John Elway is the Anti-Ted Thompson

The Denver Broncos won Super Bowl 50 yesterday with a completely different philosophy than the Green Bay Packers in how the team was put together and what the defensive side of the ball looked like.

The Packers are well known for Ted Thompson’s draft and develop philosophy and have enjoyed sustained years of success through that.  It’s the correct way to build the foundation and core of your roster. Most teams who go out and spend big in free agency come away disappointed and we have seen numerous examples of that over the years. However, as most are quick to point out when free agency doesn’t work out for bad teams, it must now be pointed out how John Elway won a Super Bowl with free agency as a huge tool.

Elway knew he had a limited window to win with Peyton Manning at quarterback and went all out to get this championship. The defense that mostly won him his Super Bowl was built in free agency a great deal with the signings of Aquib Talib, T.J. Ward, Darian Stewart and Demarcus Ware. On offense, Elway brought in Emmaunel Sanders, Evan Mathis, Owen Daniels and obviously Manning in via free agency. Elway supplemented some great draft picks with these signings and built a great team.

So what can the Packers learn from this? Thompson certainly isn’t in the same situation with Aaron Rodgers that Elway was with Manning with Rodgers having many years left. However, the lesson certainly has to be that free agency can work when used properly and that you cannot just ignore it. Thompson has seen it himself with Charles Woodson, Julius Peppers, Ryan Pickett and to a lesser extent Letroy Guion. Your draft picks should always be the main building blocks of your team, but if there are needs to address with free agents and somebody who fits is available they need to be considered.

Another reason the Broncos were the anti-Packers this season was their reliance on their defense and how little they got out of their quarterback. The Packers are usually always relying on Rodgers to carry them on his back to the promised land, this season not withstanding. Denver showed that you need a whole team and that defense can still dominate even if this era of video game stats from the offenses. Notice how Denver’s defense finished the Super Bowl after dominating the whole game. You’re actually allowed to finish the job after playing great defense the whole game. Three quarters wasn’t enough for them like apparently it has been in Green Bay the last two seasons.

The biggest difference between the defenses of Green Bay and Denver is speed at linebacker. Danny Trevathan and Brandon Marshall are blazers at inside linebacker and we also saw that in Carolina as well with Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis and Shaq Thompson. The Packers had to move their best pass rusher to inside linebacker to get a good athlete there. Also, Denver brought in Wade Phillips at defensive coordinator and if Green Bay had the foresight to do that maybe they have another ring.

Going back to the free agency point it just so happens that Trevathan is a free agent. The Broncos do not have a ton of salary cap space and Von Miller, Brock Osweiler and Malik Jackson are probably higher priorities for Denver to re-sign, so there’s a decent chance Trevathon could be moving to a new team. Trevathan had 109 tackles and two interceptions this season, recovered two fumbles yesterday in Super Bowl 50 and had 129 tackles and three interceptions in 2013. He is in his prime at 25 years old and can run sideline to sideline to make plays while being a physical hitter. With the talent the Packers have in the secondary if they added a linebacker like Trevathan finding open receivers would be a big challenge for opposing quarterbacks.

Essentially, Trevathan is the quintessential fit of the modern day NFL inside linebacker and would be the perfect fit for the Packers to target in free agency. Ladarius Green is that same player at tight end on the offensive side of the ball as well. If they had to release Julius Peppers to do it then it should be done. If they kept Peppers and let Mike Neal, Nick Perry and B.J. Raji go to sign Trevathon that would be worth it as well. All three players can be replaced, but as the Packers have found out you can’t find players like Trevathon often. We all know there’s no chance of it happening with Thompson prioritizing his own players, and that is where he is missing the boat that Elway hasn’t missed.




Matt Bove is a writer at You can follow him on twitter at @RayRobert9.


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18 thoughts on “John Elway is the Anti-Ted Thompson

  1. I agree with Matt. How many years now without an excellent tight end or a powerful and very speedy ILB? Even McCarthy is complaining about the Thompson strategy. It doesn’t work because you don’t seek free agency for the tried and true talent.

    1. The “tried and true talent” works out about 50% of the time on their new teams.

      1. Yep. Just ask the Browns, Saints (Brandon Browner aka “The Penalty King”) even the Seahawks with Jimmy Graham.

    2. The “tried and true talent” works out about 50% of the time on their new teams.

  2. John Elway is the anti-Thompson, and they’re enjoying a Nice Super Bowl Championship, while we draft and develop and fall into Mediocrity, while wasting away a Hall Of Fame QB talent. What a shame. There is way more wrong with this organization than losing Jordy Nelson.

