Archive for the ‘Ted Thompson’ Category

Silverstein grills Ted Thompson

January 11, 2009

Read this Q&A that jsonline writer Tom Silverstein had with TT recently. I want to be one of the first to commend Silverstein for not asking easy questions. This is a good interview that asks some important questions and difficult questions for TT. It’s fairly evident to me that one concern Silverstein had throughout this season was the lack of veteran leadership. He raises this point several times in the interview and TT doesn’t take well to it.

The interview made me think of several things: TT didn’t like our defense, he cares about what’s written about him, he was smart not to touch the Favre situation, I like that he denied injuries being a major factor, he may be putting too much emphasis on the kind of person a player is which may cloud his judgment re the player’s ability to contribute (think Poppinga), and finally, and importantly, he does care about this team.

On a related noted, did a story on TT too. There is one interesting exchange in this interview that I thought stood out. Recently Charles Woodson shared with the media his belief that the team needs more veteran leadership, apparently implying that a lack of this kind of leadership affected the team’s ability to win close games. Read here from the article for more:

Some tried to draw a straight line between the Packers’ youth to a lack of leadership, perhaps providing a reason — THE reason? — the team faltered in so many close games. Veteran cornerback Charles Woodson appeared to be solidly in that camp, calling on the Packers’ front office to bring in some veterans. “Well, Charles is a very bright guy, so I’m not going to dispute what he says,” Thompson said. “Other than to say that, you know, we were in a bunch of close games that we didn’t win, and I think it’s a little too simplistic to say that we were too young.”

A lack of veteran leadership didn’t alone cost the Packers those games – Ted’s right. But I also think TT missed Woodson’s larger point – veterans could have helped in those games and others. Like the author of the article states, Woodson was driving at the possibility that the team lost close games because there were too many young guys out there inexperienced in those tight situations. And, a veteran leader or two might help pull the team through moments like that while at the same time just adding needed competence and depth to a questionable defense in particular.

I agree with Woodson (and I’m assuming Silverstein here) here. I actually think a good number of Packer fans probably would agree too. What’s interesting is that it seems TT is concerned about bringing in a free agent who may not fit in the locker room. Doesn’t seem like he’s considered the possibility that certain free agents might come in and actually improve team chemistry. In fact, team chemistry can often be improved simply by being better and if we add a quality free agent veteran or two (or five), we will get better (can’t get much worse), which may improve team chemistry. Packer fans remember how Reggie White came in and made the defense legit immediately. Eugene Robinson also helped quite a bit. While there aren’t many free agents who could step in and alter a defense like Reggie White, there are certainly quality guys out there who could fill our defensive holes or at least add depth, while at the same time providing some added leadership.

One final thing I do want to say is that I am not one of those people asking for TT’s head here. I don’t think he should be fired right now and I haven’t even jumped ship on his overall philosophy (though I am souring). I do think it’s important though that we question him more and more when the team is not winning. When things aren’t going well many fans naturally shift to trying to problem-solve to make this a winning team – just like TT and his staff will do. Let’s hope things get turned around this coming year – I just hope he dabbles a bit more with free agency than he has in the past.


Ditch mediocrity by switching to a 3-4 defense

January 9, 2009

One common argument I have heard against moving to a 3-4 defense is that we presently don’t have the personnel for it. I have three thoughts on this: 1) we obviously don’t have the personnel for a 4-3 either; 2) don’t we have to make serious personnel changes anyway?; and 3) why are we clinging to a style of defense that has yielded mediocre results at best for years? Would it hurt to try something new like a 3-4? The only time I remember the Packers D being good in the last few decades was during the mid 90s with Reggie and company. Well, boredom carried me to ridiculous levels just now because I decided to see how the Packers have finished in the main defensive category of yards per game over the course of the last 12 years or so. (I didn’t go back further in part because this took too long and also because our defenses just sucked before that.)

