Thompson: The Timeline

The hiring of Ted Thompson as general manager of the Green Bay Packers was a process that lasted mere days. But the decision was years in the making.

That team president Bob Harlan removed the GM label off Mike Sherman's nameplate was anything but a knee-jerk reaction coming from a disappointing season that saw the Packers lose in the first-round of the NFC playoffs, finish with an awful 4-5 record at Lambeau Field and take a step backward in their pursuit of a Super Bowl championship.

All of those marks against Sherman, in fact, weren't even the impetus for the move announced Friday. Harlan was never thrilled with Sherman being both coach and general manager — a statement he's made numerous times over the years — but the dual role made sense when Ron Wolf retired in 2001, Harlan said.

"The reason I didn't do it at that point is Mike was in his first year as a head coach in the National Football League. He won his last four games, we finished very strongly and we wound up 9-7," Harlan said.

"Brett Favre had made the comment that he felt this was the best team chemistry he had seen in Green Bay, and I thought that was a very strong statement coming from someone who had been on two Super Bowl teams.

"I was reluctant to bring in someone over Mike who he might not get along with, someone who would probably change the scouting department who I felt was very efficient. And even though I'm not fond of the one-man system, I thought at that particular time it was the best. The reason I feel differently today is Mike has established himself as a fine coach in this league. I think Ted Thompson for a number of reasons is the perfect fit."

The winds of change began while the Packers were in the midst of their 1-4 start to this season. The record, however, had nothing to do with the galvanizing of Harlan's thinking, however.

"I'm concerned about the burden that we put on Mike and am concerned about the pressures he has. I had a couple of things come up in the last year that concerned me," Harlan said.

The first came during a talk with another team's general manager, a conversation Harlan relayed Friday: "'I don't care where I went scouting this off-season, no matter how remote the place was, your head coach was there.' I thought maybe some of that time would be better spent with the coaching staff. ...

"The week of the Giants game this year, Mike and I had three meetings. The last of which was early on a Saturday morning. All he talked about was the difficult situation he was having with Mike McKenzie's agent and the difficult situation he was having with the New Orleans Saints trying to make a trade. I thought, with a big game coming up tomorrow, we need to be focused on that. Someone else can do those things (work on trades)."

That conversation all but cemented Harlan's wish for change. He told the Packers Executive Committee of his thinking during a mid-October meeting, then put together a list of about six candidates.

At the top of that list was Thompson, the vice president of football operations under Mike Holmgren in Seattle. Due to NFL rules, Harlan had to wait for Seattle's season to end before he could set his plan in motion. The Seahawks were eliminated from the playoffs Saturday against St. Louis while the Packers were bounced Sunday against Minnesota.

Harlan had to wait a few days, however, as he was called to New York for league meetings on Monday and Tuesday. Upon returning to Lambeau Field headquarters on Wednesday, Harlan faxed a form to Seattle asking for permission to talk to Thompson. Harlan then visited Sherman's office to inform him of his decision.

From there, the dominoes tumbled quickly, in part due to necessity. The winds of change were about to blow through Seattle, too — and did Friday with the firing of team president Bob Whitsitt. Harlan caught wind of what was about to come and thought to himself, "Let's get this moving."

About 45 minutes after his fax spit out of the machine in Seattle, Harlan was given permission to talk to Thompson. Harlan tracked Thompson down on the practice field for the East-West college football all-star game in San Francisco, where he made his pitch.

Thompson flew back to Seattle that night and called Harlan at 7:45 a.m. Thursday. Harlan faxed a copy of the contract — an updated version of Ron Wolf's — to Thompson. The lawyers hashed out the details and an agreement was reached at 5:30 p.m. Thompson slept on the offer and called Harlan on Friday morning to accept the job.


Packer Report Top Stories