  3. Good article man, you’re right, it’s time for Ted to look to free agency for talent. We’re so close to a Superbowl and with over $30+ million in cap space there is no reason he shouldn’t sign at least one player from a different team to help get us over the hump. Signing Ladarius Green will fix our problem at tight end, he’s EXACTLY what we need and he’ll come fairly cheap. I think Peppers is likely to come back even with a $9.5 million salary since he had 10.5 sacks, but if we do cut him we should at least try to resign him on a cheaper deal. At age 36 he’ll see reduced snaps which means we’ll need another great pass rusher on the left side to pair with CM3 and Mike Daniels. One option that no one is talking about is Mario Williams, the Bills plan to cut him and if they do then Ted should jump to sign him. He’ll come at a cheaper price then the other great pass rushers available and will make a huge impact. Having him will allow Peppers to drop back in coverage more where he has proven to be effective. A 6’7″ linebacker in coverage will be a nightmare for opposing QBs. In terms of inside linebacker I definitely agree that Danny Trevathan would be the perfect fit for us, another option is Demario Davis, he’s been very solid for the Jets these past 3 seasons and will come at a cheaper price then Trevathan. In terms of our own free agents I think Ted should let Neal and Hayward go, we’re set at DB and Neal has been average at best. Perry should also be let go, he’s shown flashes but given his injury history he can easily be replaced in the draft. Guion will probably be let go too given the great development of Mike Pennel. We should bring Raji and of course Crosby back, all other needs (OLB, OL, NT) can be addressed in the draft. Hopefully Ted will stop acting so stubborn and give us the pieces necessary to get to the promise land.

    1. Ted doesn’t want to sign other team’s players — he wants to sign his own. I’d love Trevathon, but his price will be too high. Cap rich teams like the Bears or Raiders may jump for him though. ILB is about as bad as the safety position was a few years ago. Eventually we were lucky that Clinton-Dix was available when we drafted him, but it took three years of failed draft picks until Ted realized he had to spend a first round pick to get it right.

      1. The Bears are going to be signing several of these Bronco defensive players in the offseason. I’d settle for Vinnie Rey at ILB from the Bengals because Trevation’s price will be too high. I’d even settle for a TE like Green, Fleener, or Allen if Henry or Hooper isn’t available. The minute Manning retires the Broncos suddenly have almost $22 million in cap space but Miller will eat up much of that.

        1. Well if we wan’t to talk about cap space Green Bay will have $30+ million to spend, which is more then enough to sign at least one difference maker in FA and sign a few of our own players, Travethan should cost no more then $7 million a year. Greene can be signed for $3 million a year. That leaves us with $20 million, we could either go after Williams or get a good pass rusher the draft, the we bring back Raji and Crosby and replenish everything else in the draft.

      2. Well if we wan’t to talk about cap space Green Bay will have $30+ million to spend, which is more then enough to sign at least one difference maker in FA and sign a few of our own players, Travethan should cost no more then $7 million a year. Greene can be signed for $3 million a year. That leaves us with $20 million, we could either go after Williams or get a good pass rusher the draft, there should be some good prospects available even at pick 27. Then we bring back Raji and Crosby and replenish everything else in the draft.

        1. I agree with you and would love some these FAs, but I don’t get my hopes up anymore with Ted. My dream FA is to bring JJ Watt back to Wisconsin later in his career, sort of like Peppers.

        2. Green is going to cost WAY more than $3 million a year. No way will Thompson sign a ILB like Trevathan, if $7 million is reasonable ( have to do my research) the he’s about $6.5 million more than Ted likes to spend. Hell why sign a player like Trevathon when you can sign a UDFA for about $500,000.00.

          You also have to keep in mind Thompson is always looking at least 2 or 3 seasons ahead which is why he’s only got one SB. I’d much rather finish 8-8 once in awhile and throw in the chips to win NOW than be one and done and winning the NFC North. Oops, didn’t even do that this year and why, because Jordy Nelson was hurt? Shame on TT for leaving the TE and ILB weak for years and not having another WR that can win one on ones.

          1. Lol I like your sarcasm, I have a strong feeling Ted will get a few good players in free agency this year. Enough signing these undrafted grocery baggers and trying to make them good players, aside from Sheilds and John Crockett it hasn’t work, they went undrafted for a reason, we need REAL talent and our biggest needs at TE and ILB can easily be filled with Travethan, Davis or Rey and LaDarius Green. We’re too close to a Superbowl for Ted to ignore free agency any longer.

            1. LOL..You caught that huh? I had the same feeling last year after the success Peppers brought as a FA, but Ted turned into a turtle again and didn’t poke his head out anyone who could have helped was signed. We agre completely on the players Thompson could target and sign. You might be right, Ted decides to act like a GM ought to act and explores all avenues (Trades, Free Agency Included) and gets the Packers a TE and ILB. This is when it HELPS to have an Owner who’d explain to Ted he needs to Win NOW and we’re not talking about the NFC North.

            2. Yeah all we can do is wait. Maybe they should have an owner buy the team. But like I said I have a strong feeling Ted will make some moves though.

  4. As with any successful business, the constant is change. Unfortunately for us fans change is not part of TT’s game. His game has worked in providing a perennial winner, but has ignored the others that show an adaptation to today’s game can win the title. Maybe there is a lessen for Mark Murphy and the shareholders in Denver. Denver let a perennial winner of John Fox go because they must not have felt he could get them over the top. McCarthy and Thompson got over the top once, but maybe should have more considering the “lightning in a bottle” Green Bay has at quarterback. Oh by the way, Defense still does win championships…


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