Thinking long-term's Doug Ritchay presents the pros and cons of building for the future and trying to win now, and explains which direction general manager Ted Thompson is taking with the Packers.

In today's NFL most teams are as jittery as Jell-O during an earthquake when it comes to winning. With quick turnarounds posted by the likes of Carolina and San Diego in recent seasons, there's no time to waste — winning now is the goal.

But the way Green Bay Packers GM Ted Thompson is working, it's obvious he's not Jell-O. In an off-season which has seen Thompson do next to nothing to add life to a rather despondent offense, Thompson has been the target of many fans and media.

Thompson has had to determine if piecing together a team for a short Super Bowl run during Brett Favre's final years was the smart move or if building a team, which can be competitive for years — like Ron Wolf built in the 1990s — is the road to follow.

A Wolf student, Thompson has decided to think of the future and beyond, which has not pumped up the Green and Gold faithful. Drafting Justin Harrell and not trading for wide receiver Randy Moss are two examples of Thompson thinking past 2007.

There are pros and cons to each approach and here's a look at why each road to glory is good and bad for the Packers:

Building for the future: Pro— The Packers were the NFC's dominant team for the final five years of the 1990s, which included two Super Bowl appearances. Although Wolf added the likes of Reggie White and Sean Jones through free agency, the draft was Wolf's foundation.

In the '90s, he drafted the likes of Edgar Bennett, Dorsey Levens, William Henderson, Antonio Freeman, Robert Brooks, Mark Chmura and Mark Brunell, among others. Although Brunell didn't start for the Packers, he was used in a trade which got the Packers Henderson and Travis Jervey via the draft.

If you can be successful like Wolf was in the draft, a team can have a long run, which the Packers did. Not only is this most teams' guide to winning, it's the cheapest, because any time a team signs a marquee free agent from another team, it spends too much money.

Building for the future: Con – What if you're Mike Sherman and you trade up for a punter in the third round, which fails? What if you draft Ahmad Carroll in the first round and Joey Thomas to become starting cornerbacks and both fail? As Sherman found out, missing out in the first three rounds can ultimately cost you your job.

Building through the draft is a wise move, if you're good at it, but even Wolf missed, which means free-agent pickups can erase mistakes. Wolf always sprinkled in free-agent acquisitions. Sherman missed in the draft too often and the team suffered.

The draft is a tool for building a team, but to not exhaust every possibility means you can't miss.

Building to win now: Pro – Winning. Simple. Nothing is wrong that season when you win. However, as other NFL teams have found out, winning now means you pay a price in the future. The 49ers are a prime example. After being a good team during the 1990s, they fell on hard times, were forced to cut players to get below the salary cap, and are only now starting to show life after a slow start to a new decade.

Thompson doesn't want to be a flash in a pan, which means he has no problem sacrificing Favre's final years to build a franchise which will win for years to come.

Some argue, with Favre, you have to try to win now. Thompson says he is, but his moves, or lack of, tell you he's not.

Building to win now: Con – What if you build and it falls apart? Remember the Redskins when they signed the likes of Deion Sanders and Bruce Smith and did nothing? They thought they were acquiring sturdy pieces, but instead added rubber nails.

The problem with trying to win now is you have to dip into free agency and even if there's talent, those players have to mesh with the offensive and defensive schemes and be good locker room guys. For veterans who have played in the NFL, they are set in their ways and it's tough to change them.

So what happens is you overpay for players who don't fit and you suffer.

That may have been Moss in Green Bay, but we'll never know, because Thompson is the farthest thing from a gambler you can find. Yes, he signed cornerback Charles Woodson to a deal of more than $35 million, which turned out good last season. Beyond that, Thompson has made most of his moves through the draft, playing conservatively. Because of that, Thompson clearly is building for the future, which means this team likely will be ready to peak when Aaron Rodgers, not Favre, is under center.

So when the Packers kick off the 2007 season, they will not be in prime position to win. If Thompson's right, they'll be chugging up a hill, but not yet have reached their destination.

Doug Ritchay

Doug Ritchay is a frequent contributor to and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at

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