Second Year Player Clay Matthews Leads an Overachieving Packer Defense
Following an impressive road victory against the highly touted New York Jets, I have to admit I was mostly impressed with Ted Thompson.
Let me preface my article by describing my long-time position on current Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson.
I think you could call me a "fence sitter."
At times I'm frustrated—like many fans—by his reluctance to pursue any players outside of the draft.
Other times I look at his roster full of draft picks and up-and-coming talent at a reasonable price and am impressed. I also try to remain aware that the "next GM" may pursue a few more splashy free agents at the expense of re-signing existing players or perhaps more misses in the draft.
But in reality, I believe being a fence sitter on the subject puts me in the minority of Packer fans.
Ever since the messy divorce in the summer of 2008, Ted Thompson has been the most polarizing general manager I can remember in my 25 years following the Green Bay Packers. Some fans will adamantly defend his actions regarding Favre and point to his successes in the draft.
There are also a great many fans who will never forgive Thompson for trading away the legend, Favre, amidst an unprecedented "un-retirement" scenario that unfolded during the summer of 2008. Many Packer fans to this day still support Favre and are waiting for Thompson's dismissal.
With that said, I think I can safely say I am now a believer in Ted Thompson's methods.
With an alarming amount of injuries to front-line players, his team has demonstrated adequate depth to compete on a weekly basis (all three losses have come by three points). The 5-3 Packers are poised to enter the bye week with a 6-3 record if they can gut out another victory over the visiting Dallas Cowboys, who are currently 1-6.
The Packers, entering their game against the Jets, were ranked second in the league for number of players on injured reserve, with 10, while leading the league with five starters on injured reserve. (Those figures were presented this week by Tom Silverstein at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel blog.)
This is clearly Ted Thompson's team, with only a handful of players still remaining that were acquired prior to Thompson being named GM on January 14, 2005.
Some would argue, going back to his days in Seattle, that he is a glorified scout that does not make the moves necessary to put a team over the hump. They can cite that a handful of free agents put Seattle over the top the year following Thompson's departure.
However, Seattle has had dwindling success ever since, which could suggest that following Thompson's departure they have had difficulty acquiring quality players.
I understand that it was a controversial decision to trade Brett Favre and that will always be on Thompson's resume. But since Brett Favre's departure, there has not been a substantial (if any) drop-off at production from the quarterback position—putting aside any past achievements and emotional attachments to the former Green Bay QB.
It's difficult not to compare the situation in Minnesota. It's obviously a closely monitored situation. And while 2009 was electric for Favre and the Vikings, ultimately they came up short, and it appears that was their (and Favre's) last, best chance at a Superbowl.
The Vikings have a tall task ahead to recover from their current 2-5 record and have little or no future at the quarterback position following 2010. This in a quarterback-driven league. They also have plenty of veteran free agents on the horizon where several long-time Vikings may move on to other teams simply due to the financials of the situation.
Green Bay, on the other hand, is currently leading the division at 5-3 despite numerous injuries, and they've had enough depth to weather the storm thus far. Outside of a few free agents that you would expect to return in 2011 (since that's Thompson's version of "Free Agency"), it will largely be the same roster next year.
It's a group that will likely have Superbowl hype attached to their name entering the 2011 season—assuming there is a 2011 season, that is. It's a group that entered 2010 leading the league in the number of players on the roster acquired via draft.
I think it's time to move on from the Thompson debate. It seems to me there is enough talent with Aaron Rodgers and company on offense, plus an emerging defense led by second year players Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji.
He may not be perfect, but at this point, I think it's safe to say he's pretty good. It's up to the coaches and players to get the job done on the field.
And Favre, well. Nevermind.