Thompson Lets Lynch's Train Leave the Station

Rather than make a move to push his team to the top of the mountain, GM Ted Thompson makes a major gamble by betting the season on the status quo in the backfield. If his gamble backfires, then Thompson doesn't deserve a chance to finish the job he started.

Some of Ted Thompson's critics claim the Green Bay Packers' general manager lacks the guts to make a bold move.

While that may be true, you've got to hand it to Thompson for having guts in another regard. Following the 2007 run to the NFC championship game, he could have done the popular thing and welcomed back his waffling quarterback, Brett Favre. Thompson refused and his job approval plummeted.

Thompson is showing those same guts again. A third-round pick would have been enough to get running back Marshawn Lynch from the Buffalo Bills. Thompson declined and, if this filled-with-promise season fizzles, then his job approval will further plummet and Packers President Mark Murphy will have to seriously consider whether the man who built this championship-caliber team deserves another crack at finishing the job.

I don't write those words for the sake of being provocative or without having carefully thought through them. A general manager's job is to build a winning team while carefully weighing the risk and reward. To build a winning team for today while not mortgaging the future. Third-round picks should be guarded closely but, in this case, the reward outweighed the risk by a wide margin.

Two weeks before the trade deadline, the Bills seriously reduced their asking price for Lynch. Seattle, which might be the worst 2-2 team in the NFL, agreed to ship a 2011 fourth-round pick and a conditional pick in 2012 that could be a fifth-rounder if Lynch produces.

With Lynch dealt to Seattle, the Packers appear set to chase a championship with one leg tied behind their back.

God bless John Kuhn, who has done yeomen's work in picking up some of the slack left by the injured Ryan Grant. God bless Brandon Jackson, who is really good at what he does well — protecting the quarterback and making himself available as a safety-valve receiver — but simply hasn't shown an ounce of game-breaking potential carrying the ball.

Nonetheless, Thompson appears set to bet the season on those two and Aaron Rodgers' ability to move the ball when everyone knows that the offense's fate has been dumped in his lap.

As I've mentioned a couple times, a big-time quarterback can overcome a lack of a running game over the course of a season. The Colts were the AFC's juggernaut last year while finishing 31st in rushing attempts and 32nd in rushing yards. But seriously, why make things more difficult? Just because you can win without the offensive balance provided by a good running game, that doesn't mean that's the way to go.

Lynch topped 1,000 rushing yards in each of his first two seasons, 2007 and 2008. With him in the backfield, defenses will have to honor any play-action passes. He's only 24. While the off-the-field stuff is a major issue, with three previous indiscretions leading to a three-game suspension last year, he's also a superior runner to Jackson and Kuhn. And with Grant coming off a serious injury and set to make $5.25 million in salary and roster bonus next season in the final year of his contract, Lynch's age and production make him a possible long-term solution at a position that Thompson has swung and missed with with three of his beloved draft picks (Jackson, second round, 2007; DeShawn Wynn, seventh round, 2007; James Starks, sixth round, 2010).

Hook Lynch up with former college teammate Rodgers. Introduce him to veteran role models Donald Driver and Charles Woodson — both of whom are nearing the end of their careers and are desperate to win. Thompson has painstakingly built his locker room. He should have put his trust in those veteran leaders.

Instead, Lynch's train has left the station. And a team with one final wide-open championship window — Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher are showing signs of decline and Driver and Woodson can't play forever — will have to overcome the lack of guts from a general manager that seems unwilling to give his team one final push toward the top of the mountain.

If the Packers fall short and Lynch produces for Seattle — and, God forbid, Randy Moss rescues the Vikings — then Murphy will have to consider giving Thompson a push off the mountain.

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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