16 Days ’Til Camp: The Thompson Way

Every day until the start of camp on July 26, we’ll provide one juicy nugget to whet your appetite for the return of football. We’d give you more but the CBA forbids two-a-days. Sorry. Ted Thompson apparently has no plans of stepping aside, which is good news based on these numbers.

If Ted Thompson wants to lead the Green Bay Packers beyond the 2016 NFL Draft, the job is his.

“It’s a top priority,” Mark Murphy, the team’s president and CEO, said of Thompson’s contract while discussing the team’s fiscal-year 2014 financial report on Thursday. “I think Ted has been instrumental, obviously, in the run we’ve had, so that is a real priority.”

“Instrumental” is one way to put it. Sure, he’s botched some high-profile draft picks, such as Justin Harrell in the first round in 2007 and Brian Brohm in the second round in 2008. But, for the most part, he’s made the right call on practically every key decision of his tenure.

Thompson was hired in January 2005, taking over a declining team with an old quarterback and a coach who had just been booted from the general manager’s position.

What did Thompson do? He made tough decisions to get the salary cap back in order. He drafted Aaron Rodgers. He fired Mike Sherman and hired Mike McCarthy.

By making those defining decisions in the first year of his tenure, Thompson helped build the Packers into a championship team and a perennial contender.

After going 4-12 in 2005 and winning the final four games of 2006 to salvage an 8-8 record, the results have been staggering and resulted in Thompson winning NFL Executive of the Year honors in 2008 and 2011.

From 2007 through 2013, Green Bay has reached the playoffs six times, including a Super Bowl victory in 2010 and NFC North crowns in 2007, 2011, 2012 and 2013. The team’s 19-game winning streak spanning the 2010 and 2011 seasons was the second-longest in the NFL history. Only Green Bay and New England have posted winning records in each of the past five seasons. During that span, New England is No. 1 in the league with 61 victories, with the Packers and Saints tied for second with 55 victories. Those three teams, plus Baltimore and San Francisco, are the only five teams with even 50 wins.

Perhaps most impressively, in a league in which the salary cap levels championship-caliber teams with the efficiency of a bulldozer, Thompson has put together a team that’s built to last. He’s shrewdly managed the salary cap and kept the team in contention, even while letting the likes of Cullen Jenkins, Scott Wells and Greg Jennings leave in free agency. Even with blockbuster contracts for Rodgers and Clay Matthews and several other big-money contracts on the books, he’s left the team $13.5 million under the salary cap. That’s plenty of money to re-sign Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb to extensions.

During the draft, Thompson looked drained, leading to speculation the 61-year-old might be guiding his final draft. A weekend later, at the team’s rookie minicamp, he looked recharged and ready to fulfill a contract that has him in charge of the draft through 2016.

“Ha, I’m just getting started,” Thompson said. “No. I feel pretty good.”

Thompson said he had “no plan” beyond the 2016 draft, and added that, “I wouldn’t anticipate doing anything different.”

Murphy said Thompson “has not” given him any indication that his final days as the Packers’ general manager are approaching.

That might be bad news for fans who crave high-priced free agents. And that might be bad news for reporters who crave good quotes. But it’s good news for one of the NFL’s enduring powerhouses, built by a low-key man who quietly has done things his way.

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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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