Following week four, I penned a column (that incidentally got me invited to write here) blasting Ted Thompson’s ego and his unwavering belief in the depth of his roster. Hindsight being 20/20 and all, I realize now, that many of my points were completely wrong. So in the spirit of transparency and self deprecation, I’ll break down that very column. Keep in mind this was going into week five and the Packers at this point were 3-1.

“Ted Thompson overvalues his own, homegrown talent. It’s an egotistical move, thinking he’s the best judge of talent in the NFL. His refusal to pick up impact players through free agency or trade may well cost this Packers team a chance to reach the Super Bowl.”

It’s still egotistical, but he’s earned the right to be. As the Packers sit on the cusp of the NFC Championship game, Thompson has not made any big moves during the season (Howard Green is a big guy, not a big move), stuck to his guns and now the team is three point favorites on the road. Well played, Ted.

“With mounting injuries including Ryan Grant, Morgan Burnett, Brandon Chillar, Nick Barnett, Nick Collins, it is time to make a move. Ted needs to realize that his backups are not starters on any other NFL team. Brandon Jackson and John Kuhn are not replacing the yardage Grant could provide.”

One right point, one wrong. Many of the backups forced into prominent roles have played at a starter level, Erik Walden comes to mind. Meanwhile, Jackson and Kuhn were not able to replace the consistent type of yardage (984 yards combined, 3.5 ypc) that Grant brought in 2009 (1253 yards, 4.4 ypc). Even adding Starks (101 yards, 3.5 ypc) into the mix doesn’t match Grant’s production.

“Inside LB has been weak since the start of the season. If Barnett is injured for any length of time, that pushes Frank Zombo, AJ Hawk, and Desmond Bishop into an even more prominent roles. Dom Capers can only do so much with formations and packages to disguise these inadequacies.”

Wow, way off on this one. Barnett was moved to IR shortly after this published, and all three linebackers played admirably throughout the season. Hawk and Bishop led the team in tackles (111 and 103 respectively), and Zombo had four sacks though he played sporadically because of injuries. The ILB position turned out not to be a concern for the Packers this season, which is truly surprising given the circumstances.

“Allowing Marshawn Lynch to slip away because you’re not willing to put up a 3rd round pick is nearly inexcusable. But again, it seems, Ted’s more confident in unproven Brandon Jackson, John Kuhn, and James Starks (who hasn’t played a down of football in two years) than he is of being able to use Lynch, a proven NFL back.”

Outside of his amazing run to seal the wildcard game against the Saints, Lynch was a disappointment for the Seahawks. Now, that’s not to say he would have been a disappointment in Green Bay, but it does make the point that he would not have been the savior many of us thought he would be. Jackson, Kuhn and Starks were serviceable during the regular season, doing just enough to get by. If the Packers had some semblance of a running game for the Washington (Jackson had 115 yards on 10 carries helped by a 71 yard run) and Miami (Jackson 12 carries, 53 yards) games they would not have lost.

“We all know Ted loves his draft picks, and he’s done (mostly) well with them. But the truth is, if Ted doesn’t make some sort of move, other than shuffling his practice squad players back and forth, he’s going to blow this chance to make a deep run.”

Wow, way off, that’s exactly what Thompson did, and to much success. It’s really quite amazing just how wrong I was in those two sentences.

The team is 3-1 and have a difficult five game stretch coming up before the bye week, @Washington, then home against Miami and Minnesota then @Jets and home against Dallas. Those are going to be some tough, physical games that could make injury problems even worse. Al Harris and James Starks are going to be available in two weeks, and while Harris should be an immediate help in the secondary (perhaps even at safety), stay wary on Starks until he shows something.

Hey! Finally, some good points here! Washington and Miami were both surprisingly difficult and both resulted in three point losses. Minnesota was a close game won in the final seconds when Favre couldn’t muster any magic, and the Jets game was a 9-0 puntfest. Al Harris was eventually released, as the team felt he wasn’t going to be able to stay healthy (they were right, and I was wrong…again). Starks has been inconsistent at best, though his performance in Philadelphia during the wild card round lets us know what he’s capable of.

“There is a definite sense of nervous anxiety coming from Packers fans. The performance against the Lions at home should have been a wake-up call to Ted Thompson. Stop letting your ego get in the way of making sound football decisions and get someone, anyone, who can make an impact on this team this year.”

The anxiety was well founded. The two mid-season losses to non-playoff teams sent the team floundering, trying to find an identity. Ted Thompson remained stoic as the captain of the ship, never veering off course, confident in the team he and Mike McCarthy had compiled. It is his personnel moves that have brought the Packers through a sea of injuries to the NFC Championship game, just four quarters away from the Super Bowl. Thompson was the impact on the team I was looking for, I just hadn’t realized it.

 

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  • Chris

    I always respect guys who have the stones–and the integrity–to own it when they are wrong. Humility is an under-appreciated virtue. Props, Pete.