Wolf gives Thompson pat on back
During his tenure, Wolf drafted, traded for, signed and picked up off waivers the likes of Brett Favre, Reggie White, Antonio Freeman, Robert Brooks, Keith Jackson, Mark Chmura, Adam Timmerman, Matt Hasselbeck, Mark Brunell, Santana Dotson, Dorsey Levens and Gilbert Brown.
And that’s not close to being the entire list.
Looking back on those years, Wolf said the general rule was that at least a third of your team had to be impact players to reach the Super Bowl.
“In the system we used, we felt that we had to have 18 to 20 of those players to win a Super Bowl,” he said in a phone interview Thursday from his vacation home in Florida. “You should be able to go to the Super Bowl with that team.”
Wolf used a color system to identify talent and was most concerned with acquiring what he labeled “blue,” “red” and “gold-plus” players. Blues are Hall of Fame-type players, reds are perennial Pro Bowl players and gold-pluses are starters with Pro Bowl potential.
Watching a 2010 Packers team that his one-time pupil, current general manager Ted Thompson, built, Wolf sees the talent worthy of being in Super Bowl XLV. Though he no longer studies league-wide personnel closely, he still knows talent and was willing to concede the Packers have a lot of reds and gold-pluses with a possible blue or two.
“When you look at what you have to do to be successful, just look at what Ted did when he came in there,” Wolf said. “He built that team up.”
Wolf, whose son, Eliot, works in the scouting department, said he’s most impressed with what Thompson did when he first got to Green Bay in the winter of 2005. His very first draft pick was quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and within a year or so he had made two moves that would form the core of the current Super Bowl team.
“Adding Charles Woodson and Ryan Pickett (in free agency) improved his defense at least three-fold,” Wolf said. “I don’t think Pickett gets near the due he deserves for the overall impact he has had on that team.
“And Woodson is a Hall of Fame player, an incredible player. People say he’s slipping, but there are 31 other teams out there who would like the guy. The fact he’s sitting out there and you’re able to get him, that’s how you start a team.”
If you look at it, it’s not that different from how Wolf built the Super Bowl XXXI champion Packers. First, he traded for Favre, he added a Hall of Famer in White and then he started building around them.
Thompson has built this team in the same way Wolf did.
In the most current edition of Pro Football Weekly, a panel of coaches and personnel evaluators helped create a list of the top 50 players of 2010. Of those players, five are Packers, including No. 2, Rodgers, and No. 6, linebacker Clay Matthews.
The others were receiver Greg Jennings (35th), cornerback Tramon Williams (38th) and Woodson (39th).
By comparison, the Steelers had three players in the top 50: safety Troy Polamalu (seventh), linebacker James Harrison (eighth) and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (18th).
The Packers tied the Baltimore Ravens with the most players in the top 50 with five, and no other team had four. Those that had three were the Steelers, Indianapolis, Chicago, Atlanta and Kansas City.
In Wolf’s mind, the talent goes deeper than the five listed in the top 50, but he wasn’t ready to start handing out blue chips to everyone on the roster. He said Rodgers and Matthews have a chance to get there, but longevity and consistency will determine their place in history.
“He (Rodgers) is as good as there is right now,” Wolf said. “He’s a cinch red moving toward blue. But longevity is a factor. He’s kind of like Matthews. He’s a solid red, a cinch Pro Bowl player. They’re both reds ascending to the next level.”
Wolf pointed to former receiver Sterling Sharpe as a player worthy of being called a blue but not in the Hall of Fame discussion because his career ended prematurely. That’s exactly the reason Rodgers and Matthews aren’t blues right now, even though to this day Sharpe is the best receiver Wolf said he’s ever had.
He wasn’t shy about saying that Jennings could be step by step with Rodgers and Matthews if he continues to raise his level of play.
“I think he’s an exceptional talent,” Wolf said. “If he takes advantage of his ability, he has a chance to be better than them all. He just looks like he’s gliding. He gets on top of those guys (defenders) right away and they don’t know what to do with him.”
Wolf, who said he plans to attend the Super Bowl in Arlington, Texas, identified others like guard Josh Sitton, cornerback Sam Shields, end Cullen Jenkins and nose tackle B.J. Raji as players who have pushed the talent level over the top. He compared them to players like Timmerman, Dotson and linebacker Brian Williams, who were solid starters and core players for the Super Bowl XXXI team.
And, he said, the most promising player of the entire bunch might be a guy who won’t even be on the field in this Super Bowl, tight end Jermichael Finley.
“What a loss that was,” he said. “That guy is capable of doing things at that position that very few people have done. He’s easily a red. No question.”