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Thompson relies on 'the process'

Posted Apr 19, 2012

Ted Thompson repeatedly referred to “the process” during his traditional predraft press conference on Thursday, an exercise in draft stealth and intrigue of national security worthiness. "The process" is a system the creation of which Thompson credits to his mentor, former Packers general manager Ron Wolf.

“The process is exactly the same,” Thompson said proudly, as he addressed a question involving attrition within in his scouting staff, which prominently lost Reggie McKenzie to the head personnel job in Oakland late last season. “We have other people that step in and pick up the slack.”

They are people who know and believe in “the process.” They are either direct or indirect disciples of Wolf, which means they are also disciples of Thompson. The torch is passed and its flames burn in other cities in the league, as they burned in Seattle when Thompson was the personnel boss there.

So what is this process about which the Packers GM speaks so passionately, so protectively that he refuses to divulge the inner workings of it?

“I don’t know how to say this without violating one of my rules,” Thompson said with a smile, as he fought back the urge to divulge information while responding to one reporter’s question. The Packers media understands. They know the drill. They politely smile.

They also know “the process.” They know it’s about picking the best player left in the draft when it’s the Packers’ turn to pick, even if that guy plays a position the media and the fans have not identified to be a position of need.

Pass rusher is the position of need this year. It has been identified by one and all as that need that must be addressed, lest the same fate befall Dom Capers’ unit, again.

Hey, it really is the Packers’ greatest need. For the defense to improve on last year’s No. 32 ranking, it has to find a pass rusher on the side opposite Clay Matthews, to help loosen offenses’ grip on Matthews. Simply put, the Packers need more sacks.

Yeah, that’s the need and it’s widely agreed that this draft class, which overall doesn’t appear to be especially strong, does have numbers in the way of pass rushers to fit a 3-4 defense. You want tweeners? This draft has them, which means the expectation is that Thompson will pick one early, maybe even often.

That’s not how “the process” works.

“We won’t do it intentionally. We don’t think you draft that way,” Thompson said, referring to drafting for need. “You draft for the long-term investment of your team.”

If you don’t like reading those words, and if they make you a little weary of the “the process,” then bear in mind that “the process” has served the Packers well for a lot of years. It brought the Packers Aaron Rodgers when the team already had a good quarterback, a guy who kept Rodgers on the bench until his third season. Wanna throw him back?

“The process” is a system for drafting players that hasn’t changed, even though the game has undergone dramatic change. The same system that worked in the 1990’s for Wolf is working for Thompson going on 20 years later.

“I’ve been in a dark room watching tape for 10 days,” Thompson said in opening his press conference.

That’s part of “the process.” Sit in a dark room and watch tape, and find players that offer the greatest promise to give the Packers a maximum return on their long-term investment, because if you take care of the future, the future will take care of the present.

“You can’t predict it,” Thompson said of how the draft will fall. “You can worry yourself sick about what’s going to happen. Evaluate the players individually. Don’t get too worked up in terms of position. That’s easier said than done.”

Yeah, it’s tempting even to him. Everybody wants to fix what’s broke, right?

That’s when Thompson relies on “the process.”

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