Ted Thompson has earned a reputation as one of the NFL’s most brilliant, calculating general managers. He fired head coach Mike Sherman one year after taking his role as the general manager, and three Brett Favre retirements later, the Packers won a Super Bowl and Aaron Rodgers was cemented as the league’s premier passer. In spite some unpopular decisions, Green Bay’s fans have fallen for Thompson and his myriad of blank expressions.
But no one is perfect, right?
After days of research, I can report five notable instances in which Thompson dropped the ball in decisions where hindsight wasn't a significant factor. I can also say from this experience, finding fault with Thompson is a frustrating journey.
And five in eight years isn't bad. Ask a Raiders fan.
Chillar, who had spent just two seasons with the Packers in two radically different defensive systems, was primarily a situational starter in 2009, thanks to his relative quickness at linebacker. Why, then, did Thompson resign Chillar to a four-year deal worth $21 million at the end of that season? We’ll never know, as Chillar was plagued with injuries following his payday, missing three quarters of the 2010 season and being released from the team the following offseason. He remains a free agent, though recent rumors suggest Thompson may still have an eye for Chillar.
Following Thompson’s first season with Aaron Rodgers at the helm, Green Bay decided to add depth to the quarterback position by drafting Louisville’s Brian Brohm in the second round of the ’08 draft. Brohm had plummeted on some draft boards between the 2007 and 2008 Draft, in part due to the disappointing nature of the Cardinals 2007 season. Despite huge passing numbers from Brohm, the Cardinals collapsed from a preseason rank of 11 (as high as five in one publication) to finish 6-6.
Even Thompson may have realized his error in coming days, drafting 2012’s second hottest free agent quarterback, LSU’s Matt Flynn, in the seventh round of the same draft.
Jenkins may be the best player Ted Thompson has ever let go. In seven seasons in Green Bay, Jenkins racked up 29 sacks and five forced fumbles. He shored the middle as one of the league’s most underrated defensive tackles, transitioning to defensive end in 2009 in the Packers new 3-4 defense. Despite the transition, Jenkins remained productive, forcing seven sacks in 11 games in his final season with the Packers and snagging a ring in the process.
Unfortunately, despite offering the Packers a “hometown discount," Jenkins was released by the team following their Super Bowl win. Later that offseason, he inked a deal with Philadelphia and recently re-structured his contract following another season of consistent play at defensive tackle, garnering 5.5 sacks and starting all 16 games. His production prompted NBC Sports writer Gregg Rosenthal to note, “Jenkins may have given the most bang for the buck of any ‘Dream Team’ signings.”
When the Packers drafted Harrell in 2007, passing on Alan Branch and a slew of safer options, pundits were left scratching their heads. Harrell, who was injured and missed most of his final college season, was a workout warrior, pushing 31 reps. He evidently caught the eye of Thompson, who overlooked his injury-prone nature (he also missed time in 2003 and 2004) and snagged him with the 16th pick, before Alan Branch, who was widely considered a better tackle in the weeks leading up to the draft. Flash forward to 2011, at which time Harrell played just 14 games due to frequent back and knee injuries, leading to his inevitable release.
Time will tell whether Flynn is equipped to be a starting NFL quarterback, but the hype for the owner of two single game passing records has justification. So much so, one wonders whether Thompson should have franchise tagged the quarterback to acquire some value players or draft picks. As a fellow Bleacher Report writer noted, the Packers could have leveraged Flynn’s status as a hot free agent to shoot up to a higher draft pick. The lost opportunity cost in this scenario is significant; if the Packers could have found a trade partner—Washington, Minnesota, Jacksonville, Miami, and Seattle each have serious questions at quarterback—they might well be drafting in the top 12 instead of 28th overall.