The Green Bay Packers have been one of the more successful teams in the NFL over the last dozen years, but each year leaves more and more to be desired. Ted Thompson, the team’s general manager, may be beginning to lose his patience.
One Super Bowl championship, nine playoff berths and six division crowns are only some of the accomplishments on Ted Thompson’s thick career resume. Since being hired in 2005, Thompson has enjoyed one of the most successful runs any general manager has had in the team’s history.
Despite drafting Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, Greg Jennings, David Bakhtiari, Jermichael Finley, Nick Collins, Morgan Burnett, Jordy Nelson, Mike Daniels, and so many others, Thompson has been the subject of harsh criticism in recent years. The quiet figure is infamous for being extremely frugal when it comes to the free agent and trade market, and has relied nearly 100 percent on the draft to plug holes on his team.
But since winning it all in 2011, the Packers have yet to get back to the Super Bowl. A stunning loss at home to the Giants after a magical 15-1 season, two humiliating defeats at the hands of Colin Kaepernick in back-to-back years, a heart-stopping collapse against the Seahawks, an instant classic defeat to the Cardinals, and then a blowout loss in the title game to the Falcons have all followed the Packers’ memorable Super Bowl run.
Since 2011, the Packers have had a perennially poor defense. Clay Matthews has slowly regressed into less and less of a star, while a constantly shifting supporting cast around him has met mixed results. In order to finally get back to the big game, the Packers simply have to be less of a one man show and provide their star at quarterback more help to overcome the elites of the NFC.
This offseason has been telling for the Packers. The team has been uncharacteristically aggressive when it comes to bringing in players from other teams. A total of six free agents have been brought in to solidify various positions on the team, a reality no one thought was possible under Ted Thompson.
New tight ends Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks will make a difference. The signing of bennett was anticipated, as the team had just seen Jared Cook bolt out the door, and had expressed interest in Bennett via trade in the past. Kendricks was where the real surprise was. The former Ram possesses tremendous athleticism and gives the Packers the option to use more two tight end formations.
The Davon House addition was a bit underwhelming for those who were hoping for the team to make a splashier move at cornerback. Breaking the bank for A.J. Buoye or trading up for Marshon Lattimore were among the more desired moves from Packer fans, but House provides a solid veteran presence, especially when combining him with Kevin King on draft night.
After adding King, the Packers are suddenly deep at cornerback. King, House, Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins and LaDarius Gunter form a great starting point for a team looking to take a massive step forward defending the pass in 2017.
After saying goodbye to T.J. Lang and J.C. Tretter in free agency, it again appeared the Packers would pass on a free agent, and rather than narrowing the list of needs before the draft, wait to address the position in the draft.
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But less than 48 hours before they were on the clock, Jahri Evans was inked to a contract in Green Bay. Crossing offensive guard off the list of needs for the team, Ted Thompson was free to address his porous secondary right away in the first two rounds of the draft.
Thompson kept on going. The run defense has never been too strong in Green Bay. Ricky Jean Francois has enjoyed a solid career to this point with the 49ers and Redskins, specifically improving both team’s run defense while there. In between Mike Daniels and Dean Lowry, Jean Francois has a fairly easy job for himself. Stop the run up the middle, and spell Daniels and Kenny Clark in the pass rush.
Shortly before the final roster cuts, a mess at outside linebacker had developed. While Matthews and Nick Perry are two of the better pass rushers in the NFL, there was little to no depth behind two very injury prone starters. Jayrone Elliott and Kyler Fackrell were just not cutting it at edge rusher, and rookie Vince Biegel missed the entire preseason with a foot injury.
In past years, Thompson would have hoped for Fackrell and Elliott to develop into solid rotation players and waited for Biegel to return. Not this year. Rather than gambling that his two starters wouldn’t hurt themselves, Thompson scooped up veteran pass rusher Ahmad Brooks to a one-year contract. The 33-year-old is well past his prime, but in a backup role should be a valuable commodity to the team’s pass rush.
All in all, the patience seems to be waning in Green Bay. It has been too long since the Packers reached the Super Bowl. Aaron Rodgers is now 33, and remarked over the radio waves that he is on the “back nine” of his career. The once wide open championship window for the Packers is beginning to shrink, and the opportunity for a dynasty at Lambeau Field is gone.
A deep draft class combined with six free agent signings in going to make things easier on Rodgers and Mike McCarthy. But until the team can get over their playoff woes, it will all only be in writing.
The Packers’ Super Bowl window is beginning to close, and the man at the helm in Green Bay recognizes it.