I've heard this a couple times today..."What are the TT Haters going to do now???", I guess in response to what appears to be the "anti-TT" draft that the "Haters" have been apparent whining for.
It kind of hits me weird, because I've been pretty happy with this year's draft--I would honestly say it is the best feeling I've had coming out of a draft since the Wolf regime in the 90's. But, it is coming with some sort of childish "in your face" from folks who have been defending Thompson for years, while in the same breath admitting that this doesn't appear to be Thompson running this particular draft.
Now, I am no Thompson Hater, but will easily admit to being a critic. I point out his positive points, have never worn a Hater T-shirt or signed a petition against him, and have never called for him to be fired.
But I do disagree with his approach at times, including how he has approached the draft in the past. And, I've been called a Thompson Hater before, by nothing less than those crazy "Thompson Acolytes" or the "Thompson Worshippers".
That was just for dramatic effect, folks. Of course, that is just that natural polarization that happens in today's political world. If you disagree with me, you must be an "extremist".
Now, getting to the point. I am happy with this draft, because I think Thompson did some things we haven't seen him do before. He took some risks...his first two picks, BJ Raji and Clay Matthews, have some warts, but he was willing to pay a high price for each other them. There's no guarantee they will work out, and TT could have traded back from #9 or not traded up to get Matthews.
But these were not only stud picks, but also "need" picks. After 2007, when he reached for an injured DT, and 2008, when he traded back to take a WR at an already loaded position, this was a welcome change for many. It's not simply drafting for need, it's taking the Best Player Available at a Position of Need. And notice the cheers in the Atrium.
So, now, Thompson Critics/Haters should "shut up" and never complain again, because Thompson finally did "what we wanted" after four years? Does this mean that we had the "right", then, to complain the previous four years? Or does it mean that Thompson simply did this to placate us and we should feel guilty for making him do so?
The next catcall is then that this is all a carefully formulated plan, that Thompson has intended to trade down for quantity for all these years, so that now, suddenly, he can trade up and draft for need.
It's a great thought, but not one that I particularly like or buy into.
Like McCarthy, Thompson is under fire for one of the biggest "penthouse to outhouse" declines in record in franchise history. McCarthy responded by firing nearly his entire defensive and special teams coaching staff. Thompson may be responding by changing his M.O. to something that addresses getting this team back to 2007 expectations.
That collapse last year doesn't close off Thompson to any criticism. Everyone is open to criticism, and if it handled maturely and intelligently, its valid even in the face of success.
And I'm happy to give Thompson his due: great draft. Super draft. No true skill positions drafted and yet I am really excited about it.
Does it mean I can never criticize him again? Please.
Ted has eschewed free agency almost exclusively since making a small splash in 2006. As the Packers go into 2009, they stand to lose Mark Tauscher, and even Chad Clifton's production is in doubt. So much so, that OT was one of the biggest "needs" the Packers had in this draft....a "need" after drafting six players in the last three years.
And what has Thompson done with it? Drafted two more mid-round guys that seem interchangeable with the talent we already have. Not bad talent, but talent that appears to be more versitile than solid at any one position. I like the guys we picked, don't get me wrong. They look to be tremendous value for where they were taken. But I can't exect either of them to step in and take over the production we expected from Tauscher and Clifton this year, much less improve on it.
And all this could have been solved by drafting for need years ago, or dipping into the free agent pool and having the heir apparent ready to go.
Valid criticism? Absolutely. Just because Thompson has had a good draft, doesn't mean that everything he does is as pure as the driven snow. This might be a position that Thompson may want to invest some coin in a second- or third-tier tackle, if one were available, instead of drafting players that won't really full blossom for another couple of seasons.
Look...we are all Packer fans here. Nothing irritates me more than seeing Packers fans beating up on fellow Packer fans. We're on the same team. If we have vitriol to send someone's way, well, this is why God created Viking fans.
In some ways, and perhaps indirectly connected, the "Thompson Debate" has divided Packer fans the way that the "Favre Debate" once did. The funny thing is, I never remember Ron Wolf dividing the fan base the way Mike Sherman and Ted Thompson did/do. It's time to put away these divisive labels of "Haters" and "Lovers" and start allowing for open criticism and praise, the way we used to back in the day.
Good conversation, discussion, and debate can come out of that. Name-calling and polarized stances rarely ever do.