Thompson dropped the ball

He had only a short window to do so, but Packers GM Ted Thompson should have gone after Ron Rivera after the Bears dismissed their defensive coordinator on Monday,'s Steve Lawrence says.

I think it was the English essayist and poet Joseph Addison who said, "He who hesitates is lost." Or perhaps he's the guy who said, "If you snooze, you lose."

Either way, the phrase fits in the case of Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson, who had a short window of opportunity to improve the defense on Monday.

Late Monday morning, the Chicago Bears announced they would not be renewing the contract of defensive coordinator Ron Rivera. By that evening, the San Diego Chargers announced they'd hired Rivera to be linebackers coach of the fledgling staff of new coach Norv Turner.

Clearly, the Packers are happy with their defensive coordinator, Bob Sanders. They stuck with him through thick and thin last season. That's four season-ending weeks of thick preceded by 12 weeks of thin, all of which translated into the league's 12th-ranked defense in terms of yards allowed.

Games aren't won and lost by yards, though. They are won and lost with points, and the Packers finished 24th by allowing 22.9 points per game.

Maybe we're brainwashed into thinking the Packers have perhaps the best cornerback tandem in the conference, a great set of young linebackers, a promising safety and an active defensive line. Maybe those players aren't as good as we think they are, and that No. 24 ranking in points allowed is fairly indicative of the talent.

I don't think that's the case, though, and I think the defense — especially with all the mental breakdowns that plagued the first three months of the season — underperformed.

Which leads us to Rivera, who interviewed to be the Packers' head coach last offseason. Rivera coordinated one of the best defenses in the league the last couple of seasons. Was it his coaching, Bears head coach Lovie Smith's input or was it the players that led to that group being so good?

The guess here is Rivera must have had something to do with it, because otherwise, he wouldn't have interviewed for eight NFL head coaching jobs during the last two offseasons.

Certainly, having guys like Brian Urlacher, Tommie Harris and Mike Brown — the latter two of which suffered season-ending injuries and missed the Bears' run to the Super Bowl — helped Rivera. And certainly, working under defensive-minded Smith helped too, which is probably why Rivera has interviewed for a bunch of head jobs but failed to land any of them.

But his work under Smith is exactly why Thompson should have taken the bold step of firing Sanders and hiring Rivera, or at least making a high-priced offer to land Rivera as an assistant.

History has shown that, with a few exceptions, you can't win the Super Bowl unless you win your division. Smith is head coach of the NFC North's top dogs, and what better way to cut him down a notch than to hire his former defensive coordinator?

Rivera is a winner. Unlike Sanders, Rivera has a track record as a proven coordinator. Rivera knows Smith's scheme, and that scheme is a winner. Goodness knows, he'd have plenty of motivation.

The Packers had a chance to upgrade the defense without using a penny of the salary cap.

I think Mr. Addison also coined the phrase "he dropped the ball." That would apply to Thompson.

Lawrence is a regular contributor to Send comments to

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