When the signing of QB Matt Flynn was announced this week I tweeted out the following picture:
I shared the picture for a lot of reasons. First of all, it’s one of my favorite photos of a Green Bay Packer. I know that it’s from a mostly meaningless regular season game during an 8-7-1 season by a backup QB but it’s special. The emotion that Flynn is showing is why I love football, and why I really like him as a player. It’s not arrogant, it’s not being done to show up the Dallas Cowboys (making him a better man than I) it’s just joy and excitement.
The other reason I tweeted it was because I was excited! I am excited. I’m excited because I think this might mean a slight change in the way the organization does things. Ted Thompson has always been very steady about the way he does his business. Some would say he’s bull-headed and his detractors call him “stubborn”. Thompson built an elite program in Green Bay. There is no question about that. The team has been the playoffs in 5 consecutive seasons, and will be favored to do at least that much again. They’ve also won three consecutive division championships.
Thompson hoards draft picks, avoids free agency at all costs and rewards players that he selects with new contracts. He would rather let a player walk a year early (Cullen Jenkins) than a year late (Donald Driver). He puts a premium on certain positions (WR, CB, OT, starting QB, OLB) and appears to treat others (C, ILB, S, backup QB) with indifference. It appears that times they may be a-changin’.
The Flynn signing might not appear like much, but if you add that to the Julius Peppers signing, it appears that Thompson just might be adapting, even if it’s slow and subtle adaptation. The Packers had an obvious hole at safety last off season, and absolutely no plan at the backup quareterback position. Both needs were completely ignored and were subsequently bumbled by Graham Harrell, BJ Coleman, Vince Young, Seneca Wallace, MD Jennings and Jerron McMillian. Fortunately, none of these players are currently employed by the Green Bay Packers. That’s a step. Signing Matt Flynn is another step. Dealing with the safety position some time in the first two days of the draft would be yet another step.
The hope is obviously that Thompson is seeing what other elite teams (that have been advancing further than his squad) are doing and is adapting. Both the 49ers and Seahawks have very good defenses. Not only do they have very good defenses but they have very good safety and linebacker play (when I say linebacker I mean players that are detached from the formation like Navorro Bowman, Patrick Willis and Bobby Wagner). The Packers do not. They might have had the worst safety tandem in the NFL last season and Brad Jones and AJ Hawk are not impact players.
The 49ers and Seahawks also use free agency more than Ted Thompson does. Both teams hoard draft picks (I feel like the 49ers have extra picks every season) and draft well, but players like Anquan Boldin and Michael Bennett supplement their rosters. Thompson has supplemented his roster with future Hall of Famer Julius Peppers. He’s dealt with his backup QB position by signing a player that has proven throughout his time in Green Bay that he can at least keep the Packers at .500. His coaching staff is preaching a more flexible defense. Hopefully in May’s draft Thompson can show some of his own flexibility and improve the defensive side of the ball.