Ted Thompson had a bumpy start to his now seven-year regime as executive vice president, general manager and director of football operations for the Green Bay Packers.
It started in 2005, after he took over the GM duties from head coach Mike Sherman, when the Packers fell to 4-12.
That season was the first losing season in Green Bay since 1991. To add to the insult of the play on the field, Thompson did not distinguish himself in free agency, either. Thompson signed G Adrian Klemm and G Matt O'Dwyer.
Both guards were brought in by Thompson in 2005 to replace two very good guards in Mike Wahle and Marco Rivera, who left Green Bay as free agents.
Wahle and Rivera had Pro Bowl talent, but Klemm and O'Dwyer were less than mediocre. O'Dwyer didn't even make the roster, while Klemm was never consistent at the LG position.
This decision put the Packers offensive line behind the eight ball in 2005, as there was never any cohesiveness or effectiveness from the line that year. There was no running game to speak of, and Brett Favre threw a career-high 29 interceptions.
The Packers drafted three offensive linemen in 2006 because of this sorry situation.
But there was a silver lining in 2005. That was due to the 2005 NFL draft. The very first draft choice of Thompson's was a QB out of California named Aaron Rodgers. Thompson followed that up by selecting S Nick Collins.
The draft has turned out to be Thompson's main modus operandi of building the Green Bay organization. And Rodgers has been the main building block.
Rodgers has more than justified the choice made by Thompson in the first round of the 2005 NFL draft. Rodgers won the NFL MVP award in 2011 because of his stellar play.
The season Rodgers put together last year was one of the best seasons ever by an NFL quarterback.
During the 2011 NFL season, Rodgers threw 45 TD passes to just six interceptions for 4,643 yards, and he had a QB rating of 122.5. Rodgers also had a completion percentage of 68.3. The 122.5 QB rating was the best in the NFL and broke the all-time record set by Peyton Manning in 2004, when Manning had a 121.1 QB rating.
Rodgers was named first-team All-Pro and was the starting QB for the NFC in the Pro Bowl. It all led to Rodgers being named MVP.
It was a well-deserved honor. But there is much more.
Rodgers not only had the best-ever QB rating in a single season in 2011, but Rodgers is the all-time leader in QB rating in both the regular season and the postseason.
Rodgers has thrown 132 TD passes vs. just 38 interceptions for 17,366 yards, and he has a 104.1 QB rating in his career during the regular season. Rodgers is the only QB in NFL history to have a QB rating of over 100 based on 1,500 passing attempts.
Add to that the fact that Rodgers has thrown 15 TD passes vs. only four picks for 1,781 yards and has a QB rating of 105.5 in his career during the postseason. Again, that is the best in NFL history.
Rodgers just turned 28 years old in December. Rodgers has now won an NFL MVP and a Super Bowl MVP award. Plus Rodgers has led the Packers to another Vince Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl XLV.
Back to 2005. Thompson fired Sherman as head coach after the 4-12 campaign that year. Thompson had a thorough interviewing process afterward with several candidates before choosing Mike McCarthy to be the new head coach of the Packers in 2006.
That decision turned out to be very good.
Since the McCarthy era started in 2006, the Packers have been 63-33 in the regular season, 5-3 in the postseason, have appeared in two NFC Championship games (winning one) and have won Super Bowl XLV.
McCarthy has been able to do this because of all the talent Thompson has assembled. That and because of the great coaching staff McCarthy has put together.
The Packers have been an outstanding offensive club in the McCarthy era. That is due to the great QB play the Packers have had since 2006. McCarthy and new offensive coordinator Tom Clements (formerly the QB coach) have put together a quarterback school that really helps the understanding of the QBs in terms of knowing the offense of the Packers.
The Packers have consistently been a top-10 offense in the NFL since McCarthy arrived in 2006. The team was led by Favre the first two years of the McCarthy regime and by Rodgers the last four seasons.
That success is primarily based on the talent acquired by Thompson. Thompson has stayed true to his formula of adding that talent. Thompson has built the roster of the Packers primarily through the use of the draft.
When the Green Bay Packers opened the 2011 NFL season, the team had 32 out of 53 players on their roster who were drafted. That means almost 60 percent of the Green Bay roster beginning the year in 2011 were players who were drafted by the organization.
That is an almost unheard-of figure in today's NFL.
Thompson has also drafted a number of other players who have been either All-Pro or selected to a Pro Bowl team.
This list would include Rodgers, Collins, OLB Clay Matthews, WR Greg Jennings, DL B.J. Raji and LB A.J. Hawk.
Overall, Thompson has selected 67 players in his seven drafts with the Packers. Fifty-seven of those 67 players made the Packers' roster.
Yes, every once in a while, Thompson will have a hiccup in the draft, like when he selected DT Justin Harrell in the first round of the 2007 draft.
In terms of pure free agency, Thompson does not dip his toes into that water too often, but when he does, he has hit gold at least once. That would be the signing of Charles Woodson in 2006, who was signed along with DL Ryan Pickett that year. Both players are still with the team.
Since his arrival in Green Bay in 2006, Woodson has 37 interceptions, nine of which were returned for TDs. Woodson has averaged almost 85 tackles per season. He has 10 sacks and 14 forced fumbles—one of which he recovered and returned for a TD.
Woodson was also the Defensive Player of the Year in the NFL in 2009 for the Packers.
Woodson has been named All-Pro four times as a Packer and has also been selected to four Pro Bowl squads.
Pickett has been a steady performer for the Packers since joining the squad in McCarthy's inaugural year. Pickett's game is stopping the run, and he has done that duty well for the Packers.