  • 2008 = #20 overall, #26 rush, #12 pass
  • 2007 = #11 overall, #14 rush, #12 pass
  • 2006 = #12 overall, #13 rush, #17 pass
  • 2005 = #7 overall, #23 rush, #1 pass
  • 2004 = #25 overall, #14 rush, #25 pass
  • 2003 = #17 overall, #10 rush, #23 pass
  • 2002 = #12 overall, #21 rush, #3 pass
  • 2001 = #12 overall, #16 rush, #15 pass
  • 2000 = #15 overall, #8 rush, #19 pass
  • 1999 = #19 overall, #22 rush, #18 pass
  • 1998 = #4 overall, #4 rush, #10 pass
  • 1997 = #7 overall, #20 rush, #8 pass
  • 1996 = #1 overall, #4 rush, #1 pass

Sure there were a couple decent seasons from the pass D, but overall, the defense has been consistently mediocre. Only 2 times in the last 12 years have the Packers had a defense finish in the top 5 overall in yards per game allowed, 1996 and 1998. Of course, LeRoy Butler recently shared with the 1250 WSSP listening audience that during those  years it was common for the defense to shift from their 4-3 base to a 3-4 set. On the show, LeRoy talked about how effective their use of the 3-4 was back then and how in general, a 3-4 defense gives a team a greater variety of looks/options with regard to blitzing, coverage and gap fills (if you will, I made that expression up…I have to admit, I did consider not admitting I made this expression up so I could mislead you all into believing I’m down with modern defensive lingo – but I’m not down with any defensive lingo so I decided to come clean).

Anyway, my point is this: why not just give it a try? Whether it’s Mike Nolan or Keith Butler or Andy Hayes. Just give it a try.

(Note: as I sifted through the defensive stats of the last 12 years, it wasn’t surprising to me to see Pittsburgh up near the top almost every year in every defensive category. By now, you all know of my developing man-crush on Pittsburgh’s D Coordinator Dick LeBeau – he’s a genius. Oh, and he has used a 3-4 for years.)

TT to continue to over-emphasize draft?

December 31, 2008

I think TT relies too much on the draft. He needs to consider modifying his approach somewhat to include more free agent acquisitions. TT hasn’t totally ignored free agency as some contend and obtaining players via the draft is an important part of building and maintaining a quality team no doubt. But I think he is a bit off-balance w/re to his approach and free agency needs more attention this off-season. It’s interesting because when you look back at TT’s history of acquiring free agents, it makes a compelling argument for doing it more often. It could even be said that the percentage chance that a free agent will perform well for the Packers is greater than the percentage chance a draft pick will. Consider Charles Woodson, Ryan Pickett, Atari Bigby (sort of), Chillar, Tramon Williams, Ryan Grant. (Al Harris wasn’t a TT acquisition, but he’s been a great free agent pick-up).

But my concern is that TT will not look into free agency much and that the Packers will continue to be a losing team under his watch, using his philosophy. We’re 32-34 under TT . While I give him a bit of leeway for 2005 when Sherman was still around, and I understand implementing a new philosophy takes some time, the fact is that this team has only made the playoffs once in his 4 years – and this is in stark contrast to the success the team enjoyed prior to his arrival. Read below from a Tom Silverstein article this morning quoting TT  – this is why I don’t think he will change much of anything this off-season (thanks to reader Scott W for bringing this to my attention):

“We’re going to try to improve this team like we always do,” Thompson said. “People talk about free agency, draft. We’ll use whatever avenues we can to try to improve this team. But again, I’m still going to preach the thing we’ve always preached: The best way to get better, the most consistent way to get better, is to improve from within.”

TT, please take a look at some quality free agents out there. You’ve done nicely to give us the cap room we enjoy and I’ll even say tentatively that you’ve built a good nucleus of young players. But we’re not winning. So modify your approach. Complement these young guys now with some quality veterans. Other teams have done this more than we have recently and have enjoyed more success (the Patriots for example). Consider the fact that veteran leadership has value and that players who have already played in the NFL at a high level are more likely to contribute immediately than drafted rookies.

Shane Lechler could be a free agent – Pack should make ridiculous offer

December 21, 2008

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about how the Packers should do anything to acquire Shane Lechler. I didn’t realize at the time that Lechler is an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. This is from the Oakland Tribune:

Lechler is on the verge of free agency unless the Raiders offer a contract extension that he accepts between now and the end of February. The Raiders all but tipped their hand on which way they are leaning in terms of applying the franchise tag designation by signing free agent punter Ricky Schmitt on Monday. Teams with four-time Pro Bowl punters don’t sign undrafted free agent punters without any NFL experience. That is, unless there’s a chance of losing the Pro Bowl punter. On Thursday, Raiders coach Tom Cable admitted as much, saying Schmitt was signed, in part, as a “just-in-case” insurance policy.

