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Inbox: He personified stewardship

Making a key play when it matters wins big games

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Former Packers General Manager Ted Thompson

Daniel from Huntersville, NC

I'm sure I'm not the first, but it goes without saying. Win it for Ted.

A sentiment we can all get behind.

Mark from Bettendorf, IA

Very sad news about Ted Thompson. How will you remember Ted? How will he be remembered? How SHOULD he be remembered?

I hope he's remembered for overseeing a tremendous run of success, and as a man who made difficult but courageous decisions. Agree or disagree, he always did what he felt was in the best interest of the Packers. He had no other motivations. He never cared about getting credit or proving anything to his detractors. Humble to a fault. He personified stewardship, and there was never anything ethically or morally questionable about his character. He did everything the right way, and as John Schneider so fondly put it, he also did it his own way.

Matt from Waunakee, WI

"That's our ball, that's our ball!" Casual fist bump. Memories make us rich. Sorry to hear the sad news, Mike.

It was a privilege to sit next to him in the press box for several games in my early years with the team, but none more memorable than Super Bowl XLV, of course. In the moment, I was a little nervous his trademark restraint would betray him on Collins' pick-six, but I should have known better.

Jake from Eden Prairie, MN

Mike, with the passing of the great Ted Thompson, would you share your fondest memory of him?

Other than the one Matt just recounted, I'll always remember an interview I did with him in his office. It was for a Yearbook story about his working relationship with McCarthy, and Thompson told me doesn't ever plan on hiring another head coach. This was at least a year or two before Super Bowl XLV. He believed in the people he hired and supported them steadfastly. There's a lot to be said for how he approached a high-pressure job in a cut-throat business, and the number of successful personnel executives who learned and grew under him reflect that.

Pedro from Porto Alegre, Brazil

Given Ted Thompson's unfortunate passing, how many guys on our roster were his draft picks? And do you think this will make them play maybe a little more inspired?

I can't speak to the second part, but here are the players on the 2020 team originally acquired by Thompson: Aaron Rodgers, Mason Crosby, David Bakhtiari, Lane Taylor, Corey Linsley, Davante Adams, Dean Lowry, Kenny Clark, Jamaal Williams, Kevin King, Aaron Jones, Robert Tonyan, Montravius Adams, Tramon Williams, Lucas Patrick and Brian Price.

Doug from Lafayette, OH

Comin' back to win the ring. Welcome home TW. Not only has he been through the ups and downs with this team the previous two seasons, but he brings with him a champion's mentality. What do you feel is the best thing about this signing, Spoff?

Tramon can serve as insurance in case the Packers want/need another option in the secondary or on punt returns, and he can act as a sounding board for any of the young DBs in these high-stakes times. But we don't even know if he's going to play Sunday. The Packers would have to elevate him from the practice squad on Saturday to allow for the possibility.

Eric from Green Bay, WI

Good morning Spof. People can talk all they want about line play, turnovers, or any other indicator of victory. What hasn't been talked about from the Rams game is every single player on offense contributed toward the victory. It wasn't just Rodgers, Adams, and Jones. It was a total and complete showing on offense. Let's see that again on Sunday and we can add another George Halas trophy to the case.

Sounds like a plan.

Richard from Livermore, CA

If Kurt Warner was correct about only playing playoff games in dome stadiums, then we also should be using a "spherical football" because then it wouldn't take weird bounces sometimes which can favor the underdog. My high school football coach would throw a football up in the air, and as it bounced unpredictably he would tell us players, "There is an element of luck in the game, and the winner is the team that responds to it better."

I like that.

Ferdinand from Woodbury, MN

It's such a thrill to see your name and submission in II. Therefore, following up on Estillac's observation yesterday, "Tis better to have been published and forgotten than never to have been published at all"!

My bad, Ferdinand. Clearly, You and Wes originated a "Queen's Gambit" dialogue before I started watching the show, so it didn't register. There's a quip to be made about trees and forests and Inbox references, or something along those lines, but I don't have the brain power to think of one right now, and I don't have any greenies.

Sean from Vermontville, MI

If memory serves me, LaFleur has lamented the play call (not the decision) a few times this year after failed two-point conversions or fourth-and-shorts. I really appreciate that. His confidence that the decision to go for it is inspiring, while balanced by the humility to say, "I could have chosen a better play." We are truly blessed with another great head coach, who can coach all the way to laser goalposts. Two legitimate shots at Super Bowl titles in the first two years is impressive. How rare is that?

I believe last year, LaFleur was the 12th to reach a conference title game in his first year in an NFL head coach. Of those other 12, only four got at least as far the next year – George Seifert (1989-90 49ers), Barry Switzer (1994-95 Cowboys), Rex Ryan (2009-10 Jets) and Jim Harbaugh (2011-12 49ers). As to your other comment, I've been impressed with LaFleur's openly public accountability from the get-go, and I think it has created a culture of accountability throughout the team.

Keith from Bakersfield, CA

The AFC and NFC games being rematches of two Week 6 games is a coincidence. A professional writer confusing coincidence and irony is ironic. (Just ask Alanis.)

Is a smart aleck missing self-deprecating sarcasm ironic, too?

Estillac from Belem, Brazil

It's pretty clear that the Packers must protect the football. Are there any specific things they can add to this game plan in order to achieve that goal, or do they just need to keep doing what they've been doing?

The latter. The Packers had the fewest giveaways in the league in the regular season with 11, and only nine by the offense (two lost fumbles were in the return game). We all know two of the nine were in Week 6 and proved costly. As I said on "Unscripted," they didn't need to win the turnover battle last week to win a playoff game by 14 points. The turnovers were 0-0. I'd take that again, frankly.