The biggest play of Pickett's career had to occur in Super Bowl XLV. The Packers were leading the Pittsburgh Steelers 21-17 as the fourth quarter was just getting started. However, the Steelers were driving and were in Green Bay territory going for the go-ahead score.
Then Pickett, along with OLB Clay Matthews, made a huge play. Both Pickett and Matthews simultaneously hit RB Rashard Mendenhall as he was running with the ball, and the force of their impact caused a fumble. LB Desmond Bishop of the Packers recovered, and Green Bay went on to score another TD in the ensuing drive.
Bottom line, the Packers held on to win Super Bowl XLV 31-25. There were many big plays, but none was bigger than the fumble caused by Pickett and Matthews.
Speaking of Matthews, Thompson traded three draft picks to move up and select the former USC Trojan in 2009. Matthews has been phenomenal since he arrived in Green Bay.
Matthews has been All-Pro once and has been named to three Pro Bowls. He just missed being named the AP 2010 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, as he finished second to S Troy Polamalu, but he did win the 2010 Sporting News NFL Defensive Player of the Year award.
One of the draft picks used to move up to select Matthews was acquired by the New York Jets in the Brett Favre trade. The trade of Favre was definitely the toughest situation Thompson has had in his second tenure in Green Bay.
Favre was a legend in Titletown, as was his resume in Green Bay.
Favre had 160 wins as the starting QB of the Packers, which broke the all-time mark of 148 by John Elway. Favre also had an unbelievable starting streak at QB, which was at 253 games (275 games, if you include the playoffs) when he left Green Bay.
Favre also threw 442 TD passes as a Packer, which broke Dan Marino's all-time record of 420. Favre also threw for 61,655 yards in his Green Bay career, which topped Marino again, who threw for 61,361.
Favre owns the club's all-time record for service in the postseason, with 22 games played. Overall, he was 12-10 in the playoffs, including two NFC championships and one Super Bowl win.
Favre also won three consecutive MVP awards (1995-1997). He was named All-Pro six times and was named to the Pro Bowl nine times. In terms of overall service with the Packers, Favre is tied with Bart Starr with 16 seasons played for Green Bay, and his 255 games (regular season) for the Pack is the most of all-time.
Favre retired after the 2007 season, after the Packers made it to the NFC title game vs. the New York Giants. The Packers lost 23-20 to the G-Men in overtime, when Favre threw an ill-advised pass on the first possession of the Packers in OT.
A few months after his retirement, Favre wanted back with the Packers, or at the very least his outright release. Thompson and McCarthy had at that time hitched the Green Bay wagon to Rodgers. Favre eventually was traded to the Jets early in training camp in 2008.
That was a very unpopular decision among many in Packer Nation. Thompson, McCarthy and Rodgers all took the brunt of that decision for a while. It wasn't easy, but the Packers, under Thompson, stayed the course and became consistent winners under Rodgers. It led to a win in Super Bowl XLV.
Thompson learned his craft under Ron Wolf, who first hired Thompson in 1992 as an assistant director of pro personnel. One of the first jobs that Thompson was given was to review some tape of a young player in the NFL who the Packers were thinking about trading for.
Thompson looked at the tape and endorsed trading for that player. The player's name? Brett Favre.
Thompson later became the director of pro personnel and then the director of player personnel under Wolf until 1999, when he moved on to join Mike Holmgren in Seattle. When a GM signs a free agent, the GM leans heavily on the advice of his people in pro personnel.
Wolf signed a number of free agents in his time in Green Bay. Among those players were DE Reggie White, DE Sean Jones, DT Santana Dotson, WR/KR Desmond Howard, WR Don Beebe and WR Andre Rison. Wolf looked to Thompson and his staff for evaluations of those players.
When Thompson looks to free agency now as the GM of the Packers, he does the same thing. He gets evaluations from his pro personnel department, led by Eliot Wolf, Ron's son.
Thompson has shocked some in Packer Nation by actually signing a few free agents in 2012. Thompson and the Packers have already signed C Jeff Saturday, DE Daniel Muir and DE Anthony Hargrove in free agency.
Again, Thompson has built the roster of the Packers primarily through the use of the draft. Thompson has also re-signed free agents on his own team, as opposed to signing players from other teams, although he will at rare times—like this year.
Thompson is better known for signing "street" or rookie free agents. Players like CB Tramon Williams, CB Sam Shields, QB Graham Harrell, TE Tom Crabtree, DL Howard Green, LB Robert Francois and S Charlie Peprah fall into this category.
This formula has worked. The proof is in the pudding.
When Thompson went to Seattle to become vice president of football operations from 2000-2004, the Seahawks became a Super Bowl team thanks to the drafting expertise of Thompson.
Has Thompson made some mistakes during his tenure as GM of the Packers? Absolutely.
The drafting of Harrell is an example. Not re-signing DE Cullen Jenkins in 2011 is another. I've given my fair share of criticism of Thompson when he didn't pull the trigger and trade for players like WR Randy Moss and TE Tony Gonzalez a few years back.
But here is the bottom line. The positives far outweigh the negatives as far as Thompson is concerned. The Packers have won two Super Bowls in the last 15 years. Thompson played a large part in both of those achievements—certainly the win in Super Bowl XLV after the 2010 season.
Add to that, Thompson has twice (2007 & 2011) been named NFL Executive of the Year by The Sporting News.
Thompson has a very solid track record. A track record of winning. Most importantly, a track record that includes bringing the Vince Lombardi Trophy back to Titletown. Thompson isn't done yet, either.
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