Building through the Draft built a winner in Green Bay.
Ted Thompson replaced Mike Sherman as General Manager of the Green Bay Packers after the end of the 2004 season. Eight years later, Thompson is now one of the most respected and most accomplished front office officials in the NFL. The Packers have made the playoffs in four-consecutive seasons and have a Super Bowl because Thompson’s front office philosophies have worked. However, his philosophies were not the most popular early on.
Thompson began his tenure in Green Bay by drafting a young quarterback out of the University of California. Nobody expected Cal’s Aaron Rodgers to be drafted by a team like Green Bay.
The Packers already had a quarterback just removed from another playoff appearance. It made more sense to draft a player who would provide an instant impact at a position where the Packers were weak (secondary at the time). Thompson made the unpopular choice and took the young quarterback. He would eventually make another unpopular decision by picking young Aaron Rodgers over legendary gunslinger Brett Favre in 2008. There was tension between Favre and Thompson because Ted would not pursue veteran free agents.
Many teams around the NFL use free agency as an attempt to build a Super Bowl caliber team overnight. Free agency is always popular in a league demanding instant success on the field. It also builds hype around a team and sells tickets.
Thompson remained patient and unlike most front office officials, he rarely used free agency as a tool to find talent. It is not financially efficient and players are usually past their primes.
Instead, he built a young but talented team through the Draft. Some of his picks include Nick Collins, Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, B.J Raji and Casey Hayward. He hired Mike McCarthy as head coach in 2006 and allowed him and his staff to develop the young talent that Thompson assembled via the draft.
Today, star players like Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews and Randall Cobb make the Packers consistent Super Bowl contenders. None of them are products of free agency or a high-profile trade. They are products of the draft and more importantly, Thompson’s philosophies towards building an excellent football team.
In Ted Thompson, Packers fans trust.