s salary cap for years. Then the fans would be blaming TT for blowing up the cap and ruining the team’s future. The reality is that today’s NFL is about managing the salary cap. If you don’t your team becomes the Jaguars, or the Raiders, or Cowboys or Vikings, and many others. The assertion that a great GM needs to win back-to-back Super Bowls doesn’t fit with the current circumstances. Today, a great GM builds a solid competitive organization, on and off the field, and keeps them at a high level each season so that they can be in a position to win the Super Bowl every year. It may not happen but TT has done that as well as any other GM in the NFL. If you can name or recommend a better one, I’m all ears. Thanks, Since ’61

          2. There’s a fine line between winning and losing. Look at the Super Bowl run. They needed to win the last two games and the tie breaker to even get into the playoffs.

            The 15-1 team in 2011 needs to have the biggest asterisk attached. Players are creatures of habit and Joe Philbin’s son’s death reeked havoc on the team. AR said he had never been to a funeral home before. Howard Green said that during a team mtg he looked over and when he saw an empty chair where Philbin usually sat he couldn’t concentrate. If a D-lineman was that affected by a missing OC imagine how it affected the offensive players. Five or six plays usually decide a game and the Packers were definitely off their game vs the Giants.

          3. how far you advance is irrelevant if you don’t win the SB. ’11, they lost to the eventual champs. who’s to say they wouldn’t have advanced further if they played one of the other teams? ’12, they were knocked out by the team that came within 5 yards of being the champs. last year, they were barely edged by a team that essentially came within 18 yards of beating the champs. And this is all while having significantly more injuries than all those teams. There really isn’t much of a difference between these teams you would compare them to. what GM’s would you put above him? which of them have basically lost 2 pro-bowl caliber players to career-ending injuries? which of them have proven they can sustain success beyond the rookie contracts of their stars? If he is not the best, he is definitely still in the conversation. I don’t know that you could point to another gm that he is definitively worse than.

          4. How many teams even made the playoffs each of those years? Gotta get in the playoffs first. 95% of the GM’s didn’t even do that!

            How many other GM’s had career ending injuries to playmakers on one side of the ball? Losing Collins and to a lesser extent Bishop took 2 of the better playmakers off the Defense when they were in their prime productive years!

            Its not hard to replace a starter, but playmakers don’t come around often. And it took Collins and Bishop both till year 4 to become playmakers. Yet you gripe cuz young players on the Packers D aren’t doing enough in years 1 and 2.

            Your just making yourself look and sound foolish. Stop it already!

      3. “…showing your inability to look at things objectively and thus, lose all credibility.”

        Al, you’re giving them too much credit…they didn’t have credibility in the first place. So how could they lose it.

  11. Thanks so much for a very good article, but you left one stat out for some of us diehard Packer fans(maybe you could give it to us as well): What are the win/loss records of both GMs against da-Bears?

  12. Geary Dentison said it all. I didn’t really understand football enough to be a fan until 1971. With that history in mind, I am soooooooo happy to have TT as the GM because I remember how bad it was during the 70s and 80s.

  13. Thompson rolls the dice and has done a very good job.
    His teams have been one of the hardest hit with injuries year after year.
    That is not his fault,period.
    The adversity his teams have had to overcome has been mind blowing.
    So get off his ass.

  14. Show me a TT hater and I’ll show you a Favre sycophant, as funcrusher said above. Geary, Archie, Charles Martin, they’re all the same, pathetic hero worshippers with no sense of reality.

    1. So you are telling me that Favre was not one of the greatest Packers. I’m not a Favre lover just stating the obvious. I couldn’t care less if he ever comes back. I agreed with him (that Thompson wanted him out and did so and what could he do with his locker down on the farm–that locker deserved to go into the Packer HOF), but since he left he lost me because he wouldn’t shut up and wanted to go the Vikings so he could beat us twice a year. He turned on the Packers by asking Peppers (of all people) to beat us the following week among other comments. He can go to hell and he can go in the HOF as a Viking for all I care, but for 16 years we were lucky to have him and he holds all the records.

  15. Jason, I respectfully submit that you should never hit the green button on an Archie comment, no matter how reasonable it may seem. Any type of approval just encourages the trolls. Tough love is what’s needed. I suggest as a universal response the famous quote from Dean Wormer “fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life”.

    1. WKU, you remind me of the liberal trolls on msnbc… you have an obvious double standard. It’s ok for you to troll for TT, but by God if anyone says anything contrary to your beliefs, assanine or not, look out the fangs come out…

  16. I get so tired of hearing people complain about Thompson’s personality. I could care less about his personality as long as he does well at his job. Last I checked, Bill Belichik isn’t exactly a fun guy to be around. Neither was Lombardi. Fact is, not only in football, but in life in general, the people that are the best at what they do, tend to be a**holes. Although with Thompson, I think he is just a more private and reserved personality that tends to shun the spotlight. And that gets misinterpreted by people as arrogance.

  17. Need to take some chill pills in regards to lamb-basting Ted. Like anyone he has strengths and weaknesses. His strengths definitely outweigh the weaknesses though.

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