For better or worse, the Packers are a draft and develop team. After a devastating end to the 2011 season, Green Bay is attempting to retool through the NFL draft, the question is will that be enough to elevate the Packers into Super Bowl contention.
General manager Ted Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy know it is a young man's game. Heck, McCarthy said as much just last week when he told the Green Bay Press-Gazette when asked about rookies contributing early:
“It’s a young man’s league in my opinion—no disrespect to the older players. I think that’s a trend that’s only potentially going to pick up."
From day one of the Thompson era in 2005, it was clear this team would be built through the draft, relying on the growth and development of young talent to be successful. For the most part, with the help of McCarthy and the rest of the coaching staff, the Packers model has worked like a charm.
Just look at the results.
Aaron Rodgers, who was not only Thompson's first pick as general manager but also his best, is a shining example of how the system works. Green Bay drafts a player, develops him and puts him out there to sink or swim.
Some sink. Most swim.
Rodgers has flourished into arguably the NFL's top player, leading Green Bay to a Super Bowl in 2010 and following it up with an MVP season in 2011.
After delving deeper into his history, every Thompson draft has produced at least one core player, who contributes significantly to the team.
It started with Rodgers and Nick Collins in 2005 and continued with Greg Jennings (2006), Desmond Bishop, James Jones and Mason Crosby (2007), Jordy Nelson, Josh Sitton and Jermichael Finley (2008), Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji (2009), Bryan Bulaga and Morgan Burnett (2010) and finally Randall Cobb (2011).
So, when the Packers looked to address a defense that gave up the most passing yards in NFL history, the logical place to turn for improvement was the draft.
Thompson did sign veteran free agents Anthony Hargrove and Daniel Muir, but do not kid yourself, he is all about the draft.
And If the Packers defense improves this year, it will be due to the success of the 2012 draft class that includes six defenders: outside linebacker Nick Perry, defensive lineman Jerel Worthy, cornerback Casey Hayward, safety Jerron McMillian, defensive lineman Mike Daniels and linebacker Terrell Manning.
Some teams fear relying on rookies and young players to improve, but in Green Bay under Thompson, that is the name of the game: draft, develop and play.
As McCarthy said, it's a young man's game, and with the ring he has on his finger, it's hard to argue.