Hiring McCarthy part of Thompson's plan

Say what you want about Ted Thompson, but the man has guts.

The Packers' general manager could have run for governor of Wisconsin had he bowed to popular wisdom and selected Steve Mariucci as the 14th head coach in the history of the Green Bay Packers.

He could have done the next-best thing by selecting popular defensive coordinator Jim Bates.

He could have gone with a proven winner by selecting Wade Phillips.

He could have weakened the Packers' No. 1 nemesis, the Chicago Bears, by selecting Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera.

He could have picked anyone, had he got Brett Favre's A-OK first.

But, no, Thompson said thanks but no thanks to the suggestion that perhaps he should check with Favre first, and went ahead and selected the considerably anonymous Mike McCarthy.

Say what you will about Thompson, but he has no interest in winning a popularity contest. He's going to run his team his way, and if the fans don't like it, well, to borrow a phrase from professional wrestler Ric Flair, they had better learn to love it.

You want a general manager who will spend the salary-cap money on marquee free agents? Well, Thompson's not your guy.

You want a general manager who will consult with the iconic quarterback before making a key move? Well, Thompson's not your guy.

You want a general manager who will do everything in his power to make sure that aforementioned quarterback returns for one more season? Well, again, Thompson's not your guy.

Hiring Mariucci would have all but assured Favre's return for 2006. Hiring Bates would have made Favre's return a solid bet.

Nobody knows what impact hiring McCarthy will have on Favre's decision. That's a topic for another day.

Many of Thompson's decisions have been less than popular in the eyes of Packers Nation. The hiring of McCarthy, according to one newspaper's online poll, received nearly a 60 percent negative response. The reaction to most of Thompson's moves, in fact — whether it was the contract extension for Mike Sherman or the lack of moves in free agency last year — has been overwhelmingly negative.

Thompson's sole focus, however, has been on the future of the franchise. By letting Darren Sharper, Marco Rivera, Mike Wahle go, Thompson created all sorts of salary-cap flexibility. Drafting quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the first round of the draft was done with an obvious nod toward the future.

Ditto for the selection of McCarthy, as team president Bob Harlan said.

"Ted said, ‘I'm looking for something five, 10 years down the road that will give us some stability, and this guy is the best fit," Harlan said.

Thompson and McCarthy say they want Favre back, but if Thompson wanted a coach for the sole purpose of luring Favre back, he would have hired Mariucci or Bates. McCarthy is here to turn Rodgers into a solid starting quarterback. If McCarthy succeeds with Rodgers, the Packers will be able to hit the ground running, regardless of when Favre retires.

Anyone who praises or criticizes the hiring of McCarthy right now is a fool. Nobody knows how this decision will work out.

McCarthy's success, or failure, will depend heavily on the success, or failure, of Thompson's master plan. If Thompson's build-from-the-draft philosophy works, if Thompson can fill holes with modestly prices free agents rather than making a splash by signing one or two high-profile players, if Thompson was a genius by picking Rodgers instead of filling an immediate need, then McCarthy and Thompson will be hailed as returning the Packers to an elite status.

If, however, Thompson's plan fails, then he and McCarthy will sink together.

Lawrence is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com. Send comments to steve_lawrence_packers@yahoo.com

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