(I’m knocking this out a day early this week as I’ll be heading to Kohler for the PGA Championship Sunday morning.)

As I detailed in this space last week, there are some lofty expectations for the Green Bay Packers coming into the 2010 NFL season.  Even if you remain skeptical, like me, about the Pack’s Super Bowl prospects, you have to acknowledge that they profile to be one of the better teams in the league.  That’s why I find it puzzling that the architect of this project continues to be held in contempt by many Packer fans.

Sure, much of the animosity directed at Packers’ General Manager Ted Thompson stems from the ugliness of quarterback Brett Favre’s departure from Green Bay.  In a perfect world, the ol’ gunslinger would have finished his career here, gone triumphantly into the Hall of Fame, and been forever universally revered in Titletown.  The Packers probably could have handled that episode better but, given ’4′s disposition on the situation, it wasn’t going to end well no matter what course of action they took.  And while Packers president Mark Murphy and head coach Mike McCarthy were no doubt also involved in that decision, Thompson as always was the one who was the lightning rod for dissenting opinion.

But Favre’s exit only partially explains the dissatisfaction with Thompson because he was criticized long before that matter came to light.  Much like Favre, there is very little middle ground when it comes to Thompson.  You’re either a ‘hater’ or an ‘apologist’.  It seems that the discontent with Thompson is often personal and borders on the irrational.  One almost gets the feeling that if the Packers were to win the next 3 NFL championships, some fans would blame Thompson that they didn’t get a fourth.

I’m not suggesting that Thompson hasn’t made mistakes, but what person in his position hasn’t?  Predecessor Mike Sherman was taken to task for signing unproductive free agents (Joe Johnson & Hardy Nickerson come to mind) yet when Thompson takes the opposite tack by building through the draft with judicious use of free agency (Charles Woodson & Ryan Pickett) fans still aren’t happy.  Thompson was rightly hammered for cutting punter Jon Ryan loose but TT mentor Ron Wolf made the same mistake with Josh Bidwell.  Thompson drafted Justin Harrell; Wolf had Jamal (Too Small) Reynolds.  Thompson is currently being condemned for going with inexperienced backup QB Matt Flynn (as if an aging retread QB is going to save GB’s season if Aaron Rodgers gets hurt) but, Doug Pederson notwithstanding, Favre’s backups through the years included the likes of Ty Detmer, Mark Brunell, Matt Hasselback and Aaron Brooks; none of whom had much regular season exposure at the time.  Thompson was late in shoring up the offensive line but appears to have rectified that shortcoming since the middle of last season.

For a point of reference, let’s look back at the the first four years of the Wolf/Mike Holmgren era in Green Bay.  The Packers regular season record from 1992-1995 was 38-26.  Of course, in 1996 the Packers broke through to a 13-3 record and a Super Bowl victory.  By comparison, the cumulative record in the first four years of Thompson/McCarthy was an identical 38-26 and ironically the Packers were one Brett Favre interception away from a Super Bowl berth in 2007.

Many fans (and some NFL owners) seem to think that you can put together a team in the same way they would construct a fantasy roster.  In the real world, it’s not so easy.  General managers have to consider how a particular player fits into their scheme, their salary structure and their locker room.  In football perhaps more than any other sport, just because a particular player performs well in one system doesn’t mean he’ll automatically flourish in another.

By most accounts, Thompson is highly regarded around the National Football League.  If the Packers perform to expections this year, maybe he’ll finally receive his due in Wisconsin as well.  But God help him if they don’t.

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I, for one, will miss seeing Jim Edmonds play for the Milwaukee Brewers the rest of the season.  Edmonds, who was traded this week to the Cincinnati Reds for outfielder Chris Dickerson, was probably the Brewers’ best defensive outfielder.  Even at 40 years old with a painful achilles injury, Edmonds could still cover a lot of ground in centerfield.

The move makes sense as the Brewers were in a bind in the outfield.  With Carlos Gomez on the DL and corner OFs Corey Hart and Ryan Braun battling other ailments, Milwaukee simply couldn’t rely on Edmonds to play everyday even though he would have welcomed that opportunity.  I also suspect that the trade was as much or more about giving Edmonds the chance to conclude his career with a playoff contender than it was about acquiring Dickerson.

Now, with Edmonds moving on, the centerfield spot is opened up for rookie Lorenzo Cain to play everyday.  As Braun and Hart are already signed to multi-year contracts, those three should comprise the Brewers outfield for the foreseeable future.  Dickerson and Gomez would project well as 4th and 5th outfielders, both bringing good athleticism to those roles.  The only question is whether Gomez would be content playing part time off the bench but his speed would make him an asset as a pinch runner and defensive replacement.