I like Jeremy Kapinos. He’s come in and punted well especially given the pressure he must have felt considering the collective anger Packer fans have developed re our punting situation this year. But the opportunity to acquire someone like Shane Lechler is one that needs to be taken very seriously. As the GM, I would give Lechler a ridiculous offer right away, maybe even something like 1.5x – 2x more than any other punter makes right now. He’s that good and winning the field position battle is a subtle part of the game that can really help out a defense (Oakland’s defense excepted of course because they are a sorry franchise).

I realize TT would probably rather get value with the darkhorse player he found – in this case Kapinos. But Lechler is special and TT should use some of that cap room to lock up the best punter in the game and one of the better punters to ever play.

(It’s funny, I almost wrote a similar post a few weeks ago about Asomugha, the gifted Oakland corner who is playing under the franchise designation this year. Though a quick glance at our defense would indicate corner is not really a need position – in the very near future, it will be as Harris and Woodson age. Asomugha is unreal – I read an article earlier this year about how teams work very hard to find ways to avoid throwing it in his direction…ever. He’s a guy who would immediately solidify one corner position for years and perhaps allow Woodson the opportunity to work at safety. All this written, I don’t know how much of a play I’d actually make for him – right now, I’d be more focused on picking up Lechler.)

Interesting quote from Ted Thompson

December 15, 2008

In Bob McGinn’s jsonline article this morning, Ted Thompson said this:

“I feel bad for these guys because they play hard and I think they deserve better,” general manager Ted Thompson said. “I’m responsible for that, ultimately. It’s been a hard year.”

For some reason, I find his taking some ownership of this situation…comforting. Not sure why. I guess I just didn’t expect such a frank ownership statement like this from him. I am comforted because I do think this season is somewhat his fault – though it’s nowhere even close to being entirely his fault as some might contend. His handling of the Favre situation, at the very least, escalated an already bad situation (though I am still glad he managed to work out a decent trade to get something in return). His handling of Rodgers (the mid-year massive contract, the Favre situation, and keeping 2 rookie back-up QBs) perhaps served to add pressure on a guy who was already under tons of pressure. He hasn’t ensured that the team has high quality back-ups – or I would argue, starters for that matter (I’d say 30-40% of our starters may not start elsewhere). He and McCarthy may not have assembled that great of a coaching staff. And, there is developing reason to suspect he may have some Sherman-like loyalty issues to players who chronically under-perform (Poppinga, how Frost lasted longer than 2 games I’ll never know).

Still, something tells me that because he has been watching every game this year like we all have and because he still does seem to have a quality eye for talent, TT will be more active this off-season in terms of exploring and signing some free agents – and/or perhaps by altering his draft approach some (i.e. being willing to trade up or drafting for need). One good thing is that it’s looking more and more like we may end up with a decent pick in the draft because we suck this year and remember, we’ll also have the pick for Favre which could be a 2nd rounder I believe if the Jets make the playoffs.

As I’ve noted before, if TT doesn’t make something good happen in the off-season, I’d be surprised if the Packers do well next year and even more surprised if TT sticks around after next year.

Did you know…

December 4, 2008

Since taking over as GM, the Packers record under Ted Thompson is 31-31 (including playoffs). While he’s had to manage through 2 major transitions (taking over from a bad GM in Sherman and Favre leaving), at some point, I do wonder what performance goals he may have to meet as an employee of the Packers to stay on through his contract (and/or beyond). I would think the Packers would take into account the difficulty of TT having to manage through such transitions. And I know that they are well aware of some of the quality moves TT has made so far. But at the same time, unless this 2008 team can make a last ditch effort to salvage a winning record, the fact will be that in 4 seasons as GM, TT will have only had 1 winning season – and 1 appearance in the playoffs. If this season doesn’t finish well and next year doesn’t go well, I wonder if his job would be in jeopardy.

(Note: I wrote this post mostly because I was surprised when I sat down and figured out the record under TT. I guess I assumed it would be a winning record at least. And for the record, I still believe we can salvage a winning record this season actually because the remaining schedule is just not that tough and I also think we’re a few good off-season moves away from being in good shape for next year).

LeRoy Butler wants Pack to pick up veteran free agents for 2009

December 2, 2008

Read here from jsonline’s fine column – 5 questions with LeRoy Butler. He makes sense most of the time and jsonline usually does a good job of asking good questions. I agree w/Butler re giving Aaron Rodgers the chance to win the game Sunday down at the 1 yard-line (and I’ve read since that McCarthy regrets the 2nd down hand-off call to Jackson).

