Ted Thompson, whose 13-year run as Green Bay Packers general manager included their 2010 Super Bowl championship season, has died. He was 68.
The Packers announced Thursday that Thompson died the previous night at his home in Atlanta, Texas. The team said it was contacted by a direct family member.
Thompson announced in May 2019 he had been diagnosed with an autonomic nerve disorder.
He was the general manager from 2005-17 and drafted many notable players on the current roster, including two-time MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers. He acquired 49 of the 53 players on the Packers' 2010 championship team.
“He, in my opinion, is the best talent evaluator, especially when it comes to the draft, that I've ever seen or been around," said Brian Gutekunst, who worked alongside Thompson at Green Bay before eventually succeeding him as general manager. ”He had a very unique way of seeing what a player was going to become and the greatest he could become."
Thompson spent more than two decades in the Packers’ front office and was the team’s director of pro personnel when the Packers won the Super Bowl for the 1996 season and captured the NFC title the following year.
“I think the one thing that really stands out to me is just his humility,” Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy said. “It was never about Ted. It was always what’s best for the organization.”
Thompson had a 10-season playing career as a linebacker with the Houston Oilers from 1975-1984. Tennessee Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk said in a statement that Thompson “was a smart and savvy player, who made his mark on special teams and clearly had a great feel for the game."
But he made his biggest impact as an executive. He worked in Green Bay’s front office from 1992-99 and was the Seattle Seahawks’ vice president of football operations from 2000-04.
He returned to Green Bay in 2005. Mike Sherman had been working as Packers coach and general manager up to that point. The Packers decided to have Thompson take over the general manager duties while having Sherman remain as coach.
“This is not going to be where I’m going to walk around with a big sledgehammer like I’m ruling the roost,” Thompson said at the time. “Again, this is not a democracy. But it’s also a place where we’re going to work together.”
During Thompson’s first year as general manager, the Packers made the franchise-altering decision to select Rodgers with the 24th overall draft pick when they already had Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre on their roster.
The move enabled the Packers to have a three-decade run of exceptional quarterback play.
“I always appreciated his steady hand and the conversations that we would have,” Rodgers said in a statement. “He always made things pretty clear about what he expected from the team and what he expected from me. He always preached to put the team first, to not be a distraction, to be a good teammate, to be a good professional, and I always appreciated those comments.”
With Thompson as general manager, the Packers made eight consecutive playoff appearances from 2009-16, including the Super Bowl championship season in 2010.
“When I think about Ted, who he was as a man will always carry more weight than what he did professionally,” said Dallas Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy, who coached the Packers from 2006-18. "There has never been a finer human being to walk the playing fields or have a presence in the scouting rooms.
"Ted gave me an opportunity of a lifetime. As a young first-time head coach who thought he had all the answers, I couldn’t have been matched with a more perfect leader. He taught me patience. I will forever remember all of the times he would simply smile at me and say, ‘Slow down young man.’ "
The 2010 Packers team that won the Super Bowl featured defensive back Charles Woodson, Thompson's most notable veteran free agent signing. Woodson, the 2009 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, tweeted that “once upon a time circa 2006 I was a free agent and one team took a shot on me orchestrated by Ted Thompson.”
“He was willing to dabble in free agency,” Murphy said. “But he knew the best way to build a team was through the draft.”
Thompson draft picks who remain on the roster include four All-Pro selections from this season: Rodgers, wide receiver Davante Adams, left tackle David Bakhtiari and center Corey Linsley. Rodgers was the only first-round pick in that group. Adams was drafted in the second round, Bakhtiari in the fourth and Linsley in the fifth.
Other notable current Packers drafted by Thompson: defensive tackle Kenny Clark, kicker Mason Crosby, and running backs Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams.
“Certainly he’s a guy who’s held in the highest regard in this building and, I think, just around the league,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. “He’s had a tremendous impact not only on people in this building, obviously Gutey (Gutekunst) but people in other departments as well. His impact is still felt to this day when you look at our roster, but I think he’s had a tremendous impact amongst many people across the league, when you look all the other GMs that have learned under him."
Packers officials praised Thompson’s calmness, patience and quiet confidence. Seahawks general manager John Schneider, who worked with Thompson on three separate occasions, called him “an amazing person and mentor to so many people.”
Other Thompson draft picks who had productive careers with Green Bay before departing include linebacker Clay Matthews, offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga, wide receivers Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Greg Jennings.
Thompson said that his health led him to step down as general manager after the 2017 season.
Thompson moved into a senior adviser role. Gutekunst, who had been working with Thompson as player personnel director, was promoted to general manager and remains in that position.
“One of the things that was helpful for me being around him as much was seeing things through his eyes as a former player, always understanding that what matters is the team and those guys out there,” Gutekunst said.
Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid was an assistant coach with the Packers during Thompson’s first stint at Green Bay and referred to him Thursday as a “good friend.”
“He was good at what he did but an even better person,” Reid said.
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