This stings. I sat here for about 10 minutes before figuring out where to start this article.
Ted Thompson was the general manager of the Green Bay Packers from 2005-17. He first joined the Packers as a scout in 1992 and stayed with them in various roles until 1999, when he took a job offer with the Seattle Seahawks before his time as GM.
In the first draft that Thompson had an influence in deciding who was taken, the Packers took some guy named Aaron Rodgers in the first round. The gumption he had to come in as a new GM and take a quarterback in the first round with Brett Favre seemingly still in the picture as he waffled on retirement set the tone for Thompson’s time in Green Bay. What a move that took some big boy stones and pays off still to this damn day. Not every first-year GM would’ve done that.
And it isn’t as though the Packers took Rodgers or a quarterback in the middling rounds just to flirt with the idea. No, Thompson and the Packers took No. 12 with the 24th pick in Round 1.
I remember being baffled by the decision and yelling at the television, wondering why they took Rodgers when they had Favre. It wasn’t an anti-Rodgers anger, it was that all of us loved Favre so much and many like myself were unwilling to accept that at some point there would be a new quarterback under center.
Boy, was Thompson right.
At times, fans would grow frustrated with Thompson’s “draft and develop” model that essentially eschewed free agency. Time after time, especially in his last few seasons, fans grew more upset by this model. However, he could back up his model of success because many of his picks panned out, and the Packers were perennial winners. Thompson was the GM for 13 seasons, and Green Bay made the playoffs in nine of those, including four trips to the NFC Championship game.
This year’s squad has Thompson’s markings all over it. He was the GM when the Packers drafted Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Jones, Davante Adams, David Bakhtiari, Corey Linsley, Kenny Clark and Kevin King. Sure, there were swings and misses along the way — there isn’t a single front office that hits a home run on every draft pick. But the amount of great players the Packers drafted under his watch include key players on the team to this day. That cannot be stated enough.
Brian Gutekunst has done a tremendous job since taking over for Thompson in 2018. But it would be silly to suggest anything other than that Thompson cemented and paved the groundwork for this current Packers team.
Perhaps the easiest part of his style to appreciate, and most admirable, was his loyalty to the players Green Bay drafted. There always seemed to be a sense of comfort that, for the most part, the organization would develop and reward the guys they had brought in. Players who performed were rewarded with extensions because Thompson didn’t trade often and rarely spent big in free agency.
It was certainly a different approach. And a lot of people don’t like different. Seeing a team run vastly different than their peers made fans antsy at times. But as we know, winning can cure damn near anything in sports, and the Packers did plenty of that with Thompson running the show.
The most comforting thing for Packers fans when Thompson was in charge may have been what his goals and intent always appeared to be. He wasn’t an egomaniac. He didn’t ever seem like he was about whatever the bottom dollar was. He made moves and steered the ship to genuinely make the Packers better at all times. That was it, period. There was a large sense of trust from the fans to the front office, specifically Thompson, because of that. And it all started with his help in drafting Rodgers.
Rest in peace, Ted Thompson.