David from San Antonio, TX

Morning Mike. My recollection after the loss to Tampa Bay was that both the coach and quarterback really emphasized poor preparation and practice the week leading up to the game. In answering questions now about that game, they are saying it was so long ago it doesn't matter what happened. Is your sense that this time around there is focus aplenty?

Yes.

Randy from Sterling, IL

I don't know who the center is for Tampa, but that guy, all night Sunday, was meaner than a bag full of squirrels and twice as nuts. When he couldn't find someone to hit he fell on the ground hard just to make the turf pay. Who is that dude and who do you think gets the pleasure of setting him straight?

Tampa's center is Ryan Jensen, and that matchup inside with Kenny Clark will be something to behold.

Matt from Waunakee, WI

Watching the NO-TB game it looked like the Bucs' DBs were getting away with mugging the Saints' receivers. What do you know about this week's crew and their tendencies?

The referee will be Clete Blakeman, but crews don't get assigned playoff games, the best officials do. The Packers have to be prepared for the physicality on the perimeter. Asking for flags is not a plan.

Charlie from West Chester, PA

While the team is playing at a high level, I'm concerned a special-teams gaffe will come at the worst possible time. At this point in the season, why do the kick returners even have the option to take the ball out of the end zone? Take the 25 yards and let your No. 1 and MVP QB go to work. The risk severely outweighs the reward.

Couldn't agree more.

Nicole from Easthampton, MA

I don't know if physics is allowed in the Inbox, but acoustically, it makes sense that less than 10,000 fans could seem comparable to a full stadium. Human bodies, especially when covered in warm outerwear, absorb a lot of sound (and also redirect the waves in a manner that causes destructive interference, cancelling out the sound). Fewer bodies means more of the sound gets heard.

Appreciate the enlightenment. More than anything I get a kick out of the empty metal bleachers around the fan clusters being used as noisemakers. I expect it to continue.

Eric from Oshkosh, WI

The defense has played well against the run and held opponents to reasonable point totals, but the last two games the opponent's QB completion percentage is 21-of-27 and 33-of-42. Those QBs were Goff (with a broken thumb) and Trubisky. It seems like QBs just pick us apart if we don't come up with a sack. I fear Brady will do that since we don't generate consistent pressure. Is this concern for our defense legit, or is it just every defense's reality in an offensive-oriented NFL?

You can't take away everything. The Packers focused on stopping the run and limiting big plays in those games. Goff had just 174 yards on the 21 completions (8.3 per). Trubisky hit one 53-yarder, but had just 199 yards on his other 32 completions (6.2 per). That's a lot of dink and dunk. Brady will do that all day and is far less likely to make the type of mistake others do along the way. Stand tall in the red zone, and try to pick the right moment to force the issue. Making a key play when it matters wins big games.

Tim from Cameron, WI

Rashan Gary has been very good on the edge rushing the passer, usually with his bull rush move. Wouldn't moving him to the inside to collapse the pocket he preferable against Brady? Or is it more of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" and leave him outside?

I think the latter.

Landon from Madison, WI

If the Rams game is an indication of what the Packers' defense is susceptible to, are the Bucs built to go fast on offense and how does the defense react?

Wes and I discussed this possibility on "Unscripted," and I think it's certainly something the Packers have to be prepared for. They can't get caught in a personnel group that doesn't match up well for an extended series in case Brady goes up-tempo.

Casey from Tempe, AZ

A statement to the two of you: "This job shouldn't be about the reporter or pundit. It should be about the subject: the athlete. This industry needs to get back to being observers, not barnacles." You both embody this mentality which is why I, and many others, continue to support your work. Thank you both for your humble, honest and transparent contributions when covering our favorite team.

We do our best. Thanks.

Ross from Hudson, WI

Can you please get something into that suggestion box outside LaFleur's office to hand off to Aaron Jones with the first play of the third quarter?

Roger that.

Trevor from Arvada, CO

Not brushing them aside or anything, but with Brees' injuries coming to light, Tampa has not been tested by a QB yet this year. A third-string QB who has no playoff experience (although played well). And a Hall of Famer who has been a shell of himself. I think this secondary is in for a rude awakening this week. I hope I'm right.

That might be going a tad overboard, because this defense is capable of getting any top-level QB out of rhythm. I do think with stout protection and effective blitz pick-up, there are plays to be made.

Brian from Okinawa, Japan

GMFB highlighted a couple of plays from the Week 6 matchup when Tampa Bay blitzed and Rodgers was sacked. The first play, Williams was late coming across and missed the block. On the other Linsley and Jenkins didn't pass off a block well and got beat by the linebacker. On both plays Adams got one-on-one coverage and blew past the corner. As lopsided as the game was, these seem like fixable mistakes that could have drastically changed the game. I can't wait to see how the Packers respond.

That's exactly what I'm talking about.

Ben from Waumandee, WI

No matter what happens this weekend, we should all count ourselves blessed that we have had such a competent team and organization. Including this year, the Packers have been in the NFC Championship Game five times in the last 10 years. To be that close to making a run for all the marbles every year is something really special.

Five times in the last 11 years, to be accurate, but yes. Amen.

Steve from Plainfield, WI

Not to look past the next game, but if I wait until then, it'll be too late to ask this question – who should we be rooting for in the AFC game? I'm actually thinking KC, and not just for the sexier matchup. Buffalo worries me more than the Chiefs. The Bills finished the season strong, and the Chiefs' largest margin of victory in their last eight games of the season was only six points.

Everybody with me now. Just beat the Buccaneers.

Fred from La Crosse, WI

This time of season for me is letting reality of where the team is sink in. The Rodgers mindset article referred to keeping his and his teammates' eye on the prize. I think of a bit of wisdom not sure of origin. "The past is history, the future is a mystery, today is a present." Thank you.

Happy Friday.

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