A familiar and much-loved figure to Packers fans made a return to Green Bay recently. Former general manager Ron Wolf came back to Lambeau Field to talk to the team in a brief address, check out practice, and just generally hang out and be a legend.
Wolf was the architect of the 1990's Packers featuring Reggie White, LeRoy Butler and a kid from Kiln, Mississippi via the Atlanta Falcons named Brett Favre who all won a Super Bowl together in the 1996/97 season.
But Ron Wolf brought more than a Super Bowl to Green Bay—that was just the feather in his metaphorical cap.
Starting in 1991, he brought a sense of maturity and responsibility back to Green Bay that had been missing for 26 years. The values and sense of tradition that Wolf and head coach Mike Holmgren instilled into their teams of the early '90s continue to this day. It still takes a certain type of person to be a Packer and I hope the fans realize what a blessing that is.
As far as his recent visit, Wolf spent some one-on-one time with Ted Thompson observing the new generation of Packers players and, hopefully, sharing some of his vast football knowledge with his (eventual) successor.
Which brings us to Ted Thompson, current GM of the Green Bay Packers.
Yeah, what about Ted Thompson anyway?
Well hey, it's the question guy. Didn't think you were showing up for this one.
You're the one writing the article fella.
That is a little strange, isn't it?
You're telling me. Anyway, Ted Thompson?
Born Jan. 17, 1953, in Atlanta, Texas. Current general manager of the Green Bay Packers, a post he has held since Jan. 14, 2005. He took over the position from Mike Sherman, and was responsible for dismissing Sherman from his head coaching duties following the 2006 season.
What was so bad about Mike Sherman, really?
He was the general manager/head coach of an NFL franchise, so there's a problem right there. Is the man going to sleep four hours a night in order to get done all the things he needs to?
In principle it makes sense. Being a head coach, you should have more firsthand knowledge of your team's needs on the field.
In fact what developed was a team filled with disinterested veteran free agents and some remarkably clueless rookies. I won't say his name again. I won't.
Aaaghhh! What is with you today, question guy? Yes, Carroll stands out in particular. Anyway, those were the negative effects that were visible to a Packers fan.
Behind the scenes with Sherman must have been a mess too, with assistant coaches bearing way too much responsibility and having no leader to turn to with their questions. He was too busy for them and his front office staff as well, trying to do too much.
The simple solution to this is so obvious it's a wonder Sherman lasted as long as he did.
Have one coach and one general manager. Make sure they spend a minimum of four hours a day talking to each other about their team and their players. That leaves each man plenty of time to deal with the hundreds of issues, both large and small, that plague both positions daily.
Ted Thompson tried this system for one season with Sherman before deciding that on top of being too busy, Sherman was just a bad coach with a horrible eye for talent. So, goodbye Mike, hello Mike—McCarthy that is.
This was the first truly important decision made by Thompson at the helm of the Packers, and I feel it was the start of a trend.
In my opinion, Thompson has continued in his time with the Packers to outweigh his bad decisions with numerous good ones.
What about Favre?
Goddamit, question guy! I was going to get to that in time, maybe throw a few more less volatile decisions out there first, set the table a bit, but okay, whatever. Here we go.
This wasn't a good decision or a bad decision. This was a decision that had to be made. Thompson made it, knowing full well he would be vilified by many people. That takes stones, and makes him okay in my book.
Hey, on a slightly more positive note, the draft pick the Packers received from the Jets in return for Favre was traded to the Patriots as part of the package to move up and draft linebacker Clay Matthews III in the first round this year. So one could say the player the Packers received in exchange for Favre was Matthews.
As I mentioned in a previous article, Matthews has an impressive football pedigree, with both his father and grandfather playing in the NFL. Here's hoping for a long and productive career from the third generation!
That's it, huh? You spent more time talking about Clay Matthews than Favre.
Well, I wanted to keep it brief. There are better articles on Bleacher Report about Favre than this one, and the subject really is resolved. Clay Matthews III is a Packer, Favre isn't. I still love him and what he brought to the Packers (everything), but bring on the Vikings this year! Hoo-yah!
