The lessons of Ted Thompson
Lambeau Field will host an Aaron Rodgers-Mike McCarthy reunion on Sunday. But the eerie similarities between 2018 and 2022 bring a different man to mind: the late, great GM Ted Thompson.
Anybody expecting a royal rumble midfield at Lambeau Field Sunday evening will be disappointed. It’s in the best interests of both parties involved to let bygones be bygones. There’s a street in Green Bay named after the head coach. One day, the quarterback will receive the same treatment. Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers care deeply about their legacies and — quite obviously — it benefits no one to step in front of a mic and rant away.
So it’s no shock to see the quarterback attempt to revise history in his local interviews. He has carefully crafted a version of 2018 that doesn’t mirror reality.
Frankly, divorce was long overdue. There’s no massaging how bad this relationship got. To refresh, the state of affairs in 2018 was as follows:
The quarterback displayed no interest in developing young receivers. A mistake or two could get you iced out.
The quarterback freely audibled out of run plays and into pass plays.
The scheme appeared stagnant. No misdirection, motion, deception. The innovation changing offensive football elsewhere was nonexistent here.
Most scathing? The body language of this team’s leader, this MVP captain, was a blend of whiny and indignant and just straight-up miserable.
Sound familiar? Remarkably, history has repeated itself exactly four years later. Right down to the offense the new head man, Matt LaFleur, was hoping to run devolving into a bland mess. And right down to Rodgers finding new ways to convey to the world that nothing is his fault. It is quite comical that just a couple weeks after declaring the Packers should bench underperforming players, he is the one underperforming more than anyone with red-zone picks galore.
But enough about that. The Packer fans here have already endured more misery than they bargained for this season.
Through all of the Rodgers-McCarthy talk this week, I can’t stop thinking of the third pillar from that era of Packer football: Ted Thompson.
OK, so the general manager was not blameless. His resistance to aggressively pursue veterans hurt the team’s chances at winning more Super Bowls. His draft-and-develop philosophy can seem downright archaic today with how active contenders are acquiring top-level talent. In all, an NFL-record 10 trades were executed on trade deadline day.
Yet, the reason the Packers have slumped to the precipice of 3-7 in a watered-down NFC — with the long-term outlook somehow looking even bleaker — is that the front office ignored Thompson’s greatest gift to the franchise. A lesson that every GM across the league should never forget. When everything told the GM to abandon his plan, to forget the quarterback he took out of Cal with the 24th pick in 2005, to roll out the red carpet for Brett Favre because, hey, the ‘ol gunslinger had a sudden change of heart, Thompson… refused.
He operated with coldblooded conviction and courage that set up a generation of winning.