Another member of the Green Bay Packers family passed away earlier this week, as former general manager Ted Thompson died Wednesday at his home in Atlanta, Texas, three days after his 68th birthday. This unfortunately, seems to be a trend. In 2020, a number of legends from the Packers passed away, which included Paul Hornung, Herb Adderley and Willie Davis.
It’s sad and surreal that Thompson would pass away the week of the NFC title game, as a number of the players he drafted or signed for the Pack will be playing in that championship contest versus the Tampa Bay Bucs at Lambeau Field.
Aaron Rodgers is the quarterback for the Packers obviously and it was No. 12 who was the first ever draft pick of Thompson in 2005 when he was picked with the 24th selection of Round No. 1. Thompson also drafted wide receiver Davante Adams in 2014 in the 2nd round, running back Aaron Jones in 2017 in the 5th round, left tackle David Bakhtiari in the 4th round in 2013, center Corey Linsley in the 5th round in 2014 and signed tight end Robert Tonyan as a free agent in 2017.
All but Bakhtiari, who is out with an ACL injury, will be starting on Sunday on offense for the Packers. On defense, only two picks made by Thompson will be starting on Sunday for the right to get to Super Bowl LV. They are defensive lineman Kenny Clark, who was drafted in the 1st round in 2016 and cornerback Kevin King, who was drafted in the 2nd round in 2017.
So, as you can see, even though Thompson has not been the general manager of the Packers since January of 2018 when Brian Gutekunst was hired to replace him, the Packers still have the mark of the man who played his college football at SMU.
After SMU, Thompson played 10 years in the NFL with the Houston Oilers, where he mostly was a special teams demon, although he did start eight games in his career with the Oilers. Thompson was also versatile enough to go 4-for-4 in extra point attempts for Houston in 1980.
In 1992, Ron Wolf, who was the general manager of the Packers back then, hired Thompson to be part of his scouting department. One of Thompson’s first assignments under Wolf was to look at film of a quarterback Wolf was interested in trading for. That quarterback was Brett Favre. When Wolf told Thompson that he was thinking of trading a No. 1 pick to acquire Favre from the Atlanta Falcons, Thompson concurred that he would do that as well.
From 1993 through 1996, Thompson was the the director of pro personnel for the Packers. The pro personnel department is responsible for adding other players who have played in the NFL, either through trade, free agency or by waivers.
During Thompson’s tenure in running the pro personnel department, the Packers added a number of key pieces to the team, either via free agency or trade.
Players like wide receiver Mark Ingram, tight end Keith Jackson and safety Eugene Robinson were acquired by trade. Free agents such as defensive end Reggie White, safety Mike Prior, defensive end Sean Jones, wide receiver Don Beebe, defensive tackle Santana Dotson and wide receiver/kick returner Desmond Howard were signed.
A number of these players contributed to the Packers’ Super Bowl XXXI victory.
After the 1996 season, Thompson moved over to run the department of player personnel for the Packers from 1997-1999. In 2000, Mike Holmgren, the former head coach of the Packers and now the executive vice-president/general manager and head coach of the Seattle Seahawks, hired Thompson to become the vice president of football operations for the Hawks.
Thompson stayed on with the Seahawks thorough 2004, and a number of his draft picks were key pieces of the team that played against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XL.
In 2005, after head coach Mike Sherman was stripped of his job as general manager, the then president of the Packers, Bob Harlan, hired Thompson to become general manager. It would be a job he would hold until the end of the 2017 season.
Thompson fired Sherman after the 2005 season, as the team had a record of 4-12 and Favre had the worst year of his career at the time. In 2006, Thompson hired Mike McCarthy to become the new head coach of the Packers.
The marriage of Thompson and McCarthy turned out to be a very successful one. The modus operandi under the two of them was to draft and to develop the players. Pure free agency was used very infrequently, while “street” free agents were often signed to the team.
In terms of the players who Thompson drafted, besides Rodgers, the man of few words also selected safety Nick Collins (2nd round in 2005), linebacker A.J. Hawk (1st round in 2006), wide receiver Greg Jennings (3rd round in 2006), wide receiver James Jones (3rd round in 2007), kicker Mason Crosby (6th round in 2007), wide receiver Jordy Nelson (2nd round in 2008), defensive lineman B.J. Raji (1st round in 2009), linebacker Clay Matthews III (1st round in 2009), offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga (1st round in 2010) and running back James Starks (6th round in 2010).
In free agency, Thompson signed cornerback Charles Woodson after he was released by the Oakland Raiders in 2006. In 2007, he signed cornerback Tramon Williams as a “street” free agent. He did the same thing with long snapper Brett Goode in 2008 and linebacker Erik Walden in 2010. Thompson also loved signing undrafted rookie free agents, In 2010, Thompson signed cornerback Sam Shields and linebacker Frank Zombo that way.
Thompson also used the waiver wire to upgrade his roster. In 2006, he brought aboard cornerback Jarrett Bush via the waiver route. He did the same thing in 2007 when he brought in fullback John Kuhn and in 2010 when defensive tackle Howard Green put on a Green Bay uniform.
All of those players had key roles in the march towards winning Super Bowl XLV, when the Packers beat the Steelers 31-25.
While Thompson and McCarthy duo was running the Packers from 2006 through 2017, the Packers were 121-71-1 during that tenure. That included nine appearances in the postseason, which including eight straight seasons at one point and also six NFC North divisional titles.
That also included four appearances in the NFC title game and a win in Super Bowl XLV.
That is a great run of success and that is why Thompson was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in 2019.
Thompson was a soft spoken man, but those who worked with him in Green Bay and those who were brought on to the team by him will never forget him and will always appreciate what he did for the organization.
These are just a few of those sentiments.
Mark Murphy– ““We all owe a debt of gratitude to him. His stamp is on our team now.
“I think at the time when he drafted Aaron he said, ‘This is the kind of thing that five years from now people are going to say was a pretty good decision.’ Boy, was he right.
“(Fifteen) years after that, people still say that.”
Brian Gutekunst– “This particular team (the 2020 Packers) would’ve been one that he would have really enjoyed being around. The players that we have, and the spirit that it has, I think really fits him. He would have really enjoyed being around for this. That’s a tough thing to swallow.
“He, in my opinion, is the best talent evaluator – especially when it comes to the draft – that I’ve ever seen or been around. He had a very unique way of seeing what a player was going to become, and the greatness he could become.”
Matt LaFleur– “His impact is still felt today. I think it’s felt all around the league. There’s a lot of heavy hearts here today.”
Bob Harlan– “He was more comfortable when he wasn’t in the public eye. He told me he wasn’t comfortable behind the microphone. I told him don’t worry about it. That’s not why we hired you.
“He said if Rodgers is there, I’m going to take him. It’s not going to be popular. I told him if that’s what he wanted to do, it was his team. I got phone calls and letters. People were very critical. Ted was well aware he was going to catch heat, but he did what he thought was the best thing.”
Aaron Rodgers– “I’m really thankful for Ted. The fact that I was his first draft pick will always link us together.”