Question guy? Dead end statements like that last one don't help me out at all. I need real questions from the question guy or I can't keep it moving. I mean, you were late, you're all over the place...I need you to work with me here. Are you with me?
I'm good, I'm good! Let's do this! Can we do this? Are you done with Thompson?!
Not even close.
Any general manager can luck into a good decision every season or so. Offensive tackle Chad Clifton, defensive end Aaron Kampman, cornerback Al Harris, center Scott Wells and DE Cullen Jenkins prove that. They were all brought in by Mike Sherman, so at least Packers fans can thank him for that. But broken clocks are right twice a day as well, so beans.
Ted Thompson has made plenty of moves in his quest to bring a championship back to Green Bay and I don't think he's been relying on luck. Thompson is the man with the plan: Let's take a look at some of its pieces.
Has Ted Thompson managed to bring in any free agents?
Let me preface this by saying that veteran free agents are absolutely not a priority to Ted Thompson, and he is willing to pull the trigger very rarely. As a teenager ,this philosophy would have frustrated me beyond belief. As a maturing fan of this new NFL, I think it's brilliant.
An example of a poor financial free agent signing is Albert Haynesworth. Does anyone think Haynesworth is really going to fix all that is wrong with the Redskins? He's one guy getting paid like three. Nothing against Albert, he's phenomenal and he deserves everything he's getting. It's just a bad move by the Redskins is all.
Remember, Ted Thompson brought CB Charles Woodson to Green Bay. Don't ever forget that.
Ryan Pickett, the Packers starting nose tackle, was also brought in at the start of the 2006 season as a free agent.
Let's say inside LB Brandon Chillar could be another notable Thompson signing if he continues to develop. Thompson stole him away from a Rams team in desperate need of defense.
This year's signings are center/guard Duke Preston and safety Anthony Smith, both with good chances at making the team. As far as five off-seasons of veteran free agents go, that's really it.
This isn't to say Ted Thompson doesn't like free agents. In fact he does; a lot.
Steady contributors such as safety Atari Bigby, TE Donald Lee, CB Tramon Williams and wide receiver Ruvell Martin are all Ted Thompson free agents, with one important difference.
They were all un-drafted players with little to no NFL experience. This is very impressive as un-drafted rookie free agents have little to no chance of making NFL rosters. Two of these guys—Bigby and Williams—have NFL star potential in the secondary. Incredible finds!
How does he find these guys?
At the end of every NFL draft Thompson invites an incredible number of un-drafted rookies to camp, in essence creating his own mini-draft with the preseason as his Combine. This is a major part of Thompson's plan for the Packers, as money is always a concern and these hungry young players come cheap.
The Packers now have something like 25 first- and second-year players that find themselves in the same boat Bigby and the others did a few years ago: un-drafted free agents just looking to distinguish themselves.
The good news for whoever is willing to put in the work is that Thompson is obviously watching closely and always willing to offer a chance to those who deserve it.
What about trades?
Aside from the one I already mentioned and the usual draft-day moving around of picks, there has only been one by Thompson that affects the current Packers roster.
Tailback Ryan Grant was picked up from the New York Football Giants prior to the 2007 season for a draft pick.
Oddly enough, Grant was himself an un-drafted free agent with no real pro experience when he joined the Giants. Thompson will even reach out to other teams for these guys.
Guys like S Charlie Peprah, corner Jarrett Bush, and fullback John Kuhn are all waiver-wire pick-ups by Thompson who've played a somewhat significant role with the Packers over the last few years.
Alright then. What about the draft?
If un-drafted rookie free agents are an important part of Ted Thompson's plan, then the draft is the whole enchilada.
This article is far too long already to do it any justice.
Instead, I'm going to do a series over the next few days looking into the last five Packers drafts, all overseen by Thompson.
Come on question guy, I'll buy you a brat and a beer.
Sweet! Hey, wait up!