But, the way he started the article was what stood out to me:
Ted Thompson never has been one to ride the emotional roller coaster of an NFL season. He didn’t do so during the 4-12 debacle of his first year as the Green Bay Packers’ general manger or in the 13-3 season of 2007.I'll be honest. What I'm about to say isn't going to make everyone smile, and it isn't going to sit well with some folks who have staunchly supported Ted Thompson since the early days.
Typically, he reserves judgment until after the season.
That’s why when Thompson made a statement like he did on Friday, just four games into the season, it was evident that his team’s 2-2 start isn’t sitting too well with him.
But the answer to Demovsky's riddle is simple: there's no one else to blame anymore. This is Ted Thompson's team, and Ted Thompson's team alone, and just as Mike McCarthy is running out of excuses, so is Thompson.
Ted Thompson has received a level of passionate defense over the years that rivals the levels of a certain ex-quarterback. Folks have risen to champion Thompson's accomplishments, long before he actually had any of note. And, like that certain ex-quarterback, there was always somebody else to take the fall.
2005: As Demovsky mentions, Thompson worst year was his first, but any vitriol was directed at the GM that Thompson took over for, Mike Sherman. Certainly, Sherman was in over his head in a dual role, and his 2004 "BJ Sander draft" had the Packer fan base frustrated and no longer believing in his ability to do both positions.
But, as the season rolled on, the Packers saw the loss of veteran players left and right, including Mike Wahle, Marco Rivera, and Darren Sharper, with few quality players brought in to replace them. While some Packer fans expressed concern that Thompson was initiating a rebuilding year, those defending Thompson celebrated Thompson's willingness to "shake things up" and, in particular, to start setting a new standard of accountability. Mike Sherman had often been accused of being overly loyal to certain players and assistant coaches, and Thompson started whittling them off one by one.
As the Packers limped to a 4-12 record, Mike Sherman took the heat, both for his coaching and previous actions as a GM. At the end of the season, he was axed by Ted Thompson, who was viewed as the victim by his defenders for walking into the mess created by Sherman. However, when asked if he was rebuilding the team, Thompson replied at the time, "No, we are here to win today." But as Brett Favre lined up behind Wil Whittaker and Adrien Klemm, handed off to Samkon Gado, and threw to Antonio Chatman and Taco Wallace, you have questioned whether 2005 was little more than a cap-clearing year, allowing Thompson space to begin setting up his future plans.
2006: As the Packers started out 4-8, some of the negativity began to circulate again, but little of it was directed towards Ted Thompson, who again was still in "Wait and See" mode, still struggling against the alleged horrific mismanagement of the Sherman regime. Any criticism of Thompson almost automatically defaulted to the extremely short measuring stick of Mike Sherman in comparison. In fact, it almost seemed as if Thompson was being lauded for simply firing Mike Sherman.
The focus of criticism in 2006 didn't fall onto Thompson or his rookie head coach, Mike McCarthy, but continued backward to Sherman and onto the quarterback, Brett Favre. A perceived strong draft that year, garnering promising players like AJ Hawk, Greg Jennings, Abdul Hodge and a trio of offensive lineman kept Thompson's shield up. Meanwhile, Favre's 29 interceptions from 2005 and his 18/18 TD/INT ratio (along with a 56% completion percentage) in 2006 kept him in the crosshairs.
The Packers finished 4-0 in their final four games, which brought hope to the team, and a measure of proof positive that MM and TT were moving things in the right direction.
2007: In the miracle season, everything seemed to come together. As Demovsky notices, Thompson did not make any early-season statement criticizing his team...and why would you when you are winning? Oh, certainly, there was trouble with the running game early on, but the Packers rode on the heavy passing of Brett Favre until defenses pulled back and Ryan Grant had larger holes to run through.
In this season, a 13-3 surprise that had fans excited for a Super Bowl, Ted Thompson was awarded the NFL's GM of the Year award based on his two-year turnaround from those horrific Sherman years. But, as the season ended at home with a late-game interception, the blame for not making the Super Bowl landed on one set of shoulder pads, and they weren't Ted Thompson's.
2008: In the offseason of 2008, Thompson was indeed presented with a set of circumstances that no GM in history has ever had to face: the idea of moving on without a Hall of Fame quarterback who wanted to return following a retirement. Thompson made a smart move in going with Aaron Rodgers at that late date, but exposed himself to a lot of criticism by not resolving the problem quickly. The airing out of dirty laundry by both sides hurt not only Favre's reputation, but put a crack in Thompson teflon exterior.
When Thompson finally traded Favre away, there was again a kind of reverse-support offered up for the brave man who stood up to Brett and didn't blink. Despite the criticisms in how the situation was handled, Thompson was again praised by those who faithfully defended him, going so far to say that anyone who didn't agree with Thompson was "not a Packer fan". After all, he is the GM, and if you are "against" him, you are against the Packers.
