Like him or not, Thompson deserves a chance

When Todd Korth, the editor of PackerReport.com, the most opinion-filled and interactive Packers Web site around, took last weekend off, I filled the void. Writing more than usual meant many more e-mails to me than usual. What struck me is not the frustration with Packers general manager Ted Thompson, but the downright anger toward him.

I received e-mails from no fewer than a half-dozen people who described themselves as Packers fans dating to the 1950s and '60s. These people were beyond mad. They appeared ready to disown themselves from the team they've loved for four-plus decades.

So, for all of you out there who are feeling the same way, let me try to talk you down from the bridge, so to speak.

One particular e-mail stood out, from a man named Ron.

Ron wrote, with a juicy expletive deleted: "Thompson doesn't know the first ... thing about putting a winning team together."

Let's look at one simple fact. Last year's NFC champions were the Seattle Seahawks. Seattle's offense, including the trade that brought rising star quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, was crafted almost entirely by Thompson.

I'm no Thompson apologist — I'm as confused as most of you are about his plan for rebuilding the Packers — but the man has a track record, and he should be given a chance to implement his plan in Green Bay.

Beyond what Thompson has — or hasn't — done in free agency this year, Ron remains miffed about who Thompson has allowed to leave Green Bay, namely Mike Wahle, Marco Rivera, Mike Flanagan, Ryan Longwell, Tony Fisher and Paris Lenon.

Let's rehash the past for a moment.

Thompson wanted to keep Wahle. Who wouldn't want a young, dominant, athletic guard? But the salary-cap situation he inherited from former coach/GM Mike Sherman left him with an empty wallet. There was no way he could match an offer that, at the time, made Wahle the highest-paid interior lineman in the history of the league. In bonus money alone, he pocketed $11.5 million.

Dallas completely overspent for Marco Rivera — giving him $20 million over five years, including $9 million in bonus money. Not long after signing with Dallas, he needed back surgery. He missed the last couple games of the season with a neck injury. He had both elbows operated on during the off-season. Doesn't sound like a player you can build around, does it?

All of that also can be said of creaky-kneed Flanagan, who the Packers let leave for Houston. Besides, the Packers are high on young Scott Wells, so why invest $9 million over three years — including a $3 million bonus — in a guy who isn't in your long-term plans?

As for Longwell or the fans' hoped-for replacement, Adam Vinatieri or Mike Vanderjagt, is $2 million or $3 million per season a wise investment for a team that's going to struggle to win six games? It seems to me a premium kicker is worth the money only if he's worth his paycheck in wins. Besides, Longwell's act of blaming everyone but himself for a missed kick no doubt was getting old in the locker room and front office. Why not take a chance on a cheap, young but potential-filled kicker? It worked with Longwell quite nicely about a decade ago.

Being upset over the loss of Fisher and Lenon? Please. They were role players, and mediocre ones, at that.

My defense of Thompson doesn't make me a charter member of his fan club. Outside of perhaps Ryan Pickett — a younger, healthier and cheaper version of perpetually grumpy and hobbled Grady Jackson — his off-season additions are nothing to get excited about. Most of them seem like short-term fixes.

Nonetheless, you have to give Thompson more than a year before you decide to tar and feather him and toss him over the Ray Nitschke Bridge. Maybe he likes the potential talent pool available in free agency in 2007, when teams won't be quite so awash in salary-cap space. Maybe he's waiting for the annual June and August roster purges. Who knows? All I know is he had a huge mess on his hands when he got here and he's finally got it cleaned up. Now let's give him a few years to see what he can do.

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


Packer Report Top Stories