Stop Blaming Ted Thompson for Brett Favre and Free Agency

Peter BukowskiSenior Analyst IAugust 8, 2009

GREEN BAY, WI - JULY 28: General Manager Ted Thompson of the Green Bay Packers watches as his team works out during summer training camp on July 28, 2008 at the Hutson Center in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

For those of you who have turned on Ted Thompson for supposedly ruining the Packers by not bringing back Brett Favre, enough is enough.

You Favre apologists are nothing short of naive, nostalgic nincompoops whose short-sightedness and loyalty to Favre has clouded your judgment about the Packers' best interests.  

Let’s go back two springs. Cries for Thompson to make a splash were boisterous. Favre made it clear he wanted Thompson to trade for Randy Moss and reportedly threatened to retire if Green Bay failed to do so.

Moss wound up in New England, and the Packers signed a grand total of one free agent, Frank Walker, who started a whopping zero games.

With one of the youngest teams in the league, the Packers went 13-3 and were a boneheaded throw away from the Super Bowl. Thompson was the Sporting News Executive of the Year, without adding Moss.

What happened next has been hashed and rehashed enough. I don’t want to hear that Thompson ran Favre out of Green Bay. That is absolutely, categorically false.

This was at least the third season in a row Favre had spoken publicly about thoughts of retirement, and each offseason, the process seemed to drag out longer.

Favre had decided to return with the acceptance of both Thompson and Mike McCarthy.  They insisted he take some more time to think about it in order to make the best decision for both him and his family. After doing so, Brett decided it was time to stay in retirement.

It was only after weeks more of hemming and hawing that Brett called Thompson again and said, “I want in.”

Sure, Thompson could have met with Favre personally and figured something out. Perhaps that’s what Ron Wolf would have done, or Bob Harlan. (The bigger question is whether Favre would have even been doing this had his father Irv been alive. My guess? No way.)But Thompson was making a point: “This isn’t about you anymore, Brett. You are not bigger than this team.”

Of course, Favre didn’t take kindly to that, so he pitched a hissy fit and wound up in New York. You could say that it wouldn’t have gotten so messy had Brett just been allowed to come back, but that would be pure speculation. Favre was the one who went on Fox News and spun stories about feeling betrayed, when it was Favre who’d gone back on his word repeatedly.

Thompson has always told it like it is; that’s what he does. He’s a no-nonsense administrator, and that’s how he runs a team.

Favre is the one who understands how to manipulate the media. Watch their press conferences side by side, and you’ll see what I mean.

Favre hasn’t been in a Packers uniform for 18 months, so now we have to move on.

I hear talk about Justin Harrell, losing players to free agency, and not signing any marquee free agents. Enough.

The big knock on Thompson outside of Favre is the way he builds a team: through the draft. He didn’t go after Albert Haynesworth or attempt to get Julius Peppers or Terrell Suggs.The Packers essentially stood pat, except for trading up and drafting Clay Matthews in the first round.

Name the last marquee free agent signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Indianapolis Colts? The Baltimore Ravens? Fourteen of the top 20 passers last season played for teams that drafted them. Three of the four teams in the conference championships last year were lead by QBs drafted by their team.  In fact, eight of the 12 playoff teams had homegrown signal callers.

Hindsight is 20/20, but if the Packers are healthy in 2008, they probably win at least two more games with Aaron Rodgers, maybe more. Rodgers sparkled last year and showed why Thompson made what I now believe to be the right call in telling Favre to move along. Don’t blame Rodgers for the Packers blowing close games. More often than not, it was the defense who failed to get a stop late. 

There’s a reason the Packers have totally reworked the defensive coaching staff and scheme.   

Go ask the Raiders or the Jets how spendy offseasons worked out last year for them. And didn’t a certain former Packers legend play for the Jets? They spent a gazillion dollars on free agents and even with Brett Favre couldn’t make the playoffs in a WIDE OPEN division after Tom Brady went down. Favre's defense with the Jets was light years more consistent than Green Bay’s, and the running game was considerably better, yet they barely broke the .500 mark.

Sure, Brett got injured, but that is the point! He’s just not capable of being that guy anymore. He would have gotten injured in Green Bay too, maybe sooner with injuries robbing the offensive line of any continuity. People forget that.  

How is it possible Thompson comes out looking like the fool here?

The best teams build through the draft.  It would be easy to rebut a claim about the percentage of starters drafted by Ted Thompson by saying that is because Thompson never signed free agents. But that just isn’t true. Thompson paid up for Charles Woodson, and Woodson has been reborn as one of the elite cover corners in the league. Ryan Pickett was brought in and has been an anchor on the defense.

He found Samkon Gado when the running back corps was decimated by injury. He plucked Ryan Grant off the Giants' practice squad, and now he’s a 1,000-yard rusher.

Then, via the draft he’s added A.J. Hawk (who has underperformed, to be fair), Greg Jennings, James Jones, Jason Spitz, Nick Collins, Brandon Jackson, DeShawn Wynn (a STEAL in the seventh round), and promising second-year players like Jermichael Finley, Jeremy Thompson, Josh Sitton, and Breno Giacomini.

Throw in rookies B.J. Raji and Clay Matthews, who both could start, and Thompson has put together one of the most talented teams in the NFC.

Oh, that’s right—he’s also responsible for drafting a quarterback who just had one of the great statistical seasons in franchise history, and his name isn’t Favre.  

Ultimately, this Packers team is young, talented, and poised to be good for a long time. Thompson has put the Packers in a position to do what few teams in pro sports can, and that is win consistently over a number of years.

We see a “win now and next year be damned” attitude around the league, especially with teams thinking they can spend their way into wins. 

The Packers are a 10-win team easily on paper in 2009. The reason is simple: Ted Thompson has loaded this team with talent. Sure, they could have made another run last season with Favre, but if Green Bay had the same injuries last year with Favre, they wouldn't have gone 13-3. In fact, they might not even be 8-8, especially with Brett’s injury.  

Enough making excuses for why Favre didn’t come back. He shouldn’t have come back, and his play late in the season, combined with the injury, proved that. Thompson was the man who made that call, and it was the right one.

Just because he’s the best quarterback in franchise history doesn’t mean he gets carte blanche to come back at his leisure and hold the team hostage. It’s up to Thompson to make the decisions based on the future, and he made the right one, period.

By putting the future of the team over some antiquated notion of entitlement for Favre, Thompson showed why he’s the right man for the best franchise in sports. He always has the best interests of the team in mind and won’t sacrifice that, even for the most famous player ever to put on the Green and Gold.

I just wish the fans would share his desire for the team’s success rather than wishing selfishly to have a washed-up former superstar play a position he’s only had real success at once in the last half-decade.



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