The ball is in Ted Thompson’s court now.
On Monday night it was widely reported that Eliot Wolf will interview for the 49ers general manager job on Thursday.
Wolf has been considered a future star in football circles. The 34-year-old is the Packers director of football operations while patiently waiting until he gets his turn to drive Green Bay’s personnel bus.
The question is Thompson. He turns 64 in a couple weeks and it was reported on Sunday that he may step aside following the season to ensure that the Packers can retain Wolf. If Thompson does indeed step down as general manager, he would become a senior scouting adviser.
Thompson took over as general manager in 2005 and the Packers are an amazing 118-73 under his watch, with a Super Bowl title and three NFC Championship Game appearances. He has drafted Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, Clay Matthews, Mason Crosby, Josh Sitton and Mike Daniels. In 12 seasons though, Thompson has only signed five big-ticket free agents — with the seldom-used Cedric Benson being one of those.
The reason why many Packers fans still cannot smile when they hear the name Ted Thompson is because of the trade that tore the fan base apart. Thompson did the unthinkable and traded shoo-in Hall of Famer Brett Favre. It was a head scratcher at the time, but I think it has worked out just fine.
Thompson hasn’t spoken to the media in a long time, but he was asked by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Bob McGinn in 2015 about how many more years he has left and this is what he said: “This is kind of like family for me. Like I said, I enjoy the scouting part of it. I enjoy the preparation for draft time. I enjoy the tit and tat in free agency. Planning out where we’re going to be this time next year. Most everybody right this second is thinking about the first preseason game or the first regular-season game. I’m thinking about beyond that, and I enjoy that kind of thinking.”
If Thompson leaves to open up a spot for Wolf, that’s unselfish forward thinking. Thompson cares more about the health of the organization that he helped to maintain, which was started by Eliot’s father Ron, than staying around and leaving the Packers pondering what the future holds.
“I don’t know that I’ve imprinted any kind of stamp on it,” Thompson told McGinn. “I’ve always tried to do things in an honest, forthright way and to lead in that regard. To ask for wisdom from up on high so that I can make the right decisions. What I’d like to leave here is people would say we did things the right way. And that’s a lot easier said than done because there are traps along the way.”
Being the general manager of the Packers isn’t easy. Expectations are sky high every season and the far-reaching fan base holds the brass inside 1265 Lombardi Ave. accountable.
Did Thompson always make the right moves? No. He could’ve brought in versatile speedster Darren Sproles in 2011 and Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez in 2014.
But that’s the balancing act of juggling the present to appease the future. And it’s also why Thompson never believed in the quick-fix in the NFL, because teams like Buffalo, Washington and even Dallas before its recent resurgence, have resided in salary cap graveyards after many busts.
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