CLEMENS: On Thompson, Capers

Celebrate Ted's accomplishments, not his exit

Mike Clemens
January 02, 2018 - 10:38 am

© Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

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Green Bay, WI - A lot of NFL experience left Lambeau Field on Black Monday. 

Packers GM Ted Thompson, who turns 65 in three weeks, and defensive coordinator Dom Capers, 67, were both relieved of their duties after the team finished 7 - 9 and out of the playoffs for 2017.

Thompson, who has one year left on his contract, will assume an advisory role. A new GM will be in place to make the final decisions on free agency and the NFL Draft this spring. 

Thompson is one of the very best evaluators of talent in the National Football League. He finds receivers who can catch the ball. He finds intelligent athletes who in most cases are selfless team players dedicated to improving themselves if given the chance to grow within the organization. He made the best pick in the draft in nearly two decades (the other would be the Patriots picking Tom Brady in the 6th round in 2000) when he used his first round pick to select Aaron Rodgers in the first round while he still had 35 - year -old Brett Favre. Two dozen other teams, including the Bears, Vikings, and Lions, foolishly passed on Rodgers. They “were good” at quarterback. 

Thompson interviewed eight candidates for head coach, including long-time family friend Wade Phillips, Brad Childress, and Sean Payton. He went with a relatively unknown offensive coordinator Mike McCarthy, even though the Pittsburgh native had been a quarterback coach with the Packers in 1999. 

In free agency Thompson hit on players that may have been regarded as washed up, including Charles Woodson, and Julius Peppers. He probably released both of them too soon. 

In 2017 Thompson left the team too young, too inexperienced, after injuries piled up during the course of the 17 week season, especially on defense. It cost defensive coordinator Dom Capers, defensive line coach Mike Trgovac and inside linebackers coach Scott McCurley their jobs. Capers runs a complex defense better suited for veterans. Rarely did it seem to be in sync in 2017, when pass rushers got to the quarterback, or corners kept with their assigned receivers. Perhaps veteran tight end Greg Olsen running wide open for a touchdown in a critical game in Carolina, not covered by a rookie safety Josh Jones, is a prime example, and was the last straw for Packers CEO Mark Murphy and head coach Mike McCarthy to make changes. 

Thompson made an excellent decision to sign free agent tight end Jared Cook from the Rams in 2016, then second guessed his own move by replacing him with Martellus Bennett. Cook finished the season for the Oakland Raiders with 54 catches for 688 yards, and 2 TD's. Bennett finished the season on IR, returning to New England for two games with the Patriots, after accusing the Packers of forcing him to play with an injury. Bennett essentially quit Green Bay following Aaron Rodgers' broken collar bone, and forcing Thompson to file action to retrieve $4 million in salary. 

Packers fans should celebrate the diligence and hard work Thompson put into the job as team GM. He never quit scouting for 11 years. He personally made weekly calls with early morning arrivals at university football programs around the nation, interviewing coaches and players.

Health problems prevented him from traveling as much in the past two years. It kept him from doing the job the way he wanted to do it.

By in large I think Ted Thompson truly put the team's good guy image first, bringing in players, coaches, scouts, and staff that represented the franchise with class, pride, honor, intelligence, to sustain the Packers image of excellence in the NFL. He was stringent in his execution of the Ron Wolf school of grading and scouting good players, quality young men, to represent the team. At times he may have passed on the best football players available in preference to the best character football players available. Whatever Thompson learned from Wolf was passed on to assistants who went on to build winning teams in Seattle, Kansas City, Oakland, and now perhaps, Cleveland.

I recently heard more details about the complete breakdown of the Chicago Bears locker room during Marc Trestman's two - year stint as head coach. Players fighting with each other in the locker room, and practice field. Jay Cutler indifferent. Nothing has ever come close to that in 13 years of Thompson and McCarthy that I'm aware of.  It's not tolerated, and generally prevented  by not bringing trouble makers to Green Bay in the first place. 

Yes, Ted Thompson had busts in the draft. He was too conservative in free agency. A few players have been arrested. He should have been more accessible to the media and fans. But eight consecutive years in the playoffs, a Super Bowl win, and overall a team fans can be proud enough to wear the team’s jersey in public - that's cause to celebrate Thompson's tenure, not his exit. 

The word is Thompson will step aside and will likely assume a consulting role to fulfill the final year of his contract. He could help during a transistion. 

A press conference may occur as early as Tuesday, Jan. 2nd.