On the Brink: Personnel

It's a subject with wildly varying opinions from fans: How much blame should fall on general manager Ted Thompson? Two scouts weigh in on the subject?

How have the Green Bay Packers gone from 5-2 and in first place in the NFC North to fighting to save their season on Thursday at Detroit? Here's is Part 3 of our analysis.

Personnel mistakes

Told of the fans' criticism of general manager Ted Thompson, an AFC scout laughed and said, "Y'all are spoiled up there."

Another AFC scout agreed with the assessment that too many fans believe the salary cap applies to the other 31 teams but not their favorite team. "That's everywhere, man. You can't have Pro Bowlers at every position, and you can't have Pro Bowlers as backups," the first scout said. "Beside, just because you want a player doesn't mean you're going to get him. You might want him to be a backup. He might think he's a starter. So, the conversation kind of ends there."

The Packers haven't complained about a torrent of injuries. But "next man up" has become such a cliche. It sounds good in the locker room, which is the point, but there has to be some measure of reality for the people who don't spend their every waking hour at 1265 Lombardi Ave.

At some point, the second scout said, maybe the quarterback-salary structure around the league will change "because it's not working." As it is, with Aaron Rodgers (and Clay Matthews) taking up so much of the salary cap, the Packers are limited with who they can sign. Whatever cap space they have now will be used for in-season extensions or carried over so they can retain some of their free agents — a lengthy list for the upcoming offseason that includes B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett, Johnny Jolly, James Jones, Evan Dietrich-Smith and Sam Shields.

Still, Thompson deserves some blame for the revolving door at quarterback. After drafting Brian Brohm and Matt Flynn in 2008, Thompson didn't draft another quarterback until adding B.J. Coleman in the seventh round in 2012, then bypassed the position again in 2013 even though there was plenty of doubt with Coleman and Graham Harrell.

"You need to get back to what Ron Wolf did for all of those years," the second scout said. "You take one in the third or fourth round one year, then one in the seventh a year or two later. You could have had Russell Wilson last year or Mike Glennon this year. You could have drafted (Scott) Tolzien a couple years ago and developed him."

Sticking with Coleman and Harrell turned out to be a huge mistake, but look at who was out there in free agency. According to our pre-free agency rankings, Jason Campbell was the top quarterback, followed by Derek Anderson, David Carr, Charlie Batch, Rex Grossman and Brady Quinn. Does anyone from that motley crew change the Packers' predicament? Thompson opted for Vince Young, then cut his losses and brought in Seneca Wallace and added Tolzien to the practice squad.

Thompson, however, could have had Flynn when the Raiders released him on Oct. 7 rather than sticking with Wallace and bringing Flynn in after the Bills released him on Nov. 4. Had the move been made a month earlier, Flynn presumably could have played the past four weeks. Rather than going 0-3-1, maybe Green Bay goes 2-2. If the Packers had gone 2-2, they would have been 7-4 and holding a one-game lead in the NFC North rather than on life support at 5-5-1.

The issues go beyond quarterback. Safety and inside linebacker were two of the deeper positions in the draft. Thompson didn't draft a safety and landed inside linebacker Sam Barrington with his final selection. Thompson didn't land a returner, either, having put too many eggs in Jeremy Ross' basket and not having an appropriate Plan B without Randall Cobb. Of Green Bay's final five picks, only outside linebacker Nate Palmer has done anything.

Thus, their defense has been gouged and their special teams are impotent. "With Aaron Rodgers, even if nothing else goes right, you still go 8-8," a scout said before Sunday's game. "Now, it's like, 'Hey, (Adrian) Peterson's not full strength so at least you have a chance.'"

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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