Clayton: Remembering the late Ted Thompson and his draft choice of Aaron Rodgers as Packers GM
Watching the NFC Championship Game between the Green Bay Packers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers might be a little tough for me.
This has nothing to do with the game itself. It has to do with this week’s passing of former Packers general manager Ted Thompson.
I got to know him very well when he was in Seattle from 2000 to 2004 as Seahawks vice president of football operations. He was nice enough to take my calls when I needed some information.
One thing to note is as a reporter, you know not to ask a general manager what he’s going to do in free agency or the draft. You know they aren’t going to tip their hand, but sometimes a reporter can stumble upon some information that might be of interest to the general manager. That’s why Sunday might be a little tough for me. It involves Packers QB Aaron Rodgers.
In the evening before the 2005 NFL Draft, I was going through my mock draft. Like most NFL reporters, we make as many calls as necessary to see what a team is going to do. As I studied the draft, it was clear Alex Smith was going to be the first pick in the draft. He went to San Francisco. The NFL was coming of a good quarterback draft in 2004 that featured Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Matt Schaub and others.
As I looked at my projected mock draft, I noticed a potential trend. Teams in the middle of the draft weren’t looking to invest in a first-round quarterback.
Brett Favre was getting older but still had a lot left in his game. I knew at some point, though, the Packers might be looking for his replacement. I looked at the draft and noticed that if Washington didn’t take a quarterback, the other teams were going to pass on Rodgers.
I called Ted and started out by saying, “I know this might sound a little crazy but I have to tell you this.” I told him that if Rodgers got past the No. 9 pick, he would fall to the Packers.
I’m smart enough to realize Ted wasn’t going to tip his hand and indicate he probably knew that, but he was nice enough to say that observation was interesting. He thanked me and went on to his next call. As I understand it, he did have a brief meeting after my phone call. It was probably just a Friday night meeting to conclude their final preparation. Still, the Rodgers thought was brought up.
Sure enough Rodgers got past the ninth pick and the Packers ended up taking him at No. 24. Believe me, I’m not saying the Packers’ selection of Rodgers was because of me. He was too valuable for the Packers not to take him, particularly knowing they would need a Favre replacement. Teams will select quarterbacks for the future when they already have a starter in place from time to time. We just watched the Packers trade up into the first round last year to take Jordan Love while they still have Rodgers, and the Philadelphia Eagles used a second-round choice on Jalen Hurts when they had Carson Wentz as their starting quarterback.
As I watch Rodgers Sunday, I will be thinking of Ted Thompson. He was a good one. The Packers won one Super Bowl for Thompson. On that team, 49 of the 53 players were Thompson choices. As a general manager in Green Bay, he had 19 players make the Pro Bowl. He will be missed.
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