I was seven months old when the Packers beat the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl to win their twelfth world title and their first in thirty years. For many Packer fans including my parents, they went their entire lives watching decades of disappointment and failure from one of the most storied franchises in the history of American football. Thanks to moves made by General Manager Ron Wolf and play by Brett Favre, Green Bay became a winning franchise again and a place where only opposing players didn’t want to play.
For the 21 years I’ve been alive the Packers have only missed the playoffs 6 times, have won 11 division titles, 3 conference titles and 2 Super Bowls. Throughout my lifetime, the Packers have almost always been a winning team and they have for sure not had a tradition of losing like in the 1970’s and 1980’s. This is a big credit to Ted Thompson who was General Manager for 12 of those years I’ve been alive.
Throughout his tenure, Thompson wasn’t known to take a lot of financial risks especially in the free-agent market, choosing to build his teams through the draft and young undrafted free-agents.
Thompson also made some incredible risks to ensure the success of the team with none bigger than the 2008 offseason. I remember being in 6th grade, we were learning simple algebra when a teacher stormed into the classroom to yell to our teacher to turn on the tv like the president was just assassinated. Class was stopped, the tv turned on and on it was a teary-eyed Brett Favre, the man who started behind center for every Packer game I’ve ever watched, announcing his retirement. A major world catastrophic event might as well have happened as everyone in that classroom including myself was crying just like the man on tv and we didn’t do anything else for the rest of that day. Brett Favre was a legend in Green Bay and the state of Wisconsin who could’ve been mistaken for God because he was one of the greatest quarterbacks to have ever play the game of football and he took Green Bay from the dark ages to a championship. There was not a single football player in history like him and there never will be. It turned out Favre didn’t retire and instead was traded to the New York Jets and Thompson decided to go with the first draft pick he ever made as GM, Aaron Rodgers. Three years later, the Packers won their fourth Super Bowl composed of a team that only had four players that played for another team sometime in their career. An overwhelming majority of that team was drafted or signed as an undrafted free-agent by Thompson.
There has not been a lot of cases in the history of the NFL where a team lets one of the greatest quarterbacks to have ever play walk only to transition to another quarterback of the same stature. Joe Montana to Steve Young with the 49ers are the only other case I have in mind. Thompson deserves a lot of credit to move on and believe in one of his guys when no one else really did and if anything, that is the biggest legacy he leaves behind along with winning Super Bowl 45.
Even though Thompsons tenure was one with a lot of winning, many believe his legacy is one of what the Packers could’ve and should’ve won. Many consider Aaron Rodgers the most talented quarterback to have ever play and the belief is he should win with anyone around him. He may be so good that Thompson believed that which may explain the lack of talent on defense which has been a huge reason for Packers failures since winning the Super Bowl. The year they won the Super Bowl, the Packers had the second-best defense in the NFL and they had a player that won defensive player of the year the year before (Woodson) and a player that should’ve won it that year (Matthews). Since then, the defenses have been near the league’s worst, there really hasn’t been a star player that has stood out and the Packers haven’t been able to go back to Super Bowl even though they made it to the NFC Championship game twice. They were a one-man team and once that man got injured this past season, Thompson’s managership got exposed. In those six years he drafted decent, signed a couple solid free agents like Julius Peppers and Jared Cook, but he let a lot of players walk and let his defense that was a huge part in winning that Super Bowl dwindle into the joke of the league. All of this because he thought he could do it with just the greatness of Aaron Rodgers.
To me Thompson leaves behind years of winning stability. He didn’t create a dynasty but he made sure the luxury ship Ron Wolf built didn’t sink from the Mike Sherman iceberg, kept it afloat and won a championship along the voyage. He’s not leaving a sinking ship, only giving the steering wheel to another captain in hopes that change in the administration can make the team better and that’s what many Packer fans were pleading for.
To me Thompson’s reign as GM will have a soft-spot in my heart. He brought a championship to Green Bay which will always cement one’s legacy in that city. He built teams for the future and he did it almost always correctly which is something a lot of GMs in the NFL can’t say they’ve done. It isn’t easy to win championships in the NFL but a team he built did but he’ll always carry around the stigma of what his teams could’ve done. With Aaron Rodgers as a QB, the Packers could’ve won three championships already but they didn’t due to proper planning to unlucky circumstances and lack of defense. As a sports fan who isn’t from Los Angeles or New York I’ve learned to not be greedy and not ask for too much. In the 1970’s and 1980’s the Packers only made the playoffs twice and much like the Cubs or the Red Sox, they were known as a team with a fantastic loving fanbase but could never win. Since then Thompson brought us one of our four Super Bowls but his tenure was constantly plagued by fans demanding more. It’s not easy to give anything, much less more in the NFL but Thompson did that and he did it for the city of Green Bay, Wisconsinites and die-hard Packers fans everywhere.