Is This “Our” Ted?
For some time now, I’ve experienced a general sense of uneasiness with regard to the way this offseason has unfolded for the Green Bay Packers. Nothing specific, mind you, but palpable nonetheless. This morning, the reasons why finally crystallized in my mind.
I think it began when starting center Scott Wells signed a lucrative contract with the St. Louis Rams . On the surface, Wells departure shouldn’t have come as a surprise. It’s no secret that more than once the Packers attempted to upgrade that position on Wells’ watch. Clearly he wanted to cash in on his free agent status and he played a position that the Packers are normally reluctant to compensate financially in a lavish fashion. On the other hand, Wells’ contributions on the offensive line were key in that he was responsible for calling out the protection schemes for his linemates and by all accounts was adept at doing so. He was also the kind of steady performer that Packers’ General Manager Ted Thompson had traditionally tried to keep in the fold. Right up until the end, I had assumed that somehow they would be able to come to an accomodation with Wells.
When Wells decided to leave Green Bay, it virtually forced Thompson to take an uncharacteristic dip into the free agent pool and sign longtime Indianapolis Colts’ starting center Jeff Saturday to a 2 year contract. At this point in his career, Saturday is much cheaper than Wells and should be more than a capable replacement, but he is a short term solution at best. Admittedly, I may be reading too much into it but to me Saturday’s acquisition implied a sense of desperation on Thompson’s part and perhaps even an indication that they were somewhat unprepared for Wells absence.
My disquiet regarding the Packers carried into this weekend’s draft. Of course, the Packers’ primary needs were on defense after last season’s record-setting futility on that side of the ball. Still, it was a little jarring when the Packers traded away a number of picks to move up in the draft and spent their first six selections on defensive prospects. Thompson, who has generally adhered to a ‘strength in numbers’ and ‘best player available’ approach to the draft, maintained that the Packers stayed true to their draft board. But I find it a tad difficult to believe that there were no available offensive players they had rated higher than the players they picked at the time.
In the past, Thompson usually went his own way in finding value in places most others wouldn’t even think to look, frequently to the disappointment and chagrin of Packers’ fans. More often than not, those moves have panned out for Green Bay, ultimately garnering the team its 13th NFL Championship. In my opinion, the genius (a word I use advisedly purely in a football sense) of Thompson is that he has always been able to see beyond the obvious, essentially keeping Green Bay ahead of the Pack (pun intended) and preserving their status as an annual playoff contender.
I really don’t have a quarrel with any single move that Thompson has made this offseason, but that’s precisely the point. From the Saturday signing right down to virtually every pick in the just concluded NFL draft, Thompson has pretty much done what anyone in his position, up to and including Packers’ fans, would do with the team as it’s currently constituted.
Based on his track record, Thompson has certainly more than earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to his direction of the Packers. The success they’ve had during his tenure reassured me that, despite the occasional decision that may appear inscrutable to myself and others, Thompson has always known something that the rest of us didn’t. I have no real reason at this juncture to believe that Thompson’s choices will pay off any less so than they have in the past. I just hope that in taking a more conventional approach this year, Thompson hasn’t effectively ceded his and the Packers’ competitive edge over the rest of the NFL.