Ted Thompson

Packers Notes: GM Search, Ball, Wolf, Evans

Now that the Packers have reassigned former general manager Ted Thompson (he’s now a senior advisor to football operations, the club announced today), Green Bay is searching for a new decision-maker atop its personnel department. Incumbent vice president of football administration Russ Ball is thought to be a candidate for the position and has a “close relationship” with Packers president Mark Murphy, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, but promoting Ball could cause other problems for Green Bay. If Ball (or an external candidate is hired), the Packers will likely lose fellow personnel men Eliot Wolf and Brian Gutekunst to other clubs, reports Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. However, if one of Wolf or Gutenkunst is promoted to GM, the other man will likely stay in Green Bay, per Silverstein.

Here’s more on the Packers:

  • While the Packers will utilize search firm Korn Ferry as they look for a new general manager, Murphy told reporters that he will make the final call on the club’s top personnel job (Twitter links via Jason Wilde of ESPN.com). Additionally, Green Bay’s next GM will have the power to fire the team’s head coach, an interesting development given that Mike McCarthy is currently signed through 2019. Murphy said “[McCarthy] will be our coach,” an indication that the new Packers general manager will be stuck with McCarthy for at least one campaign.
  • Green Bay’s decision to extend McCarthy’s contract will allow the longtime head coach more flexibility as he seeks to fill out his staff, writes Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. The most pressing decision for McCarthy will be to hire a new defensive coordinator following Dom Capers‘ firing, but the Packers will also see change on the offensive side of the ball. Luke Getsy, who’s served as Green Bay’s wide receivers coach for the past two seasons, is now Mississippi State’s offensive coordinator, per Demovsky.
  • The Packers have interest in re-signing veteran guard Jahri Evans, who will become a free agent in March, per Ryan Wood of PackersNews.com (Twitter link). Evans would likely need to accept less than the $2.25MM he earned in 2017, per Wood, and the 34-year-old offensive lineman would almost certainly ink a one-year pact. In his first season outside of New Orleans, Evans ranked as the No. 30 guard among 82 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus.

Ted Thompson Out As Packers GM

The Packers are now searching for a new general manager after Ted Thompson is expected to take a new role in the organization, sources tell NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (Twitter link). Ted Thompson

ESPN’s Chris Mortensen confirmed Thompson will assume a new role within the team and the front office will undergo an overhaul, led by team president Mark Murphy (Twitter link).

Thompson has operated as the team’s general manager since 2005 and has been with the team through two stints since 1992. In his first NFL Draft, Thompson selected Aaron Rodgers with the 24th overall pick. Green Bay has been among the best teams in the draft since Thompson’s arrival, plucking stars like Clay Matthews and Jordy Nelson.

Under Thompson’s watch, the team advanced to the playoffs nine times and won the Super Bowl in 2010. The Packers missed the postseason for the first time since 2008 when it finished 7-9 in 2017.

There are several internal candidates to keep an eye on to take over as general manager, including director of college scouting Brian Gutekunst, director of football operations Eliot Wolf and vice president of football administration/player finance Russ Ball, Rapoport reports (Twitter link). Mortensen reported all three are expected to receive new duties with the change. (Twitter link). The team is expected hire a true general manager and will not operate with all three in the position, ESPN’s Jason Wilde reports (Twitter link).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Packers GM Ted Thompson

Given that he’s 64 years old and only under contract for two more seasons, Ted Thompson‘s shelf life as the Packers’ general manager has been a popular topic over the past several months. Packers president Mark Murphy addressed Thompson’s future Wednesday, suggesting to reporters (including Jason Wilde of the Wisconsin State Journal) that he doesn’t want the longtime GM to leave his post anytime soon.

Ted Thompson

“Ted and I, we have a great relationship,” said Murphy. “As long as he wants to continue to work, and he’s still doing a good job — and I think he still does a great job for us — we want him to continue to be our general manager. At a point he decides he doesn’t want to do it anymore for whatever reason, then we would do a search.”