In other Brewers news, Casey McGehee set a franchise record with hits in nine consecutive at bats against Arizona at Miller Park.  Overall, McGehee was 10-18 with 2 home runs in the four game series with the Diamondbacks.  Unfortunately, he was about the only one who came through as the Brewers lost 3 of those games.

In his second season as the Brewers starting 3rd baseman, Casey Mac is now hitting .285 with 17 home runs and 74 RBI with an .820 OPS.  Those numbers should serve as a rejoinder to those who want to replace him with prospect Mat Gamel.

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It looks like reports of golfer Tiger Woods demise have been greatly exaggerated.  Woods has at least stabilized his game in the first two rounds of this weekend’s PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in Kohler after last week’s disaster at the WGC Bridgestone in Ohio.  Of course, it says something about the state of Woods’ game that he’d be satisfied at even par (as of this writing), 8 strokes off the pace of tournament leader Matt Kuchar.

Earlier this week Steve Czaban, formerly of FoxSports Radio, compared Woods to former tennis phenom Jennifer Capriati.  Czaban, who has a regular segment on the “Bob & Brian” morning radio program out of Milwaukee, wondered aloud whether Woods like Capriati played the game because he was pushed into it at an early age and was proficient at it, yet perhaps lacked a passion for the game itself.  It’s open to debate how valid that comparison is, but it might be something that bears watching as Woods attempts to regain his dominance on the PGA tour.

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RANDOM SAMPLINGS:  University of Wisconsin linebacker Mike Taylor suffered a setback in his comeback from knee surgery in practice this week.  It’ll be a big blow to the Badger defense if the promising sophomore from Ashwaubenon can’t go at full strength by the start of the Big(11)Ten season………..There seems to be a lot of love in the ‘blogosphere’ for rookie free agent defensive back Sam Shields with the Packers, but could we at least wait to see him play in a game before we bestow nicknames on him?………..Perhaps I was too hasty in annointing the Reds as a legitimate contender in the NL Central.  Not only did they get swept by St. Louis at home, but Reds starting pitcher Johnny Cueto was suspended 7 games by the league for his embarrassing conduct in a pre-game brawl.  Cueto must have been taught to fight by his mom………..I wonder if Packers GM Ted Thompson gets misty eyed when he hears the old Houston Oilers fight song………..I’m sure it’s at least a year or two off, but I’m starting to get a ‘Javon Walker vibe’ about Packers’ tight end Jermichael Finley.  For once, I hope I’m wrong………..New York Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez was arrested after a game for assaulting his girlfriend’s father.  I’m guessing that’s a relationship with very little future unless there’s some monetary compensation involved………..So much for (Pocket Doppler patron saint) Bob Uecker easing back into his schedule following his recovery from heart surgery.  Uecker, who was supposed to work only home games, was behind the microphone last night with the team in Colorado.  Just don’t overdo it, Ueck.  We want you around for a long time.

Thanks for reading.  See you @ Whistling Straits.

 

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  • http://www.retaggr.com/page/crichar3 Chris

    I, too, will miss Edmonds. But it was the best move for him and the Crew to part ways. It sure would have been nice to have had him six or seven years ago.

    And thanks for giving Ted his due. He is a lightning rod for many Packers fans, but given their success it is hard to understand why. He has rebuilt the team and it looks to be solid for the next several years. TT has earned his props.

  • Rich Ward

    If the Packers perform to expections this year, maybe he’ll finally receive his due in Wisconsin as well. But God help him if they don’t.

    ___________

    I’ve been reluctant to give TT his due, mainly because of his refusal to upgrade the secondary through free agency. In hindsight though, overpaying most likely would have been a mistake for a lot of the guys I was calling for. Still, excitement for a 3rd round, 21 year rookie needs to be halted. And Leroy Butler said it best, “Ted Thompson should have know you can’t go into the playoffs with Jarret Bush as your 3rd corner.” The quotes not exact, but his point is clear.

    I’m one of the many who believe Green Bay will indeed be a contender this season, but if the secondary gets lit up the way they did last season, not to mention Crosby bombing, the blame will (should) fall on TT’s shoulders.

    I think he’s been a very solid general manager, who really has picked his spots well. But some of the criticism is justified. We’ll see…

  • Rich Ward

    Just don’t overdo it, Ueck. We want you around for a long time.

    ________

    Word. A long, long time.

  • http://www.pocketdoppler.com BigSnakeMan

    No one needs to tell Ted Thompson that he’ll be blamed if the Pack falls short of expectations this year. Fans are always quick to point out who should be fired but the other half of that equation is you need someone better to replace them. I certainly don’t think TT’s above criticism but on balance I believe he’s been better for GB than most give him credit for.