Fans' Barbs at Thompson are for Wrong Reason

The Great Quarterback Debate is irrelevant compared to the disastrous offensive line that Ted Thompson has assembled. Thompson has invested heavily with his interior linemen but hasn't drafted a difference-maker, and he's practically ignored the tackle positions while burning eight early picks on receivers.

One of the charms — if you want to call it that — of the Metrodump, err, Metrodome, is that the press box is nothing more than a few rows of tables taking up the last few rows of the lower bowl of the stadium.

So, seated behind me on Monday night was general manager Ted Thompson — in plain view of hundreds of fans. With Minnesota clearly having the upper hand in the second half, giddy Vikings fans were all too happy to mock Thompson for getting rid of Brett Favre. Ticked-off Packers fans — some of whom were wearing green-and-gold Favre jerseys — well, you can imagine their sentiments.

While the fans' scorn was directed at the right man it was for all of the wrong reasons.

If anything was proven in the Great Favre Debate on Monday night, it was that Thompson made the right call in August 2008. Sure, Favre was brilliant in throwing three touchdown passes, but Thompson deserves praise, not ridicule, for saying "enough's enough" to a quarterback who says he loves the game but has little interest in putting in the offseason work. Heck, on the day after Favre got his revenge, Sports Illustrated released a poll of 239 players showing that Favre is the most overrated player in the league.

On the other hand, Aaron Rodgers, other than his penchant for holding onto the ball too long at times, mostly held up his end of the bargain on Monday night. If Rodgers could throw for almost 400 yards amid that pass rush, imagine what he could do if he had actual NFL-caliber blockers in front of him.

And that's where the barbs should have been directed from the disgusted Packers fans on Monday night.

If you've got a franchise quarterback — and Rodgers is indeed a franchise quarterback — then you sure as heck better be able to protect him. Rodgers isn't much help when he's laying on his back. The 20 sacks he's absorbed have killed about 15 drives.

To say Thompson has ignored the offensive line would be inaccurate. The starting left guard, Daryn Colledge, was a second-round pick. The starting center, Jason Spitz, is a third-round pick. The starting right guard, Josh Sitton, is a fourth-round pick. In reserve is another fourth-round pick, T.J. Lang. Go around the league and look at the starting interior lines, and you'll find that the Packers have more invested there than most teams.


Aaron Rodgers flees the pocket as Jared Allen pursues.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Now, whether Thompson drafted bad players or they've just been coached poorly is a matter for debate. What is not for debate are the results: 20 sacks in four games.

Where Thompson has been negligent, obviously, is offensive tackle. To go into a season with Chad Clifton at left tackle, Allen Barbre in place of veteran Mark Tauscher at right tackle and no life preserver should one or both either get injured or fall on their face is the kind of hope-and-pray strategy that gets coaches and general managers fired.

Clifton is an old 33, thanks in part to Warren Sapp's cheap shot in 2002. While he bounced back to miss only two starts over the next six seasons, Clifton was coming off of surgeries to both knees and both ankles. For the only fallback at the line's most important position to be Colledge, who's never proven to be much more than average at guard, is incredibly shortsighted.

Of course, left tackles don't grow on trees, as I illustrated two weeks ago. Many teams don't have one good one, much less two. The Bears wisely signed Orlando Pace to protect Jay Cutler's blind side, but there was no chance Pace would come to Green Bay to be a backup. Nonetheless, even a castoff with experience playing left tackle, like Levi Jones or L.J. Shelton or Kwame Harris, would have made sense — and still make sense — in light to Colledge's struggles in the Packers' two narrow defeats.

Other than fifth-round rookie Jamon Meredith, who failed to make the roster and recently was signed off the practice squad by Buffalo, Thompson has invested zero resources at left tackle. Zero. Compare that to the two receivers taken in each draft from 2005 through 2008. Among those eight are three second-round picks (Terrence Murphy, Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson) and one third-rounder (James Jones).

For what it's worth, Barbre has played much better since allowing two sacks in the first quarter at St. Louis last week. His man on Monday, Ray Edwards, finished with one tackle, one quarterback hit and no sacks. Barbre's backup is Breno Giacomini, who the Packers apparently think so little of that he's been a gameday inactive all four weeks.

Since Day 1, coach Mike McCarthy has said he wants to play physical on offense. Thompson, however, hasn't provided the players to get that done. What's more damning, though, is that for as much as Thompson covets the passing game, as evidenced by the resources invested at receiver and quarterback, he has paid practically no attention to making sure the man pulling the trigger won't be broken in two by midseason.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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