The Thompson Plan

Cooperation. It's a good thing between siblings. It's a good thing between a coach and a general manager.

New Packers general manager Ted Thompson doesn't foresee any problems working with the former general manager, head coach Mike Sherman, on draft day or winnowing down the final roster to 53 players. It's just a matter of cooperation, Thompson said during his introductory news conference Saturday morning.

"We'll work it out. This won't be a problem," Thompson said. "You can't force a player on a coach. It's not going to work. There are other ways to go about it. There's theoretically a possibility where I'm in love with a player — not that we actually love players, but we like them a lot — and Mike is in love with another player. If we can't come to some sort of agreement, then maybe we look at some alternative. Maybe we do something different."

While Thompson is in charge and wields the final opinion, he also realizes it wouldn't be fair to Sherman to give the coach a player he doesn't like.

"This is not going to be where I'm walking around with a big sledgehammer like I'm ruling the roost," Thompson said. "This is not a democracy but it's also a place where we're going to work together. We're going to do what's best for the Green Bay Packers. This is not going to be an ego thing. Personally, I don't have one."

Thompson says the draft will be his primary way of building the team. That was certainly the case in Seattle, where Thompson worked as the right-hand man to Mike Holmgren. In his five years in Seattle, the Seahawks made 47 draft picks, or 9.4 during each year's seven-round draft.

"The draft is obviously a very crucial part for any National Football League team," Thompson said. "It's obviously where you get your players that you are going to develop and hopefully develop into core players. I think that identifying your core players on your own team is crucially important in terms of going forward, in terms of future contract negotiations and things like that."

Not that Thompson won't dip his toes into free agency. He will be a smart shopper, however, and he'll put a greater weight on keeping his players instead of looking elsewhere.

"In terms of free agency, my philosophy is one that you have to be very careful in that because sometimes the grass is a little bit greener," Thompson said. "You have to be careful about overevaluating other people's players and underevaluating your own sometimes."

Primarily, Thompson will try to build the team through the draft and then plug the holes in free agency.

"They'll all play a part and none are exclusively the way to go," Thompson said. "We'll use every angle. The personnel guys have done an outstanding job in using a lot of different avenues in terms of acquiring their players. You have to get young players sometimes and develop them so that maybe they're not the answer today but they'll be the answer next year. It's not always the high-priced free agents."

One difference between the old and the new general managers will be on how they judge talent. Coaches generally have a win-now mentality and will seek players who can contribute now. General managers have to keep an eye on a player's long-term promise.

"In general, coaches and personnel guys can look at players a little bit differently," Thompson explained. "Personnel guys look at what this guy can become one day and sometimes coaches are more concerned about what we're doing today. I think there has to be a good balance because we want to put the best product on the field now but we need to keep an eye out for the future."

Thompson wouldn't second-guess Sherman's most controversial decision: trading fourth- and fifth-round draft picks to move into the third round to grab punter B.J. Sander last April. Sander was a bust in preseason and never punted in a regular-season game although he took up a valuable roster spot.

"We all have skeletons in our closet. For me to comment on anything is inappropriate," Thompson said.

Thompson appreciates the challenge Sherman faced during his four years handling both duties.

"It's a time thing," Thompson said. "There's 24 hours in a day, and part of those 24 hours you have to sleep a little bit. The job of a head coach in the National Football League is unbelievably trying with all the things he has to do. To add to that the general manager's duties in terms of having to be involved in contract negotiations and things like that, it's just a big job. I'm not going to say people can't do it. I feel like I've developed in this business to the point that I can help a little bit. That's the way I look at this. Just another hand jumping in trying to help."

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