Spending most of a season writing about the Packers has led me to one major conclusion: I really, really miss Ron Wolf.
I wouldn’t go as far as blaming all the trials and tribulations of the past 12 months on Ted Thompson, but he certainly carries his fair share and has made me long for the days when we really didn’t even notice our GM. You know, like a good referee—they’re doing their job right if you don’t even know they’re there.
Maybe it was the seamless way Wolf did his job. Maybe it was the way Wolf picked up free agents, which Thompson seems loathe doing. Maybe it’s that I just spent all of baseball season marveling at how lucky the Brewers are to have GM Doug Melvin. Maybe I’m just searching for an answer not named Brett Favre. Maybe I’ve just got it out for Thompson.
Whatever the reason, I long for the days when I had confidence in the management of my team. I remember a time when I didn’t second guess decisions, didn’t wonder how far we could fall or what they were thinking.
From the mishandling of the Brett Favre/Aaron Rodgers debacle to the odd choices during the drafts, I’ve lost faith in Ted Thompson.
It started with the drafting of Justin Harrell at DT in the 2007 draft. DT was one of the few positions at which the Packers had serious, strong depth. At the time, the Packers were sorely in need of help at a number of other positions—offensive line, running back, wide receiver and tight end—to name a few.
There were a number of guys on the board that would have filled one of these voids—most notably TE Greg Olsen and WR Robert Meachem. There were possible trades from which we could have still drafted to one of these needs as well as receive additional picks. Yet, we chose Harrell, who was arguably not even the best DT left on the board.
Harrell has a long and storied injury history dating back to high school and continued those ways with a torn bicep pretty much as soon as he entered the pros. He spent all of the 2008 preseason and the first nine weeks of the season on the injured list.
For a time, it seemed that Thompson was looking to make the defense the backbone of the post-Brett Favre era. But he failed to build a unit that could carry the team.
Thompson is known as a guy who wants to draft his talent, not sign it in free agency. And while I can understand that philosophy to a point, I think Thompson takes it too far.
He reminds me of former Brewers manager Ned Yost in his apparent stubbornness and refusal to change course. His ego and pride seem to be of the utmost importance and he seems to care more about what his legacy will be than the team he fields at times.
Having a guiding philosophy is one thing. Refusing to stray from it is another. It feels as though Thompson has issued tenets and refuses to break from there, no matter the situation. Losing out on guys like Randy Moss, Donte Stallworth, Michael Turner, and Tony Gonzalez, just to name a few, purely because they were free agents, just doesn’t make any sense.
Is Thompson trying to be the anti-Wolf? Is he so concerned about his appearance that he’s going out of his way to be as far from Wolf as possible?
The Packers are operating at close to $20 million under the salary cap this season. Despite all that cap room, Thompson is fielding the league’s youngest team for the third straight season.
Most teams seem to covet experience on their depth chart, keeping veterans on the roster to cover the two and three positions, but not the Packers. With the exception of LB Brandon Chillar (five years) and DT Collin Cole (four years), there isn’t anyone listed at second or third string on the Packers' defensive depth chart who’s further along than their third NFL season.
The choice to have nothing but inexperienced backups has come back to bite the Packers as starter after starter has gone down injured.
Thompson stood behind Aaron Rodgers and his decision that Rodgers was the Packers' starter despite all the Favre drama, negative press, and upset fans. The Favre drama will forever be Thompson’s legacy.
You’d think he would be doing all he can to come out smelling like roses, but that hasn’t been the case. Why? Why hasn’t he done everything he should have in order to help Rodger be successful?
Sure, Rodgers has had all the vocal support of Thompson and Coach Mike McCarthy can provide in the media, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that Thompson has not provided the tools Rodgers will need to thrive
If Thompson’s reputation wasn’t as on the line as Rodgers’ is, it would be tempting to start conspiracy theories and call foul about the whole thing. It simply doesn’t make any sense that Thompson wouldn’t have fielded the best possible team when he knew the spotlight of the entire league would be on how his rookie quarterback performed and how he compared to Brett in New York.
Since it’s unlikely that Thompson’s sabotaging his own career, much less that of his young and highly scrutinized QB, we’re left to ponder why Thompson doesn’t seem to have put this team and Rodgers in the best position to succeed.
We won’t know for awhile yet whether the blind faith in Aaron Rodgers was warranted, but I think his contract extension was premature. Rodgers, too, has a history of injury and you’d have thought that after the Ryan Grant contract fiasco that Thompson would have learned his lesson about overpaying young players.
The problem with solely drafting talent is that it’s the biggest crap-shoot in the game. Young, untested players are entering a market which is consistently over-paying them with little-to-no basis for the huge paycheck.
Had Thompson shown the ability to find gems of talent in lower rounds, I might be more apt to understand his adamant nature towards the draft, but that hasn’t been the case.
Instead, we have players like Ryan Grant who shone bright for a few games late in the season and we’re now stuck with a large, long contract for a back who’s performed far lower than expected.