On a day whose frigid January weather reminded him of the first time he arrived to take a new job in northeast Wisconsin, Ted Thompson was officially introduced as the new general manager of the Green Bay Packers.
Thompson returns to the team where he got his start in the front office side of the NFL. After a 10-year career as a linebacker with the Houston Oilers from 1975-84, Thompson broke into the talent evaluating side of the business when former Packers' general manager Ron Wolf hired him as the assistant director of pro personnel in 1992.
Following an eight-year run with the Packers, the Texas native spent the past five seasons in the Pacific Northwest as vice president of football operations for the Seattle Seahawks.
For Thompson, Saturday marked the beginning of a thrilling, albeit unexpected opportunity to follow in the steps of his mentor Wolf.
"When I left here, I didn't leave thinking that I'd be back, but this is really a wonderful surprise," said Thompson. "Two days ago, I was scouting for the Seattle Seahawks at the East-West Game in San Francisco, and then lo and behold, two days later I'm standing up here.
"It's almost a dream come true-type job. You think about when you're a young kid some of the things you'd like to do when you grow up and you think maybe manager of the New York Yankees or maybe the general manager of the Green Bay Packers. So it's a thrill, it's an honor, and I can't tell you how happy I am to be here and look forward to diving right in and seeing how we can do this thing."
Recalling one of his earliest experiences from the first few days of his first go-round with the Packers, Thompson told the story of his part in helping Wolf make the decision to bring Brett Favre to Green Bay.
"He came to me with three game tapes of the preseason of the Atlanta Falcons, and he said, 'I want you to look at this quarterback. His jersey number's 4. He'll probably just in the second half. And tell me what you think.'
"So I'm flipping through, and I had not been involved in football for several years, so I knew his name was Brett Favre, but I didn't really understand that he had been the first or second player taken in the second round, which is a valuable draft pick. I'm just looking at him and Brett is Brett, but even more Brett. He's running all over and making great throws, and then the ball gets batted and he catches it and is running around.
"So I go back and he says, 'What do you think?' And I said, 'He looks like a guy that's a little bit raw but has a tremendous arm and great athleticism and a passion and all that.' He goes, 'Well, I'm going to give up a first-round pick for him. Do you think that's a good idea?' And I said, 'Well do you think it's a pretty good idea?' And he goes, 'Yeah, I do.' And then I said, 'Then I do too.'"
As far as the expectations that Packer backers will undoubtedly have for Thompson to produce similar results to his mentor right off the bat, the soon-to-be 52-year old (Thompson will celebrate his birthday Monday) doesn't feel the pressure to be the "savior" for the franchise that Wolf has often portrayed as.
"I would think people would want to give me a little slack on that one," Thompson said about the comparisons. "Ron did a tremendous amount for this organization, and again his record and accomplishments here were something that I think any person in my position would like to try and come close to following.
"So we'll see how that goes, but we have good people here now and I'm going to listen to them and we're going to try to make some good decisions going forward. And again like I said, if you learn from your mentors, what I've learned in the National Football League is that you try to get a little bit better every day."
For his initial plans, Thompson said that he expects to spend much of the next few weeks immersed in learning everything there is to know about each and every member of the Green Bay roster. He said that he will enlist the assistance of nearly everyone at 1265 Lombardi Avenue - from the personnel department, to the coaching staff, to the medical staff - to get a firm a grip as he possibly can on the composition of the team heading into the offseason planning stages.
As far as his relationship with Mike Sherman, Thompson expects to work closely with the head coach to move the Packers forward and build on the success of the recent past.
He agreed with the assessment that team President and CEO Bob Harlan made Friday that the two-man structure of the general manager/head coaching positions will benefit the organization, as it has in the past.
"As Bob Harlan mentioned yesterday, this whole thing, this whole movement here is about structure," said Thompson. It's not about individuals. It's not about Ted Thompson, it's not about Mike Sherman - it's not about even Bob Harlan. It's about what's best for the Packers, both now and going forward. It's about structure, and it's a structure that I think Bob and the Packers were best comfortable with in terms of the way he had it set up previously with Ron Wolf and Mike Holmgren, and Ron Wolf and Mike Sherman."
Thompson went on to quickly put an end to any outside speculation that there would be difficulty working with Sherman, and that he definitely expects the coach to be patrolling the Lambeau Field sidelines in search of a fourth consecutive NFC North Division title in 2005.
"Mike Sherman's record here speaks for itself," he said. "He's done an outstanding job. Bob has spoken with him about the structure the Packer organization prefers going forward. Mike and I obviously are going to talk about some of those things.
"I anticipate Mike Sherman being our coach and us going forward and doing some really positive things for the Packers and the Packer fans."
With the passion for the job that he showed during his first public meeting with the Green Bay media and his reputation from all accounts of being one of the hardest-working and most dedicated men in the business, there is be little doubt that Thompson is already well on his way pushing the Packers forward.