Former Packers general manager Ted Thompson — who drafted Aaron Rodgers, traded away Brett Favre and built the team that won Super Bowl XLV — has expired, according to coach Matt LaFleur. He was 68.
Thompson, who played 10 seasons in the NFL with the Houston Oilers (1975-84), functioned as Packers general manager from 2005 to 2017. The Packers moved him into a consultant role for the 2018 season in part due to his declining health.
In May 2019, after he had been inducted into the Packers’ hall of fame, Thompson declared that he was suffering in an autoimmune disease, a condition which leads to weakness and cognitive issues. Packers president Mark Murphy did not cite Thompson’s health as a reason for its decision to eliminate him as general manager immediately after the 2017 season.
Thompson said at the time of his announcement that his doctors didn’t believe his illness”fit the profile of somebody afflicted by chronic traumatic encephalopathy.”
“Our condolences go out to his loved ones,” LaFleur said Thursday. “Certainly he’s a guy that’s held in the maximum respect in this building and I believe just around the league. He’s had a huge impact, not just on people in this building and clearly Gutey [current Packers GM Brian Gutekunst] and lots of our employees people, but individuals in different departments as well. His impact is still felt to this day when you have a look at our roster, but I think he has had a huge impact amongst many people throughout the league once you have a look at the other GMs who’ve heard under him.
“So surely we’re sitting with heavy hearts today. I’ve just had a couple of chances to meet him over the last few years, but I just understand just how important he was to many folks in this building.”
Thompson’s first draft pick as Packers general manager was Rodgers, who fell to Green Bay in No. 24 overall.
Before the 2020 draft, Gutekunst, who served as a scout under Thompson, known as that conclusion courageous since the Packers had Favre still playing at a high level.
“To have the guts at the time to do so, and what that one decision did for the business for the number of decades later, that stuck with me,” Gutekunst said. “It might have been real easy to do something different. He thought that was the right thing to do, and he did it. That’s always stuck with me.”
Weeks later, Gutekunst would select quarterback Jordan Love in the first round.
Thompson oversaw the transition from Rodgers to Favre, trading Favre into the New York Jets in August 2008. Though Thompson drew the ire of some enthusiasts for a draft-and-develop program — mostly dismissing big-money free agents — he and coach Mike McCarthy, whom Thompson hired in 2006, put together a group that reached four NFC title games (2007, 2010, 2014, 2016) and made eight straight playoff appearances (2009-16).
One of Thompson’s first assignments as a Packers scout in 1992 would be to look at film on Favre and provide an evaluation to then-GM Ron Wolf, who had been contemplating trading for the quarterback.
“[Wolf] left me in a darkened room, and I saw some of it, and he comes back in and he goes,’Well, what do you think?'” Thompson told ESPN in 2016. “And I said,”What do you believe?’ I believe I will trade a No. 1 to him.’ I said,’I think you should do that.’
“He did not need any assistance, but I’ve said this earlier: Brett, that restricted time that he got to play with in Atlanta, it was not all pretty. Nevertheless, it was pretty when he got to the Green Bay Packers.”
Back in 2005, then-Packers president Bob Harlan lured him back to Green Bay by making him a general manager for the very first time.
“I saw him come and join us was very green, working for Ron Wolf, who is a demanding boss, and he had been so good that Ron promoted him twice,” Harlan said at Thompson’s induction into the Packers’ hall of fame. “The first man that Mike Holmgren needed to carry to Seattle with him was Ted Thompson. Ted moved to Seattle, built a Super Bowl team, and I just believed as it was time for us to get somebody, he had been the one I wanted.”
The soft-spoken Thompson often shied away from the spotlight but sometimes let his wry sense of humor shine through. He had been self-depricating about his acting career, which consisted mostly of special teams, and has been widely respected by his players.
“He’s not a man of many words, but he always has a positive attitude,” former Packers guard T.J. Lang told ESPN in 2017. “He’s always got a smile on his face. You can surely tell that any time that the guy at the top, the chief of your group, feels that way about your group, it certainly rubs off on the guys.”