Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Ted Thompson May Not Want Spotlight, But He's Earned It Anyway

Ted Thompson has made one thing abundantly clear as general manager of the Green Bay Packers.

He wants nothing to do with the spotlight.

Some GMs don't mind the face time. They built the team, after all, and they like the idea of other people giving them credit for that.

Thompson isn't like that. Instead of inviting the spotlight, he does everything he can to avoid it. He doesn't give a lot of press conferences. He isn't running up and down the sideline like a crazy person at the end of games.

When the George Halas Trophy -- which was much nicer-looking before the NFL "modernized" the thing -- was handed out in the Packers' locker room Sunday, Thompson wasn't there to grab it, do an interview, or take the attention away from the people who earned it.

He might be largely responsible for many of the players who were in front of the camera Sunday, but he's still content to let them get the credit for what has happened in Green Bay.

Even if much of it should go to him.

"He's the leader of our football operations," head coach Mike McCarthy said Monday. "He's why this team is in the shape that it's in and why the future looks so bright."

Look at this list:

Nick Barnett
Morgan Burnett
Brandon Chillar
Jermichael Finley
Ryan Grant
Brad JonesDerrick Martin
Mike Neal
Brady Poppinga
Anthony Smith
Mark Tauscher

Those are all players who either could have or actually did start games for the Packers in 2010 before going on injured reserve. In the case of Martin and Smith, they were expected to be contributors more on special teams, but they were still contributors, and with how the injury bug hit this team, they were both on track to get significant time at safety.

This team was ravaged by injuries, and they lost key players.

So what did Thompson do?

Instead of panicking and making a big-splash trade -- which would have been completely contradictory to his personality and management style -- Thompson stuck to his guns. He tried to fill from within, and when he rant out of bodies, he started looking toward undrafted players.

Unwanted players.

He found guys like Frank Zombo, Sam Shields, James Starks, Howard Green, Erik Walden, Tim Masthay, and Robert Francois, either late in the 2010 draft, after the 2010 draft (in free agency), off the street during the 2010 season, or off waivers.

They've all become big parts of this team, with Shields becoming the nickel back the team was searching for when they realized Al Harris wouldn't be ready right away. Zombo might not be much of a run-stopper at linebacker, but he can rush the passer. Walden had two sacks during the Week 17 win over the Bears.

Green is a huge cog in the defensive line rotation.

I'm not sure there are the proper superlatives for what Masthay has done. Outside of honking that punt right to DeSean Jackson in the Wild Card Game, I'm not sure he's done anything remotely close to "bad" since about the first week of October. He's been outstanding, including with how his alternating pooch punts and freaking bombs were able to keep the Bears behind the eight-ball in terms of field position.

The mantra going into the week was "Don't kick to Devin Hester."

The Packers kicked to Devin Hester, and they covered the hell out of those kicks. Hester didn't come close to making a big play.

The job Thompson has done here is nothing short of remarkable. From a standpoint of fan perception -- admittedly not a big subject for Thompson -- he's probably earned a few accolades.

Hopefully, given the things many were saying about him after Favreapalooza 2008, he's earned a few apologies, too.

When asked about that decision Monday, McCarthy was as open as you could expect him to be.

"Well, I think that's the big part of our business," he said. "We have a plan. Unfortunately, for the media, we don't have … it’s probably not in the best interest for us to put every decision, every conversation out there in the public, and I understand how passionate our fan base is.

"So at that particular situation, there was a lot that was out in the public. But I think it truly shows the strength of Ted to stick to his guns, stay the course. We stayed with the plan. We made the decision based on what we felt was the best interests of the Green Bay Packers, and we never budged off of it. It wasn't popular, and it wasn't fun at times, but we felt it was the right decision. And I think why we're standing here today talking about it proves it was the right decision."

Like I said on Twitter Sunday, now that the Packers have gotten back to the Super Bowl, and Favre missed out after coming so close twice in three years, does that mean Thompson can finally be considered the winner of that trade?

After all, he was able to show who runs the Green Bay Packers, and he then spent the rest of his time quietly proving why he was the chosen one.

As Super Bowl XLV approaches, hopefully Packer fans don't forget how they got there. It wasn't easy, but Thompson devised his plan, stuck to it, and now the fans are going to reap the benefits.


Anonymous said...

Ted Thompson could have won with Brett Favre and should have. I am happy for the Packer fans but I do not like the lack of understanding and empathy he showed to both Mike Sherman and Brett Favre. Now I hear players on injured reserve may not be included in the super bowl picture. These kinds of things may not be more important than winning but you can win without ignoring those that were loyal to this franchise. If Favre of Sherman were washed up then perhaps I could understand but they were not. For me Favre is the winner he was true to himself and was willing to take criticism from the so called packer fans who once loved him. He was right they never did really care. I listen to Mike Holgrem on Brett Favre's charcter. He says he is a modest player a great inspiration to a team. Good enough for me. I have been divorced and I know the feelings of betrayal he felt as well as realizing that you were just an employee not really a valued employee after 16 years.

Bruce Ciskie said...

Wait a second.

Mike Sherman?

You lost me there, dawg.