Thompson has arguably earned the right to stay on until he sees fit, having served atop an organization that has generated outstanding on-field results since his hiring in 2005. Across 12 seasons, the Thompson-led Packers have made nine playoff trips, including eight in a row, earned six NFC North titles and won a Super Bowl. At the helm of that championship-winning team in 2010 was quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who was Thompson’s initial draft pick as Green Bay’s GM. Rodgers, who unexpectedly plummeted to the Packers at No. 24 in the first round of the 2005 draft, has evolved into one of the greatest signal-callers in NFL history since he succeeded Hall of Famer Brett Favre in 2008.

While Thompson has brought Rodgers and a score of other quality contributors to Wisconsin during his tenure, the executive’s conservative approach to free agency has come under fire. Thompson has typically avoided making big splashes in free agency, thus making it easier to secure compensatory draft picks, but his decision to let guard T.J. Lang leave for NFC North rival Detroit over the winter reportedly left Packers coaches and players “incensed.” However, as evidenced by his satisfaction with Thompson’s work, Murphy wasn’t among the angered faction.

If Thompson does remain in charge of the Packers’ football department for the foreseeable future, it’ll be interesting to see if they’re able to keep his top underlings from taking higher-profile jobs elsewhere. Both director of football operations Eliot Wolf and director of player personnel Brian Gutekunst drew interest earlier this offseason from GM-needy teams, and vice president of football administration Russ Ball is also highly regarded. Wolf, Gutenkust or Ball could conceivably end up as Green Bay’s next GM, though Murphy hasn’t promised any of the three Thompson’s job when he departs. Another potential candidate for the Packers, ex-Chiefs GM John Dorsey, worked in Green Bay for nearly all of his career prior to taking over in Kansas City in 2013. Dorsey shockingly lost his job in late June, which could set up a return to the Pack’s front office, though that’s reportedly unlikely.

Asked Wednesday whether the Packers are interested in bringing back Dorsey, Murphy said, “I can’t answer that.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ted Thompson’s Frugal Approach Hurting Packers?

Packers GM Ted Thompson operates about as conservatively as any general manager in the league, and it is difficult to argue with the results, as Green Bay has qualified for the playoffs eight years in a row and captured a Super Bowl title in the 2010 season. But Thompson has recently come under fire for his recent poor draft record, and his decision to let T.J. Lang walk in free agency this offseason may have widened the chasm between the front office and the players/coaching staff.

Ted Thompson

As Bob McGinn of the Journal Sentinel writes, Packers’ coaches and players were “incensed” by Lang’s departure, and their anger might not stem solely from the fact that they lost a valuable member of the club. McGinn writes that Green Bay’s front office has a growing reputation in the league for being cheap, which has hurt the Packers’ image within the locker room and in the court of public opinion.

The Packers consistently roll over a significant amount of cap room from one year to the next, and today they sit over $22MM under the cap, which will in all likelihood allow them to carry over a great deal of money to the 2018 cap as well. As McGinn observes, Thompson is overly concerned that the NFL’s revenue-sharing system regarding network television and other endeavors might one day end, perhaps in the not-too-distant future. As such, Thompson believes that by saving money “for a rainy day,” he is protecting the franchise from a potential financial nightmare.

But even if last year’s ratings decline were a harbinger of things to come, and even if the league is forced to make dramatic changes in the way it does business, an immensely popular club like the Packers would have time to adjust and to preserve its financial well-being. So when Thompson fails to re-sign players like Lang — which, in a vacuum, is certainly a defensible decision — or when he fails to dip his toes into the deep end of the free agent pool from time to time, he opens himself up to criticism. Last year’s Josh Sitton debacle, when combined with Lang’s departure, has put Green Bay’s offensive line in a very precarious position, and now the Packers may be forced to draft a guard from a draft class without many top-tier O-line prospects when they could have been focusing almost exclusively on defense.

