Ted Thompson has run the front office of the Green Bay Packers since 2005. Thompson's official title is executive vice-president, general manager and director of football operations. But forget about the titles; Thompson will always be a scout, first and foremost.
Thompson had a 10-year playing career in the NFL when he was a linebacker for the Houston Oilers from 1975 to 1984.
The Texas native got his first front-office job in 1992 when he was hired by Ron Wolf of the Packers as an assistant director of pro personnel. One of his first duties under Wolf was to evaluate a first-year quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons whom Wolf was interested in trading for.
That quarterback was Brett Favre. Thompson gave Wolf a thumb's up after looking at tape of Favre, and a trade was consummated in February 1992. As they say, the rest is history.
Coincidentally, Thompson's first draft pick as general manager of the Packers was quarterback Aaron Rodgers in 2005.
Since he was first hired, Thompson has spent 17 of his 22 front-office years in Green Bay, including the last nine as general manager.
Thompson's contract was supposed to run out after the 2015 season, but the Packers decided to sign the two-time Sporting New Executive of the Year (2008 and 2011) to a multiyear contract extension.
Thompson talked about his new deal, via Packers.com:
I want to be here. From a native standpoint, it's easy to say, 'Well, I'm going to walk off into the sunset' or go milk some cows or whatever it was I was supposed to go do.
But I have people that I'm responsible for here, too—people that I've hired that have taken up this position because of my insistence or encouragement—so there's a certain amount of responsibility that you have for the people you work with.
In 2006, Thompson decided to part ways with head coach Mike Sherman and then hired former Packers quarterbacks coach Mike McCarthy. Since then, the Packers have gone 82-45-1 in the regular season, won four NFC North titles, qualified for the playoffs six times and won a Super Bowl.
That's why McCarthy will also get a new deal soon. Thompson mentioned that at his press conference:
It's been the plan the whole time. The way the organization is set up, obviously, I'm not giving any trade secrets away; it's the way it's always been done here. The general manager kind of gets put away and then you do the head coach.
Thompson's modus operandi in putting together the roster of the Packers is done primarily through the NFL draft. Thompson will occasionally use free agency, but that is usually done via signing "street" free agents, as opposed to signing players in "pure" free agency.
It's obvious that his strategy has worked in Green Bay. Scouting has played a large part in the success of the team. Thompson also talked about scouting with the media:
That's what I am; I'm a scout. I work alongside some good scouts upstairs. That's what I do, that's what I enjoy. As a scout, you're always looking for that diamond, the so-called diamond in the rough that no one else can find. You still are looking to one-up somebody else who's in your business.
Other teams in the NFL have noticed how good the scouting is in Green Bay. Currently, there are three general managers now in the NFL who used to work under Thompson in Green Bay.
That is why I thought it would be apropos to talk with NFL scout Chris Landry about Thompson's recent contract extension. I had a chance to talk with Landry, who also just recently opened a website called LandryFootball.com, on Friday on Steve Duemig's radio show.
Chris was not surprised that the Packers gave Thompson an extension:
"Well, Ted Thompson's done a good job. He's 61. I'm not surprised. He is a lifer. This may or may not be his last contract. It probably is. I could see him backing away and doing some work for the Packers or someone else at some point after this contract. But, health permitting, I think he'll do a good job."
Landry also talked about the great scouting staff that the Packers have put together over the years, which started when Wolf was general manager:
"It's a good staff. The Ron Wolf guys have done a good job. The guy I'm most impressed with [of all] the guys underneath him [Thompson] is Brian Gutekunst, the college director."
Thompson also has Wolf's son Eliot as part of his staff as director of pro personnel and is helped by Alonzo Highsmith, who is the senior personnel executive.
When Thompson does decide to move on from his current position with the Packers, Landry is not convinced the new hire will come from inside the organization. Chris actually thinks the new hire may be someone who knows the Green Bay area very well.
"I don't know that they would necessarily promote from within. I think, depending on the timing, I could see them taking a run at John Schneider. Remember, John Schneider is working hand in hand with Pete Carroll [in Seattle]. But everyone wants challenges.
"Pete has the final say on personnel. John Schneider grew up there [Green Bay], and his high school was like walking distance of Lambeau Field. So I could see returning home may be something he may consider. I see someone like John Dorsey going back if they [Schneider or Dorsey] would have the general manager-Ted Thompson role."
But that will have to wait. At least for the next few years in Green Bay, as Thompson will stay on and continue to do things his way.
A way that has proven to be a winning formula.