As Usual, Mum’s the Word with Ted Thompson

It wasn’t long ago that I used to frequent a Packer forum which pretty much exclusively referred to Green Bay Packers’ General Manager Ted Thompson as “Robo Ted.” It wasn’t really affectionate nor was it completely derogatory. In truth, it was probably somewhere in the middle. The usual image of an NFL GM is a man with savvy, well-versed in a Trumpian “Art of the Deal”, wheeling and dealing players in trades, and making phone calls for free agents. I would guess that the “Robo Ted” epithet signaled some frustration that is typical among Packer fans. In over a decade of familiarity with Thompson as GM, Packer fans have become all too accustomed with the Art of the Ted. Every offseason, like mosquitos in summer, fans crawl out of the woodwork groaning about Thompson’s monotonous press conferences and aversion to big splashes during the offseason. It rises up like a battle cry, “Ted Gonna Ted.”

But this isn’t a defense of Thompson’s team building philosophy. That’s been done to death a million times over. I am here to proclaim the inaccuracy of the Ted Thompson meme. Awaking from his season long slumber, Ted is fully engaged in offseason activity. The media got its first crack at Thompson at the NFL combine on Thursday, and he didn’t disappoint.

Robo Ted is one of the great myths of contemporary Packers fandom. If you think that Thompson isn’t having fun, let me provide you with a final piece of evidence. After the PA announcer interrupted one of Thompson’s answers, making a call for Kansas State fullback Glenn Gronkowski, brother of Patriots’ tight end Rob, Thompson did this:

So Thompson has a strange and fantastic sense of humor. But what’s the point? Well, maybe it’s possible that Thompson’s tight lipped press conferences and the general silence of the offseason rumor mill in Green Bay are not products of Thompson having the personality of a cyborg. Maybe it’s the product of a GM who doesn’t play fast and loose with his plans. Maybe the lack of speculation and definitive answers about his offseason intentions are the result of a careful, calculated, close to the vest approach.

Whether you agree with his reluctance to make big splashes, clearly Ted is working busily behind the scenes to try and improve this team as much as he can without selling its future. In short, just because you don’t hear what you want to hear in the press conferences does not mean that Thompson actually is the cantankerous old, “we’re only rolling with my draft picks so don’t even pick up the phone” type of GM that everyone assumes he is based upon his pressers. He even addresses free agency, reminding fans that he is not dead set against dipping into that pool.

At the same time, the Stoic Thompson works hard to obscure what happens behind the scenes, but he’s not unaware that this aggravates reporters and fans alike. He’s in on the joke.

So clearly Ted isn’t just some crabby android. There is a method to his lack of madness. And this method actually leads me to distrust a lot of the things that he says to the media. I wouldn’t want to go so far as to call Ted a liar, but his philosophy is certainly mum’s the word, and it seems to lead to him dropping scraps to throw pursuers off his trail.

I’m highly skeptical that Thompson actually wants James Jones back. I’m also highly skeptical that he’s satisfied with the speed of his receivers. Jones was a nice pick up for the Packers but disappeared down the stretch. Jones’ lack of speed made it hard for him to gain separation, a problem which plagued virtually the entire receiving corps after Jordy Nelson went down. So do I think that Thompson is comfortable to sit pat with the skill set that his receivers have in the case that Nelson goes down again? Not really.

But that’s part of the magic of Ted Thompson. If you’re looking at his press conferences as a mark of his rigor as a GM or as an indication of the activity going on behind-the-scenes then you’re going to be mislead.

In a certain sense, the proof is in the pudding. Thompson has not, in fact, brought in many free agents in his time with the Packers. His draft-first philosophy is not a myth. But the next time that you’re watching Thompson speak to the media or you’re listening to the rumors coming out of the Land of Dan Snyder, remember that Thompson is as serious about the offseason as anyone else. Before you grab your phone to tweet a question about whether the Packers brass forgot to plug Ted in this offseason, remember that Ted wants you unaware of what he’s doing. If he wasn’t up to something then there would be nothing to be mum about.

So, by all means, complain when the offseason is over and Danny Trevathan signs with some other team for a modest price, but let’s leave the automaton explanation out of it. It’s silly. Clearly Ted is not a robot. Well, at least I’m pretty sure.

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Taylor O\'Neill is a Packer fan born and raised in Oshkosh, WI. He currently lives in Florida and is pursuing his PhD. Taylor is a writer with PackersTalk.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @TaylorONeill87 for more Packer news.

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