Funny how that never came up when Mike Sherman was the GM, eh?
As the Packers struggled to a disappointing 6-10 record, with a 2-7 finish, criticism abounded for many associated with the team. Many pointed to Favre's late-season wilting with the Jets and congratulated Thompson for being right, but the Packers couldn't gloat too much with their own sluggish finish. Even more troublesome, the problems for the Packers seemed to focus on the defense and special teams, areas that Thompson had focused his drafts and few free agent signings on. Mike McCarthy started the season by saying that this team was built on the defense, and by season's end, that could no longer be blamed on former GM's, coaches, or quarterbacks.
So, who took the fall last year? Why, Bob Sander, the defensive coordinator did, in what was a near-comical series of firings that started with the special teams coach and ended with almost the entire defensive staff being canned (along with the strength and conditioning coach).
Sander, a holdover from the Sherman regime, was ousted, and it could now be safely stated that this team was now completely purged of all those Shermanesque influences.
And all those excuses.
So when it comes to 2009, we see an offensive line built entirely by Thompson continuing to struggle with a lack of ability, fundamentals, depth, and discipline. We see a quarterback that is changing his pocket habits due to the lack of protection, and a running back unable to create anything himself. But, we also see a defense under the control of Dom Capers, still unable to create a pass rush and giving up crucial yards and third downs every game.
And there is no one else to blame. Thus, Mr. Demovsky, the reason that Ted Thompson has, for the first time in history, come forward in his fifth year as general manager, is to address the criticism that is finally directed his way.
Now, mind you, I do not paint Ted Thompson as some sort of twisted, evil tyrant who willingly threw people under the bus to protect his own interests or his job. Quite honestly, I don't think he has that in him. But, it is also human nature during times of stress and finger-pointing to not throw yourself in the line of fire, either. Thompson could have stepped forward to defend Sherman, Favre, Sander, or anyone else who was getting the brunt of the criticism, but was content to quietly stay in the shadows until the end of the season.
Hey...Aaron Rodgers does it. He steps forward and takes accountability even when it isn't his fault. Give him credit for that.
But, in a nutshell, I think people are finally realizing that Ted Thompson isn't the genius that many had him out to be all along. I commented on this many times back in 2006, that building a team purely through the draft, especially by sacrificing quality for quantity in draft picks, was going to do little more than create a mediocre team. It's like building a jigsaw puzzle only using the blue pieces.
The "genius" label, in my opinion, still came from the perception that not only did he fire the reviled Mike Sherman, but he ran his boat in a completely 180 degree direction from the way his predecessor did. Sherman was reviled for his free agent moves and moving up in the draft. Thompson eschewed free agency and traded back. And since Mike Sherman was a Bad General Manager, Thompson must be a Good General Manager.
Now, just because Thompson isn't a "genius", in my opinion, doesn't mean that there has to be a similar 180-degree "stupid" label placed on him. I don't think he's a genius, but what I would call him is very conservative. He is deliberate. He has his plan and he sticks to it like glue. He would rather develop from inside the organization than take risks on proven (but expensive) talent from the outside. He works from what he knows best, which is scouting and evaluating college talent from the draft.
That approach guarantees you nothing, especially when you look at the Minnesota Vikings, who other than their premier running back, have invested money into free agents at nearly every other positional group on the team to build what they now have in a 5-0 team. Not that free-wheeling spending gets you anywhere, as the Vikings haven't won anything of consequence lately other than FavreBowl last week. But, it certainly sends the message that free agency doesn't guarantee you the basement either, as many began believing a few seasons ago.
The other tidbit we need to revisit is the fact that Thompson was often credited for building the Seattle team that went to the Super Bowl in 2005, a reason to believe in his mantra. However, since that Super Bowl, the Seahawks have gone 9-7, 10-6, 4-12, and now stand at 1-3 this season, with perhaps the worst offensive line in the league. If you were building a team through the draft that was intended to challenge every year, wouldn't you think they should have avoided the bottom dropping out from under them?
Is this what is in store for the Packers? After all, it was a great story when we were talking about what a great job Thompson was doing.
In conclusion, Ted Thompson is indeed exposed right now. Scheme changes are just a cover for the talent that lines up within it, and right now, our offensive line and defense is having some deep issues that haven't resolved since last season.
Is the problem the scheme? Doubtful. The scheme is just the recipe you use in the kitchen to make your meal. The coaching is the chef and the talent are your ingredients. But even if it is the scheme, Thompson is the guy who was standing guard over both scheme changes (zone blocking and the 3-4).
If the problem is the coaching, Thompson is the guy who hired Mike McCarthy and, according to both, they talk every day and back each other up. If Thompson hired the wrong guy, or cannot get his guy to take more accountability for the fundamentals and execution on the field, that mistake is on Thompson, too.
And if the problem lies with a lack of talent...well, there's nowhere else to look anymore, is there?
It's nice to see Thompson coming forward and talking. Now, it is time for some action.