Even fairweather Packers' fans know who Ted Thompson is these days. Before the start of the 2008 season, a self-proclaimed Packer Backer could be excused for not knowing who the General Manager of the Green Bay Packers was.
Keeping track of who works in the Packers' front office is normally reserved for diehards, the kind that subscribe to the Packer Report, and write in fan forums, where Ted Thompson is "affectionately" referred to as simply: TT.
But the start of the Packers 2008 NFL season was not like most seasons. Brett Favre, a sure bet to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, was kicked to the curb, in favor of Aaron Rodgers, Thompson's first-round draft choice in 2005.
While the jury is still out on Rodgers, what is not in dispute is the amount of attention that has been focused on Thompson.
Aaron Rodgers, in his first season as the starting QB for the Green Bay Packers, may be quieting naysayers with his play and leadership, but Thompson has not been able to stem the tide of criticism. What his detractors are at odds with, is Thompson's ability to retain quality starting, and contributing players.
In all fairness to Mr. Thompson, few, if any, NFL GM's can claim to have a surefire formula for ensuring a player's collegiate talent will translate into the NFL. But what they can do is retain those players that already have proved themselves worthy of being a starter in the National Football League.
But Thompson's biggest challenge may lay ahead, and the Favrian conflict, while his most recent controversy, may be looked upon as simple child's play compared to the looming, no-win decisions he has yet to make. Thompson is facing an onslaught of starters, big-play contributors, becoming free agents in the next couple of years.
Among them, on the offensive side of the ball: tackles Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher, wide receivers Greg Jennings, Ruvell Martin and Shaun Bodiford.
Fullback John Kuhn, guards Daryn Colledge and Jason Spitz are all slated to look for new homes, via free agency, unless Thompson locks them down beforehand.
For the much maligned defense: tackles Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly, safety Nick Collins and Atari Bigby, left end Aaron Kampman, linebacker Brandon Chillar, return specialist Will Blackmon and cornerback Jarrett Bush are all able to start looking for new clubs.
While Ted Thompson has hit on a few players, notably: Rodgers, Jennings, Hawk, Collins and Poppinga, he has also let more than a few good ones go. Ryan Longwell and Darren Sharper to just name a couple.
Keeping every player would have such an impact on the salary cap as to make the prospect impossible, so Thompson will have to make more than a few hard choices.
Of course, he will be scrutinized by the fans, many of whom will not settle for anything less than Thompson's head on a stake.
No matter how the Packers end the season, Thompson's biggest challenge will be rebuilding the team with quality veterans, as well as, bringing in young players with talent and low cap numbers.
However, one thing is for sure; no matter what Ted Thompson does, his every decision will be scrutinized, blogged, and he will once again be the whipping boy for all that ails the Green Bay Packers.
I for one have not made up my mind on how I feel about TT, but if he makes another bone-headed call like he made with Derrick Frost, I too will be lining up to drag him across a bed of sanctimonious thorns.
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