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In hindsight, Packers' Thompson knows a bit about the future

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Tim Cowlishaw
February 4, 2011
— In the summer of 2008, Ted Thompson was the idiot who gave up too soon on Brett Favre. He was also an NFL general manager, one whose five-year contract extension empowered him to make bold decisions.

But given that Green Bay hadn't been to a Super Bowl in a decade, he was mostly just the idiot who gave up on Favre.


As Super Bowl XLV approaches, Thompson remains the Packers' GM. But he's also the reluctant genius who wisely turned over the reins to Aaron Rodgers three years ago.


Times change, and that's true with Thompson as well although change is really just media perception and not his quiet but tireless approach to his job. Beyond speaking in almost hushed tones at media day, the former SMU and Houston Oilers' linebacker has maintained his customary low profile, undoubtedly more interested in looking at Senior Bowl practice tapes than chatting with the global media.


It doesn't matter. If Rodgers also manages to maintain the level of play he has reached during Green Bay's five-game winning streak, Thompson will be exalted for his brilliance anyway.


While president Mark Murphy and coach Mike McCarthy were involved in the decision to let Favre end up in Jets and Vikings jerseys, it's Thompson who was viewed as the force that drove Favre out.


More than a few media members have suggested that the Packers' presence in the Super Bowl proves the general manager made the right call.


You won't find that kind of non sequitur logic in this space.


Like many others, I thought Thompson behaved more foolishly than courageously in allowing Favre a franchise icon if there ever was one to play elsewhere.


No one can say what Green Bay would or would not have achieved these last three seasons had Favre remained in place.


Would his one terrific season (2009) have led the Packers to a Super Bowl a year ago?


It's all just a guess, and it's all completely irrelevant.


In hindsight there's little to be done other than to applaud Thompson for making a courageous decision. Saying goodbye, especially in such an uncomfortable way, to an athlete who has brought glory to a franchise is the toughest thing any general manager ever has to face.


The Cowboys have been through it with Troy Aikman, with Emmitt Smith and others. The Stars had to make a tough call on Mike Modano this past summer.


It's easy now to get caught up in what Favre has become since that time in 2008, an almost farcical figure by the end.


But that's not what Thompson was dealing with three years ago. Wisely, he focused not on what Favre had meant for 16 years but on what Rodgers was ready to bring to Green Bay.


And who really knew the answer to that key question? Other than an 18-for-26 performance in relief of an injured Favre at Texas Stadium an impressive showing even in defeat for Green Bay Rodgers had thrown all of 33 passes in three NFL seasons.


A player initially regarded on the same plane as No. 1 overall pick Alex Smith in the spring of 2005, Rodgers slipped all the way to the 24th spot in that draft before the Packers risked Favre's wrath by taking him.


We know today that Thompson, who had insisted on extensive scouting on a player Green Bay had little chance to obtain, stole Rodgers and that most of the league missed by whiffing on him.


But no one knew that in 2008.


Thompson passed on talking about the Favre decision this week. "We've moved on from that," he said.


In fact, the Packers have moved right into the favorite's role for Super Bowl XLV.


Rodgers has led them there. Favre is retired (we think) once and for all.


The Packers are about much more than Rodgers, but today when you look at any aspect of this club, there's a player drafted in the late rounds, a player given up on by someone else that Thompson could take credit for if he chose to.


He does not. He is one victory from letting a Super Bowl ring do it for him. For once, a general manager with an eye for the future is thinking only in the moment.


"This is a very difficult business," Thompson said. "Right this second, we're focused on trying to win this Sunday. If I looked past that, I'd be an idiot."


Hey, he's been there before. Or at least that's what some of us thought.



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