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MT5: Thompson: A Hall of Fame general manager

Ted Thompson
Ted Thompson

On the first Saturday of every month, Mark will write about a topic of interest to Packers fans and the organization, and then answer five fan questions. Fans are encouraged to email Mark with their name and hometown at: MurphyTakes5@packers.com.

This evening, Ted Thompson will be inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame. While this is certainly a well-deserved honor, a close examination of Ted’s accomplishments during his 13 years as general manager shows what a truly remarkable run he had.

The highlight was obviously the victory in Super Bowl XLV, but the consistent success of the Packers also stands out. In his 13 seasons as GM, the Packers made the playoffs nine times (tied for most in the NFC during that span), including a streak of eight in a row (2009-16) that set a franchise record. We also captured six NFC North titles, including a franchise-record four consecutive division crowns from 2011-14. The Packers also made four appearances in the NFC Championship Game, the most in the NFC over that span. We had eight seasons with 10-plus wins and an NFC-best regular-season record of 125-82-1 (.603). He drafted 18 players who went on to be named to at least one Pro Bowl. Although he was not often active in free agency (and I heard from many fans about this!), we would not have won Super Bowl XLV without the signings of Charles Woodson and Ryan Pickett, and Julius Peppers was a key player in getting us to two NFC title games. Two decisions that Ted made early in his tenure laid the foundation for this great success – hiring a relatively unknown Mike McCarthy and drafting Aaron Rodgers while Brett Favre was still playing at a high level. Significantly, Ted was twice voted NFL Executive of the Year by the Sporting News in a vote of his peers.

As great a general manager as Ted was, he is an even better person. He is a man of great integrity, and a tireless worker. It was an honor to work with him for 10 years. He continues to be a great asset to the organization in working as a senior advisor to Brian Gutekunst. An extremely humble man, I’m glad to see Ted recognized for all he did for the Packers.

Now, on to your questions…

Jill from Suamico, WI

I was surprised to see the big crowds in Nashville for the three days of the draft. What is the status of Green Bay’s request to host the draft, and will the large crowds that other cities have been drawing make it harder for Green Bay to ever host the draft?

You’re right, Jill, the crowds in Nashville were very impressive – a total of over 600,000 people over three days – the most ever for a draft. It is really amazing how the draft has grown in popularity over the years. By all accounts, Nashville did a great job of running the draft, and the ancillary events that go with it. We have applied to host the draft in 2022 and beyond (after the Expo Hall is completed and Titletown further developed). I do not think the large crowds will impact our chances. The league is focused on NFL cities that will not host a Super Bowl, and realizes that each city will put its own mark on the draft. For us, Lambeau Field will be central, as well as our history and tradition. We sent two representatives to Nashville to learn more on how they conducted the draft.

Jon from Racine, WI

It was very exciting to see the recent announcement regarding TitletownTech. What can you tell me about the Topgolf simulators? I have hit golf balls at an outdoor Topgolf venue, and loved it.

We’ve been very pleased with the progress on TitletownTech and are excited about the recent announcements. The announcements included significant contributions by Jerry Jacobs of Delaware North and the Boston Bruins, and Jeff Wilpon of the New York Mets to the TitletownTech venture fund, and the hiring of Aaron Kennedy (founder of Noodles & Company) as our entrepreneur in residence, as well as the Topgolf partnership. With regard to the simulators, I think people will love them. I was able to hit golf balls at the Topgolf Swing Suite in Detroit, and it is very realistic. You feel as though you are actually on the course. The simulators are also adaptable to other games such as zombie dodgeball, football (passing) and baseball. We will have tables and a large bar in addition to the simulation bays. This new “eatertainment” concept will be new to Green Bay and should be very popular.

Wayne from Dodgeville, WI

This is ridiculous… we get a new GM, new coach, sign big money to free agents, then much like every year for the last five years, you draft players who you could have gotten a round later? I don’t understand…Gary at 12? Metcalf at 21…and you traded up to get him? Then with a stud tight end and couple of really good receivers available, you pick a guard in the second round that would have still been there in the fourth round. Can’t wait to see the rest of our picks (insert eye roll here)!!! Come on… get your s--- together.

Whoa, Wayne, let’s have some patience. You obviously sent this email during the second night of the draft. I know that the media likes to assign immediate grades of each team’s draft (and each pick), but it really takes two to three years to truly evaluate a draft. I was in the draft room for the entire draft and was very encouraged – all of our scouts and coaches were genuinely excited with our overall draft. Also, it was clear to me that the communication between our personnel and coaching staffs was very good. Now, this doesn’t mean that we got every pick right, but the process was positive. Thanks, though, for sharing your opinion. Oh, and by the way, we drafted safety Darnell Savage from Maryland with the 21st pick of the first round.

Andy from Springfield, IL

Hi Mark, what’s more stressful? The draft or the days leading up to a Packers game?

 Great question, Andy. The draft and a Packers game are both exciting events, and with excitement comes stress. Since there are 16 games (20 with preseason and more with postseason included [which are by far more stressful!]) and only one draft, I would say there is more stress with the draft, especially for our employees directly involved with the draft. That said, though, I think Brian Gutekunst (and Ted before him) handles the pressure well. It’s like anything else in life, the best way to handle pressure is to do the necessary work ahead of time to ensure that you are well prepared for the event, whether it be the draft, a test or a game.

Dan from Chicago

Mr. Murphy, I’m a diehard Packer fan and football enthusiast. I recently received my MBA and have spent my early career in analysis and analytics. With the advent of technology and advanced metrics when performing player evaluations, either from the collegiate draft, free agency or training camp, how closely do you pay attention to advanced analytics and metrics of player performance and future output versus using your pure gut and instincts? All the best. Go Pack.

Being in the analytics field, Dan, you realize how much business-related analytics has grown in recent years. I think sports has been a little slower to utilize analytics for decision making (although baseball was an early mover in this area). We have recently added a number of analytics-related positions (on both the football and business sides). We pay very close attention to analytics, as well as any other information that we can gather on potential draft picks. At the end of the day, though, I would say that Brian uses this data to inform his decisions, but ultimately relies on his instincts.

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