There have been recent reports suggesting that Thompson could step aside into a senior scouting position, but he does have two years left on his contract and vice president Russ Ball appears to share Thompson’s conservative thinking. It is therefore difficult to see Thompson leaving his present role until he is ready, but it is likewise easy to see how the team’s players and coaching staff could be increasingly frustrated with their front office.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Lions, Packers, Draft, Bucs

UCLA pass rusher Takkarist McKinley visited the Lions this week, reports Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). As a result of the shoulder surgery he underwent in March, McKinley could be on the shelf until at least July. Nevertheless, he still has a realistic chance to end up a first-round pick after breaking out last season with 10 sacks. The Lions finished with a paltry 26 – the fewest in the NFC and the second-worst mark in the NFL.

  • After several years of superb drafting, Packers general manager Ted Thompson has slumped recently, writes Ryan Wood of USA Today. For instance, of the 21 players Thompson selected from 2011-13, only five are still Green Bay’s roster. Moreover, Thompson has found just three Pro Bowlers over the past seven years – a far cry from the seven he discovered during his first half-decade on the job.
  • UConn safety Obi Melifonwu, Florida linebacker Jarrad Davis, Iowa quarterback CJ Beathard and Ashland tight end Adam Sheehan are four draft prospects who could hear their names called quicker than expected, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Melifonwu and Davis are already potential first-rounders, so it’ll be particularly interesting to see how high they go.
  • Buccaneers receiver Josh Huff‘s arrest last November on an unlawful possession of a weapon charge won’t lead to jail time, per Jenna Laine of ESPN.com. Huff, who accepted a conditional plea, will instead get six months’ probation. The Eagles released Huff after his arrest, which occurred in New Jersey, and he quickly signed with the Bucs. Huff ended up appearing in three of their games and catching three passes for 41 yards.

Packers Notes: Thompson, Montgomery, Lacy

The idea of Packers general manager Ted Thompson taking a lesser role has come up, but it doesn’t appear it’s going to happen this offseason. Thompson is “not going anywhere,” head coach Mike McCarthy told reporters, including Jason Wilde of ESPN Wisconsin, on Thursday (Twitter link). The 64-year-old Thompson, who McCarthy acknowledged is “not the youngest cat anymore,” has been the GM in Green Bay since 2005. The team has made nine playoff trips, including eight in a row, and won a Super Bowl during Thompson’s 12-year run.

More from Green Bay, whose season ended with a 44-21 NFC title game loss in Atlanta last Sunday:

  • Tom Clements, who had been a member of the Packers’ coaching staff since 2006, was on an expiring contract this season and “is going to move on to some other interests,” according to McCarthy (via Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com). “That will be the one change to our staff,” commented McCarthy. Clements last worked as an associate head coach and had previously been Green Bay’s offensive coordinator, but McCarthy took play-calling duties from him in December 2015.
  • After a stunningly effective 2016 as a running back, Ty Montgomery will remain at the position going forward, McCarthy revealed (Twitter link via Wilde). “He’s a running back. He wants to change his number, and that’s the way we’re going,” McCarthy said of Montgomery, a former wide receiver who currently wears No. 88. Montgomery broke out in earnest as a rusher with a nine-carry, 60-yard showing against the Bears in Week 6, and the 24-year-old ultimately totaled 457 yards and three touchdowns on 77 attempts (a healthy 5.9 YPC).
  • Eddie Lacy‘s injury issues were a key reason why the Pack turned to Montgomery out of the backfield in the first place. Lacy, who only played in five games this season before ankle surgery forced him to injured reserve in late October, is scheduled to become a free agent in March. That means the four-year veteran could be done in Green Bay, but McCarthy hopes not. “I’d love to see him back,” said McCarthy, who added that the team won’t decide whether to re-sign Lacy until he “clears the medical threshold” (via Demovsky).

John Dorsey Could Succeed Ted Thompson As Packers GM

We heard earlier today that the Chiefs are expected to pursue an extension for head coach Andy Reid, who is under contract through 2017, at the end of the season. But general manager John Dorsey, who, like Reid, came to Kansas City in 2013, is already in the final year of his deal, and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports that Dorsey could take over the Packers’ GM job next season.

