Ted Thompson traded Brett Favre, drafted Aaron Rodgers and never flinched

Green Bay Packers

Former Packers General Manager Ted Thompson was put in the Packers Hall of Fame after guiding the team to a title and into the Aaron Rodgers Era.

In the greatest moment of his professional career, Green Bay Packers General Manager Ted Thompson was worried.

The man who ran off Brett Favre after drafting Aaron Rodgers was living his, “How do you like me now?” moment. Three seasons after kicking Favre to the curb and enduring the wrath of loyal Packers fans, Thompson was standing among his triumphant players. They were celebrating Green Bay’s victory over Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl on Feb. 6, 2011 at Cowboys Stadium.

Adding to the moment, Thompson was less than 200 miles from his hometown in Texas. Many others would have taken this moment to puff their chest and talk trash to the many fans who had called Thompson a liar and a traitor for how he treated Favre on the way out.

But as this reporter asked him about how he felt considering all of that, Thompson looked at me with a somewhat bewildered expression.

“I’m just worried about catching up for the (NFL Scouting) combine,” Thompson said with a straight face, sounding a tiny bit bothered by all the time he’d wasted paying attention to this playoff run. Of all the stories about Thompson, that one seems to summarize him best for me.

On Saturday night, the 66-year-old Thompson was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame. He is less than two full years removed from his time as general manager. On Tuesday, Thompson announced he has been diagnosed with an autonomic disorder, which contributed to him retiring. Friends have said for months that Thompson has been in serious physical decline because of the disorder.

All the while, Thompson has remained his stoic self.

“What Ted has always been is shy, very humble, very grounded in his faith and smart as hell,” said Cleveland GM John Dorsey, one of many personnel men around the NFL who worked for Thompson over the years.

Thompson was an analyst, first and foremost, a man who dispassionately tried to understand a game that is driven by passion. That’s how he survived 10 years as a player, even though he started only nine games in his career. Thompson was never a spectacular player. But he was professional, first and foremost.

That’s not to say he was infallible. His decision to dump Favre after the 2007 season was decidedly impersonal. Thompson treated the hyper-emotional Favre with all the warmth of a cinder block. Favre took it as an insult and Packer fans viewed Thompson as a cad. What no one understood is Thompson was just being himself. He never much cared what people thought.

In the super-macho confines of the NFL, Thompson would wear pink Polo shirts. In a business where who knows who is often deemed important and taking care of reporters with information is seen as a way up the ladder, Thompson was both terrible at making connections and was notoriously tight-lipped with the media.

One time, I even asked Thompson for his opinion on who should get into the Hall of Fame among the 15 finalists. He looked at the list and, in all seriousness, said his East Texas drawl, “I’d have to study those guys first.”

Thompson was a man of careful, thorough thought. It took that type of consideration for Thompson to move on from Favre. Thompson didn’t do it immediately. He let Rodgers sit for three years before making the move. He let Rodgers marinate in the competition with Favre, knowing how much that drove Rodgers’ competitive fire.

But when Thompson was finally ready to move on, there was no changing his mind. At one point in the middle of the process of trading Favre in 2008, Thompson flew to see Favre in Mississippi. The hope from some was that Thompson would open the door for Favre to compete for the job or trade him to archrival Minnesota. Instead, Thompson talked to Favre about all the things the Packers would do for Favre if he retired.

In the middle of all of it, Thompson shared another dry joke with Dorsey.

“Ted said in that drawl, ‘You know, Dorse, a lot of people want the GM job, but they don’t know how hot it gets in that seat.”

That’s all too true. But as hot as that seat became, Thompson never let it get to him. Even when he had a chance to throw some of that heat on others.

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