But I especially agree with Butler’s comments this week re the need for us to pick up some veteran free agents in the off-season noting that the youth movement may not be working out so well. One of my criticisms of TT’s philosophy has been that it seems so draft-heavy and youth-oriented that, like Butler, I worry we lack proper veteran leadership (and I also worry on a more basic level that we miss out on major, proven talent in free agency). This is part of the reason why I wanted a veteran QB to back-up Rodgers…almost just to have another veteran on the team who could provide veteran guidance/leadership. Read below for Butler’s comments:

Q. If you’re the Packers’ general manager, what would be your off-season priority?

A. The first thing I’d do is bring in some veteran free agents because the youth movement now may not be the answer. I’ve got to see some veterans, whether it’s a backup running back or a linebacker or a pass rusher. Continue to draft, but I’m going to try to bring in the best available free agent veterans. If it’s trading for Kellen Winslow in Cleveland or going out and getting the best available pass rusher, I would improve the team with some free agent veterans. I think that may be the difference in this team getting where it needs to be. The leadership must improve in the locker room. These guys are in their 20s. They’re not used to being leaders, they’re used to following leaders. You need to get some guys who are used to playing in the playoffs and can lead. That would be my first mission. That was the formula for the ’96 team. We brought in a lot of free agents. Guys like Bruce Wilkerson, Desmond Howard, Andre Rison. A lot of these guys were other teams’ rejects and we brought them in to play a role, to fill a need. And one of the guys wound up being a Super Bowl MVP, Desmond Howard. He was a former first-round pick who the Jacksonville Jaguars said they couldn’t play at any position. That may be the formula you can go back to at anytime.

Leadership is an important facet of this team that has been hit hard over the last year. In one year, we’ve lost the main leader of the team in Favre, our defensive leader in Barnett and probably our emotional leaders in KGB and Rob Davis (being in the front office is different than playing). We’ve also lost a very popular player in Jon Ryan. As fluffy as some may think it is to evaluate such things, I can’t help but think these losses have affected team morale and leadership. Couple this lack of veteran leadership with inexperience at the coaching level, and I think Butler is on to something here.

My hope is that we’ve only seen the first part of TT’s team-building philosophy so far. He has focused mostly on drafting and picking up a bunch of young guys here in his first few years. Now we have a bunch of young guys on the team and we have a better sense for which players can play. And, we have been able to establish a core group of quality young guys and we’ve been able to use the available cap space to sign them – to keep them around for a while. Not a bad overall team-building plan (though again, still too shy in free agency for my tastes).

My hope is that in the second phase (starting this year), TT may start getting rid of/trading those younger guys who aren’t good enough (Poppinga, Colledge, Moll, Hawk???) along with some veterans not pulling their weight (Clifton), and will fill those spots with quality veteran free agents. Or perhaps he will add quality free agents using a “best player available” mentality, not really position-specific. Either way, adding free agents this coming year, like Butler argues, makes sense to me too. I agree when Butler implies that it just feels like the balance is off with this team in particular and some quality veteran players could make a positive difference both with their play and with intangibles like leadership.

And one last note I’d add is that we don’t have to just pick up guys through free agency – we can trade players too. I would hope we’d find a way to think outside the box here to plug the holes on our roster. And one last, last note: I’m not writing this from a doomed, we totally suck perspective. I think the team is basically decent and that it has some real potential based on some of the players we already have. I am writing this because I think we could go from decent to great with a few smart moves.

I wanted to extend Rodgers, just not sure about the contract

November 2, 2008

Aaron Rodgers looks very good so far. He appears to be a quality decision-maker, understands the offense well and his stats are very good. His 98.7 QB rating is not a fluke and there is strong reason to believe this rating will end up being fairly representative of the kind of play we can expect from him. Like the Pack did with Grant, I also like the idea of getting our younger players signed so we know we’ll have a strong nucleus for at least the next few years. I also recognize that we wanted to get him signed now so that it would count against our cap this year when we can easily afford it. For these reasons, I too wanted to extend Rodgers and I would have offered him a nice contract…just not this kind of contract.

I’m not writing this to be a poop or to be anti-Thompson or Rodgers – but the fact is, this is an extraordinary contract given to a player who has played 7 games. According to PFT here, Rodgers’ average annual salary will put him in the top 5 of all NFL players. (PFT also reports that the contract for new money is really 5 years at $63.5 million – a huge amount of money). Now I know contracts are all about the present and in 2 years, this may seem like a more modest salary. But the fact is, paying a guy who has played 7 games as a top 5 player is simply too much. When asked about the contract, Rodgers himself admitted he was surprised (I heard him say this in an interview picked up after the signing by WISN Channel 12 in Milwaukee). I’d say it’s usually a sign of overpaying someone when that person is “surprised” by the terms of an extension. Just reading the comments by Rodgers and his agent, it almost seems like they didn’t do hardly any negotiating because the Pack just came to them with an enormous offer. Now I realize, as PFT indicates, that the $20 million guaranteed is a bit less than what other elite players are offered, but it’s still a ton of money for a player with an injury history.

