One of the NFL's most stable franchises is undergoing a stunning shakeup at the top.
After missing the playoffs for the first time in nine seasons, the Packers are repositioning Ted Thompson in their front office and beginning the search for a new general manager, multiple reports stated Monday night.
Thompson had been the team’s general manager since 2005, overseeing one of the NFL’s top sustained stretches of success, albeit only resulting in one Super Bowl during the Mike McCarthy-Aaron Rodgers era.
Green Bay's strong in-house candidates who've garnered outside interest for GM jobs in recent seasons and could potentially replace Thompson include Eliot Wolf, the son of Hall of Famer Ron Wolf and currently the director of football operations; Russ Ball, VP of football operations; and Brian Gutenkurst, director of player personnel.
In addition to finding Rodgers, Thompson — a draft-and-developer at his core — built the foundation of a team that made eight consecutive playoff appearances by drafting stars like Clay Matthews, Randall Cobb, Nick Collins and Jordy Nelson in the early rounds. But he also developed a reputation for mining later-round gems (OL David Bakhtiari and Josh Sitton) and undrafted free agents (CBs Sam Shields and Tramon Williams) who’d go on to play prominent roles.
Thompson, though, regularly eschewed free agency to build almost exclusively through the draft. (Ironically, Thompson’s most active free-agent spending spree will have come in his final offseason as the top decision maker, when he missed on Martellus Bennett but signed additional contributors in Jahri Evans, Ahmad Brooks and Lance Kendricks, among others, last spring).
Thompson also has had some of his better success finding key defenders via the draft in recent seasons, with Kenny Clark and Blake Martinez in particular coming off very strong second seasons.
Yet Thompson had a lot of high-profile misses defensively in the draft, too, from first-rounders Justin Harrell and Datone Jones to second-rounders in Jerel Worthy and Quinten Rollins. Those players’ inability to quickly develop and contribute led to years of defensive ineptitude and Monday’s firing of Dom Capers and several of his top defensive assistants.
Indeed, one of the NFL’s most stable franchises appears to be recommitting to maximizing the remaining title-window years with Rodgers, who turned 34 last month and is poised to become the NFL’s highest-paid player this offseason, by recruiting new leaders and, likely, modes of operating and thinking.
Perhaps promoting an up-and-comer like Wolf or Ball would allow Thompson to focus solely on getting back to his scouting roots, spending most of his time in the film room, while someone who’s learned underneath him can bring some fresh ideas and blood to the table.
This may be a risky decision, but it's one many Packers fans have long pined for. And in the first January spent at home in nearly a decade, the Packers not only aren't resting on their laurels — they're revisiting and recalibrating the ideas that played a huge part in their success.