Sep 17, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs general manager John Dorsey walks on the field before the game against the Denver Broncos at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Ted Thompson, the Packers’ current GM, has two years remaining on his contract, but the 63-year-old could step aside to a senior scouting role, which Rapoport reported last week. If that happens, the door could be open for Dorsey to return to Green Bay, where he first found front office success.

Dorsey helped to build the Packers into a consistent contender, first as a college scout from 1991-97 and then as director of college scouting in 1998. After a one-year stint as the Seahawks’ director of player personnel in 1999, Dorsey returned to the Packers, where he served as the team’s director of college scouting from 2000-11 and as the director of football operations in 2012.

Per Rapoport, Dorsey’s success in his various roles with Green Bay made him incredibly well-regarded by the club’s executive committee, including president and CEO Mark Murphy. In addition to Dorsey, Thompson’s list of potential successors includes current director of football operations Eliot Wolf–who was long considered to be the heir apparent to Thompson but who interviewed for the 49ers’ GM job last week–vice president of football administration Russ Ball, director of player personnel Brian Gutekunst and senior personnel executive Alonzo Highsmith.

It is interesting to note that, whether the Chiefs blocked current director of player personnel Chris Ballard from interviewing for the 49ers’ job or whether he turned down San Francisco’s overtures on his own–there are conflicting reports on that front–the fact remains that Ballard will remain in Kansas City. It could be, as Rapoport suggests (via Twitter), that Ballard plans to be elevated to the Chiefs’ GM job sooner rather than later.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Coaching/GM Notes, Pt. 2: Arians, Gase, Wolf

Here is Part 2 of our coaching/GM rumors post. Part 1 can be found here.

  • Despite his health concerns, Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians expects to return in 2017, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter (via Twitter). Schefter tweets that one of Arians’ top assistants, offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin, is expected to interview for a head coaching job with the Rams, Jaguars, and Bills.
  • As the 49ers get prepared to search for a new head coach and GM, a ghost from the past has reared its ugly head. According to Jay Glazer of FOX Sports (via Twitter), San Francisco was prepared to hire current Dolphins head coach Adam Gase two years ago. The team informed Gase that he was the choice, but GM Trent Baalke intervened at the last moment and convinced ownership not to hire Gase. The 49ers chose Jim Tomsula instead, and it has been all downhill from there.
  • The Packers are not expected to make major coaching changes–although offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett could get head coaching interviews–but GM Ted Thompson could step aside and become a senior scouting adviser, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. One reason, according to Rapoport, is that Director of Football Operations Eliot Wolf is a highly-coveted football mind, and if he’s not promoted soon, Green Bay could lose him.
  • The Bengals are not expected to fire Marvin Lewis, who is signed through 2017, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. However, Lewis is not expected to get another one-year extension this offseason, which means that another disappointing campaign in 2017 could spell the end of his tenure as Cincinnati’s head coach.
  • Jets head coach Todd Bowles will likely be back for a third season, but offensive coordinator Chan Gailey is expected to be fired, according to Brian Costello of the New York Post.
  • The Ravens are expected to part ways with OC Marty Mornhinweg, and assuming they do, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets that Greg Roman is someone to “keep an eye on.”
  • Browns coaches have “deep concerns” with the direction of the team’s personnel department and are expected to push owner Jimmy Haslam for changes in that regard, according to La Canfora. While head coach Hue Jackson is not planning to request the removal of top football man Sashi Brown, the coaching staff would like a proven, old-school talent evaluator involved in player selection to provide something of a checks-and-balance system to Brown’s analytics-based approach.
  • La Canfora suggests that, if the Lions miss the playoffs this season, GM Bob Quinn could at least think about a coaching change, and his Patriots ties could lead him to consider Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia, with whom he established strong relationships during his time in New England. While I personally could imagine Quinn’s being interested in McDaniels, I cannot see Patricia as a legitimate head coaching candidate at this point.

