Don’t let Ted Thompson fool you.
The Green Bay Packers’ general manager will try to say, in all sincerity, that he is no better than any other personnel executive in the National Football League.
But the Super Bowl XLV championship trophy the Packers have in their possession stands in all its shiny glory as evidence to the contrary.
When it was suggested the Packers, based on their recent success, are doing a more effective job of evaluating talent than other NFL teams, Thompson said at his annual pre-draft press conference on Thursday: “We don’t necessarily think we do it better than anybody else.”
When he was asked what his secret was, Thompson replied: “I don’t have one.”
Thompson tried to explain that everyone in the NFL works hard, beats the bushes for football talent and hits the road diligently in search of prospects. “Everybody’s trying to get to the same place,” Thompson said.
What he didn’t mention is that some teams, like the Packers, have found more success than others at transforming all that effort into results.
Thompson preferred to laud the players for the Packers’ success. “I think as simple as it might sound, the credit goes to the young men that are on our team,” he said.
But somebody must take charge of assembling that talent, and in the Packers’ case, it’s Thompson.
He has used draft choices to build the foundation of his roster and sprinkled in an assortment of free agents to produce a championship formula.
Former Packers president Bob Harlan, who hired Thompson in 2005, knew what he was getting when he opted to replace Mike Sherman as general manager.
“I watched Ted grow under (former Packers general manager) Ron Wolf,” said Harlan. “He was promoted twice. He was (Wolf’s) right-hand man. He was the first guy that Mike Holmgren wanted to take to Seattle (in 1999) and he went over there and built a Super Bowl team.”
When it came time to hire Thompson, Harlan said he made one final call to Wolf, who built the Packers into a Super Bowl champion in the 1990s.
“I said (to Wolf), ‘If I want someone to come in and do for me what you did, do you have someone to recommend?’” recalled Harlan. “He said, ‘Ted Thompson.’ And now Ted has done exactly what I was looking for. I’m very proud. I think the most important hire a president makes is the general manager, and we needed someone to take this football team and get it back among the elite where it belongs, and Ron and Ted have done that. Since they’re my guys, I’m very, very proud.”
Good luck trying to get Thompson to acknowledge that he was the catalyst in the Packers’ most recent title run. This is about as close as Thompson gets to boasting: “We feel pretty good about the core of our team. We feel like we have a solid roster.”
That is a slight, if not significant understatement. What Thompson has produced is a Super Bowl championship roster loaded with young players that could keep the Packers at an elite level for years.
But Thompson will never admit that. Instead, he reverts to his patented “aw shucks” demeanor and says: “You never get content. You never get satisfied. We’re continuing to try and work on putting an even better team on the field.”
That process will begin anew this week with the draft. Although it has proven to be an inexact science with as many misses as hits, Thompson seems energized by the draft. And when it comes time to make a selection, his philosophy is simple.
“There’s going to be a good player to pick every time it’s our turn to pick,” he said. “Our job is to make sure we find that player, and call his name.”
Thompson has been especially adept at landing impact players in the first round. Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, B.J. Raji, A.J. Hawk and Bryan Bulaga played significant roles in the Packers’ Super Bowl title. Thompson’s only whiff among his six first-round picks was Justin Harrell.
The good news for the Packers is that Thompson is showing no signs of burnout and still loves his job, especially around this time of year.
“I enjoy the whole part of (the draft),” he said. “I do enjoy the preparation very much because of the guys I work with.
“I really enjoy the environment that we work under here.”
Thompson goes out of his way to stress that the Packers’ prosperity is a collaborative effort, both on the field and in the personnel department.
That’s true, but success starts at the top of the football operation, where the Packers with Thompson are as well positioned as any team in the NFL.