It's Thompson's team

GM Ted Thompson has built a team full of playmakers able to withstand Favre's retirement, but there's still work to be done for the Packers to remain on a Super Bowl track.'s Steve Lawrence explains.

The torch has been passed, from Brett Favre to ... Ted Thompson.

Ted Thompson?

Yes, this is the general manager's team now. No longer will Favre's greatness be there to overshadow any personnel shortcomings. At the same time, this team was built with Favre's retirement in mind. Not that Thompson put this team together in spite of Favre, but he also needed to construct a team able to contend once Favre decided to hang up the cleats.

Mission accomplished.

Look at the team Thompson inherited from Mike Sherman. That 2005 club had Samkon Gado as its leading rusher. Antonio Chatman was the second-leading receiver, and Nos. 3 and 5 on that list were Tony Fisher and William Henderson, two reliable players but a million miles away from being playmakers. Tied for sixth on the list were Robert Ferguson and David Martin.

Not exactly impressive.

Fast forward to last season. Thompson stole Ryan Grant away from the Giants, and because he rushed for 956 yards while not even starting half of the games, Favre attempted his fewest passes since Ahman Green's record-setting 2003 season.

Moreover, the four leading receivers — Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, Donald Lee and James Jones — are playmakers. There are no Chatmans and Fergusons on that list. The difference between the No. 2 receivers from 2007 and 2005 — Jennings and Chatman — is laughable. In fact, the depth Thompson has compiled at receiver is so great that an inviting target like the 6-foot-4 Ruvell Martin caught only 16 passes.

On defense, Thompson has significantly upgraded positions that were manned by the likes of Ahmad Carroll (now Charles Woodson), Mark Roman (Atari Bigby), Paris Lenon (Brady Poppinga) and Na'il Diggs (A.J. Hawk). Defensive end remains a sore spot, but a full-time Cullen Jenkins and a part-time Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila is better than a full-time KGB.

Thompson's big failing has been his inability to improve the interior of the offensive line. Scott Wells might turn into a fine center, and Jason Spitz showed signs of being a capable guard. But there's little reason to assume the trio of Wells, Spitz and Daryn Colledge will form an elite group.

It would be nice going into next season knowing a big-time running game will take the pressure off of Favre's replacement, Aaron Rodgers. Maybe their natural progression will take this group to the next level. Or maybe Thompson, with three of the top 60 draft picks at his disposal, will use one or more to upgrade this group.

Either way, the surest way to keep the Packers among the NFL's elite is to develop a reliable, all-weather running game.

This, in a way, is nitpicking, though. Under Thompson, the Packers went from 4-12 in 2005 to 13-3 in 2007.

The Dolphins still haven't recovered from Dan Marino's retirement. Ditto for the 49ers without Steve Young. The Cowboys had some lean years when Troy Aikman recovered. There should be no such off-a-cliff tumble with Favre's retirement, because Thompson has Rodgers, Grant, a prodigious group of receivers and a strong defense in place.

With Favre's retirement, however, it'll be up to Thompson to keep the Packers on a Super Bowl track.

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

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