Extra Points: Packers, Bills, Van Noy, Lions

Unless Packers president Mark Murphy is willing to risk losing well-regarded director of player personnel Eliot Wolf, he’ll probably have to turn the football operations over to the 34-year-old in the offseason and relegate general manager Ted Thompson to an advisory role, writes Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The Packers have been highly successful since hiring Thompson in 2005, having gone 112-73-1 with eight playoff appearances, but they’re currently 4-6 and Silverstein argues that Thompson’s free agency-avoiding approach has grown stale. Thompson, who has two years left on his contract, is also three decades older than the up-and-coming Wolf. Thus, if the Packers are sold on Wolf, promoting him soon would make sense.

More from around the NFL, which is capping off a quality slate of Thanksgiving games:

  • Bills No. 1 receiver Sammy Watkins hasn’t seen the field since Week 2 on account of a foot injury, but it appears he’ll return Sunday against Jacksonville. “As long as there’s not another setback or anything like that, I feel pretty good about him playing,” head coach Rex Ryan said Thursday (via Mike Rodak of ESPN.com). Watkins, whom the Bills designated to return from injured reserve Wednesday, will only be available on a limited basis if he does play Sunday. Nevertheless, his presence will be a welcome one for a wideout-needy Buffalo team that likely won’t have Robert Woods in its lineup because of a knee ailment.
  • On the heels of a 25-sack college career at BYU, the Lions selected linebacker Kyle Van Noy in the second round of the 2014 draft. Van Noy amassed just one sack in 30 games with the Lions, though, and they traded him to the Patriots last month for a late-round pick. In his Pats debut last week, Van Noy picked up 29 snaps and a sack in a win over the 49ers, and he admitted Thursday that his Detroit tenure was frustrating because the club seldom used him as a pass rusher. “Oh yeah, who wouldn’t be when you did that your whole college career and then all of a sudden you’re not allowed to, or they don’t want you to,” he told Ryan Hannable of WEEI.
  • There were conflicting reports on Thursday afternoon regarding the Redskins’ willingness to place the franchise tag on quarterback Kirk Cousins again in the offseason. That was before Cousins completed 41 of 53 passes for 453 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-26 loss to Dallas. Cousins is amid a late-season tear for the second straight year.
  • Speaking of the Cowboys, who are an NFL-best 10-1, second-round linebacker Jaylon Smith won’t make his debut this season.

NFC North Notes: Diggs, Packers, Rudock

The Vikings are unlikely to have their top wide receiver, Stefon Diggs, for their Thanksgiving showdown with the NFC North rival Lions, reports Adam Schefter of ESPN (Twitter link). Diggs, who’s dealing with a knee injury and hasn’t practiced this week, easily paces the Vikings in receptions (67), targets (87) and yards (747). Minnesota defeated the Texans in its only game without Diggs this season, but the Vikings have lost four of five since and now have the same record (6-4) as first-place Detroit.

More from the division:

  • At 4-6, the Packers have been among the NFL’s most disappointing teams this year, but club president Mark Murphy gave votes of confidence to general manager Ted Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy in an interview with WTMJ Radio (via Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com). “I do hear from a lot of fans. And I tell fans: Like them, I’m disappointed,” Murphy said. “Certainly, the season hasn’t gone the way we had all hoped, but there’s a lot of football left to be played. And the other thing I tell people is, you’ve got to look at Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy’s track record.” Green Bay is currently in danger of missing the playoffs for just the third time since 2006, the year Thompson hired McCarthy. CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora reported Sunday that both Thompson and defensive coordinator Dom Capers could be in trouble at year’s end. The Packers then lost in resounding fashion, 42-24, in Washington.
  • Before the Lions elevated quarterback Jake Rudock to their active roster Wednesday, the division-rival Bears tried to sign the sixth-round rookie away, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press tweets. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter) adds that Chicago wasn’t the only team looking to pluck him.
  • Green Bay won’t get injured running back Eddie Lacy or concussed cornerback Sam Shields back this season, which will surely make its uphill climb all the more difficult. Jay Cutler, on the other hand, might return this year for Chicago.

Zach Links contributed to this post.