Every year, around this time, there is a common refrain among certain Green Bay Packers fans and the narrative is normally about general manager Ted Thompson’s lack of activity in NFL free agency.
Not all Packers fan do this of course, but it seems there are many that are continually disappointed by Thompson’s unwillingness to sign outside free agents. These outraged fans, some of whom have commented on this blog many times, claim that Thompson is holding Green Bay back and that he is “destroying the team” and its chances of winning a Super Bowl.
I have heard it argued that he cannot draft, that he never signs free agents and that it’s his fault that the Packers haven’t captured another Super Bowl since winning it back in 2010.
Those sentiments, in my humble opinion, are wrong — dead wrong.
Thompson isn’t perfect, but there isn’t a single NFL personnel director that is. Being an NFL GM isn’t easy and we all know scouting is far from an exact science. That’s why no one has a perfect draft record, in fact good drafters only hit on players about 50 percent of the time.
Regardless of what some of these Packers fans say about Thompson, there can be little debate about his ability to find players through the NFL’s annual selection meeting. In fact, he’s about as good as it gets.
He has drafted three players that have a good chance to be enshrined in Canton someday in Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson and Clay Matthews and has drafted numerous others of consequence such as Josh Sitton, T.J. Lang, Morgan Burnett, Greg Jennings, B.J. Raji, Mike Daniels and Bryan Bulaga.
Just in the past few years he has brought a number of solid players aboard. In 2012, it was Daniels, Nick Perry and Casey Hayward, in 2013 it was Datone Jones, David Bakhtiari, J.C. Tretter, Micah Hyde and Eddie Lacy. That’s five players that are starters or heavy contributors from one draft and anyone will tell you, that exceeds expectations.
In 2014, it was Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Davante Adams, Richard Rodgers, Corey Linsley, Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Janis. And last year, he added Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins, two players who are going to make significant contributions at cornerback, as well as Ty Montgomery, Jake Ryan and Brett Hundley.
Yes, Thompson hasn’t always gotten involved in the free agent frenzy. But that’s not because he’s cheap, it’s more to do with the fact that if you consistently sign big-money free agents, you are going to consistently get burned.
Look at the Miami Dolphins for instance, how did the signing of Ndamukong Suh or what about Mike Wallace or Jordan Cameron? What about Brent Grimes? All those players signed big contracts with the Dolphins and not a single one made it through their contract. Suh has already agreed to take less money even.
Sure, the New York Giants made a bunch of great moves on paper, but I guarantee in the next year or two, one of those big free agent signings will be a bust. It’s just the law of averages.
However, when Thompson has signed free agents, he has struck gold. in 2006, he signed Charles Woodson and Ryan Pickett. Woodson went onto multiple Pro Bowls and won Defensive Player of the Year in 2009. Pickett was a solid starter and earned a second contract. In 2008, Thompson signed Brandon Chillar, another player that earned a second contract with the team, before injuries derailed his career.
And two years ago, Thompson signed Julius Peppers, a player some thought to be washed up. All Peppers has done is provide a huge impact, made a Pro Bowl and is now on year three of his three-year deal.
And when it comes to Jared Cook, the recently signed tight end, I expect that to be another Thompson signing that turns out to be shrewd. Sure, TT could have thrown much more money at Colby Fleener or Ladarius Green, instead, he got a player that has more production over the course of his career and he got him at a fraction of a price. It was a move with little risk that could have a huge reward.
Thompson has also shown a willingness to continually shell out money to keep his own good players. Of all his draft picks, at least the ones that were good, not a single one has been allowed to leave without a second contract. The only ones that did we Davon House and Casey Hayward and that’s because each player was expendable.
Yet, he rewarded Rodgers, Matthews, Jennings, Nelson, Raji, James Jones, Cobb, Daniels, Bulaga, Lang, Sitton, Finley, Burnett, Sam Shields and others will fairly big contracts because they proved to be impact players.
In short, Thompson’s record speaks for itself. In the last 10 years, the Packers have had one losing season. That came in 2008, Rodgers first year as a starter and even that year, Green Bay was tied for first place through 10 games.
In 2006, the other time in the last 10 seasons Green Bay has missed the playoffs, the Packers finished 8-8 and lost out on the postseason due to a tiebreaker. So the last time the Packers didn’t contend for a playoff spot was 2005, Thompson’s first year, since then, they have been a perennial contender.
Since 2007. the Packers have made the playoffs eight out of nine times. They have won five division championships, played in the NFC title game three times and won the Super Bowl once. The only other team that rivals that kind of consistency is the New England Patriots.
Other than that, there is none, particularly not in the NFC.
Certainly Thompson and everyone within the Packers organization wishes Green Bay had won more titles. But at the end of the day, Players need to make plays.
Was it Thompson’s fault that Burnett slid down instead of trying to score after intercepting Russell Wilson late in the 2014 NFC Title game? Was it his fault Green Bay couldn’t recover an onside kick or stop a ridiculous two-point attempt?
Thompson has repeatedly put together a roster capable of winning it all and even before the 2016 NFL Draft commences, he has done it again. Believe it or not, the Packers are a legitimate contender to win the Super Bowl in 2016 and alongside them, there are few teams that can make that claim, although I’d put Seattle, Carolina, Arizona, Pittsburgh, New England, Cincinnati and possibly Denver in that same grouping.
So while I understand the frustration of some fans, they need a dose of reality. This run by Thompson’s Packers over the last decade is rare and it’s one that won’t continue forever. Therefore, Packers fans should enjoy and revel in the fact that each and every year, their team is one of the few capable of winning it all.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but those that are overly critical of Thompson demonstrate a deep misunderstanding of the how hard it is to build a contender in the NFL and someday, maybe sooner rather than later, they will look back on the Thompson era and see how truly good they had it.