Proof of Thompson's work found in the pudding

The general manager didn't have a perfect offseason, but he's succeeded in building a team that should contend for a long time,'s Steve Lawrence says.

As Ted Thompson likes to say, "the proof is in the pudding."

That's the case when looking back at the 2007 offseason. Professional and armchair pundits alike offered the Packers' general manager gobs of unsolicited advice about who to draft and who to sign. Thompson, based on such trivial things as thousands of hours of film study and years of experience, ignored all of us.

So, how did his moves — or lack of them — work out? The proof is indeed in the pudding. And the standings. The Packers are 7-1 and in position to challenge for home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

Thompson fails to land Moss

If it's not Tom Brady, then Randy Moss is the midseason NFL most valuable player. Moss is on pace for 100 catches for 1,642 yards and 21 touchdowns.

If Thompson would have known what he knows now, maybe he would have given up a fourth-round pick for Moss, who averaged 50 catches, 775 yards and eight touchdowns over the previous three pout-filled seasons.

Then again, there's no guarantee Moss would have been as productive in Green Bay. Would he play as hard for unproven Mike McCarthy as he's playing for three-time Super Bowl-winning coach Bill Belichick? Meanwhile, Thompson is building a team for the long haul. Certainly, Moss helps today, but is it worth it to slow the development of youngsters Greg Jennings and James Jones?

Beyond all of that, Brett Favre is on pace for a career-high 4,812 yards, his 66.6 percent accuracy is the best of his career and the Packers are ninth in the NFL with 24.2 points per game. Moss would have given the Packers a better red zone offense, but the passing game is doing just fine without him.

The draft

Packers fans voiced their opinion of the first-round selection of Justin Harrell by booing Thompson.

So far, the fans are right. Harrell has played in only a couple of games, and he's out with a sprained ankle. Harrell didn't exactly wow anybody during training camp, and he basically looks like a really strong guy who needs a lot of work on his technique.

It doesn't help that he plays the Packers' deepest position. First-round picks are supposed to provide a big impact — the sooner, the better — and unless Harrell was a dominant force in training camp, he was destined to be a part-time player, at best.

But, let's not call Justin Harrell the next Jamal Reynolds just yet. Tackle Johnny Jolly didn't do anything as a rookie last season, but he's been one of the Packers' better defensive players this season. Defensive linemen generally take a year ot two to develop, and Harrell barely played during his senior season at Tennessee because of a season-ending biceps injury.

The Packers have fielded a strong second-half defense, allowing only 67 points in eight games. It all starts up front, and having a deep defensive line is critical. Harrell will play a key role in the future, especially with Corey Williams heading toward free agency.

As for the rest of the draft, this way-too-early review isn't promising. Jones has been a third-round steal and Mason Crosby looks like the long-term answer at kicker, but Thompson hasn't gotten much out of his eight other picks.

Brandon Jackson (second round) looks like just a guy at running back. We'll learn something about safety Aaron Rouse (third round) as he replaces Nick Collins for the next couple weeks. Allen Barbre (fourth round) is a long-term offensive line prospect. Korey Hall (sixth round) looks overmatched at fullback. Linebacker Desmond Bishop (sixth round) is OK on special teams. DeShawn Wynn (seventh round) needs to get tough or find a new line of work.

Receiver David Clowney (fifth round) and tight end Clark Harris neither made the roster nor practice squad.

Free agency

Thompson didn't do much here, signing only cornerback Frank Walker.

But, the 2007 free agent class was short on talent and high on signing bonuses.

Fans wanted help at tight end and receiver, but as it turns out, the Packers needed neither. With tight end Donald Lee, Thompson was right that help was already on the roster. Jennings and Jones, of course, have been superb at receiver.

The Packers needed a running back after Houston overpaid for Ahman Green. The best ones available were Michael Turner, Jamal Lewis, Dominic Rhodes and Travis Henry. San Diego wasn't letting Turner out of town, Lewis is old, Rhodes has been suspended and Henry is appealing his.

Proof is in the pudding

Thompson didn't exactly bat 1.000 during the offseason, but the Packers are one of the best teams in the NFL.

Would the Packers have been better off with Moss? Would the Packers had been better served trading up in the first round to get the running back they coveted, Marshawn Lynch?

The answer to both is probably yes. But Moss was coming off three childish, underachieving seasons, and Mike Sherman ran the Packers into the ground by too often trading up to draft stiffs, and therefore wasting two or three draft picks instead of one.

The good news is, the Packers' young roster has plenty of room to grow, and Thompson has the salary cap space to — as I have guessed all along — sign some free agents to fill the remaining holes.

With the Packers' record, cap space and youth, they are the envy of much of the league. That's the proof in the pudding.

Steve Lawrence is a regular contributor to E-mail him at

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