It’s hard for me not to wonder if this is also sort of an “I told you so” moment for TT. Fact is, he did tell us and if Rodgers remains injury-free and playing at a high level even for the remainder of this year, I would welcome any gloating. But Rodgers has only played 7 games and to sign him to this kind of contract seems to me to be a bit too much. I do recognize that with any contract there is risk, but again, this just seems to be a bit much. I’m just sayin’…

Ted Thompson…shy?

August 18, 2008

For the last few years, I have analyzed Ted Thompson from a psychological perspective. He seems sort of mysterious – sort of like Dick Cheney. (I should add, with a hint of bias, if you want to know more re Dick Cheney, even if you hate him, read Brother Steve’s book on him called Cheney – very interesting glimpse into the VP’s life. Perhaps Steve could help us all by getting to work on a biography about someone who influences our lives way more than any VP does – Ted Thompson!). Anyway, I have reached a conclusion recently that some may see and others will likely dispute: Ted Thompson is shy…he’s painfully shy.

How can someone who runs the most important sports team in the world be shy (sorry Yankees – your team is obnoxious, Manchester United – your fans are positively dangerous, Dallas Cowboys – you guys are just so lame; besides a Packer fan is writing this post)? How could he function in such a public role, and a role that is so frequently subjected to criticism? Answer: it’s his job so he has to do it and he makes himself do it. I don’t think he likes press conferences at all. I don’t think he likes the conflict that comes with his position. I don’t think he likes hearing the criticism and/or being doubted. I don’t think he cherishes the social requirements of being the GM of the Packers. But it is his job and he knows these things are all part of being a GM so he just accepts it. What he does like is the behind the scenes scouting, finding that key player nobody’s been paying attention to and analyzing personnel options.

But TT’s personality is not a warm one and may not appear at first glance anyway to align with the personality of a shy person, so what gives? In fact, Homer, on Milwaukee’s ESPN radio calls him “Stone Cold Ted Thompson”. We’ve all seen it on TV. He comes off as very aloof, very tight-lipped, gives that wide-eyed-deer-in-the-headlights look that can just exude discomfort. But I would argue that he seems to struggle in front of the microphone because he’d very simply rather not be in front of the microphone. He puts himself in front of the microphone only because his job responsibilities require this – not because he wants to. My guess is that TT is a rather quiet guy, who doesn’t mind being alone and who would much rather not have to deal with the limelight part of his job. I’d bet he has a dry sense of humor that among friends can really make people laugh, he’s very intelligent, he’s incredibly focused and dedicated and that social events and interaction don’t drive him.

Listen, I’m not trying to drum up sympathy for TT here nor am I trying to cut him down – it’s just that this thought has occurred to me more than once since he took over and I thought I’d throw it out there.

Favre take – Gregg Easterbrook, ESPN

August 15, 2008

Read this take on the Favre situation (if you can stomach any more Favre situation talk) by one of the best writers out there – Gregg Easterbrook. Makes some sense to me, and echoes Steve’s post re this now being Ted Thompson’s team.

Also, wanted to add that I am still waiting for the “upcoming firestorm” from Favre and company for which the Packers apparently hired Ari Fleischer. Much of the reason I wanted to hold out on completely bashing Favre for his behavior during this episode was based on my firm belief that something bigger happened that the public just hasn’t been told about yet. While I acknowledge there was some justification for Favre feeling unwanted based on things we do know (especially if McGinn’s claim is true that TT didn’t want Favre back dating back well into last year), if this is all the info we have, I can’t help but be more bothered by Favre’s handling of this than the team’s handling of this. Perhaps we’ll hear more as time rolls on, who knows.

In the meantime, I’m focused on the Packers this year and really pulling for Rodgers. We still have a pretty good team I believe if the D-Line can come together. I will also though, be keeping an eye on how Favre does in NY. Maybe in some sense, it is fitting for Favre, who has played his entire career in the NFL’s smallest city, to go to its biggest city for a rousing send off. We’ll see.