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Packers' Thompson can now fire back but will take a pass


DALLAS -- It could have been his moment, his chance to fire back at the thousands of critics he's faced since jettisoning a certain Wrangler-wearing, cult-forming, iconic figure who was more revered in Wisconsin than even a good slice of homegrown cheese.

But as Ted Thompson basked in the moment, knowing the Green Bay Packers team he had built was on its way to the Super Bowl, he had none of that. For all those websites goading the public to fire Thompson, it was his chance to get even, his chance to say he was right and they were wrong.

The shots back never came.

That's not who Ted Thompson is as a man. It's certainly not who he is as the architect of a Packers team that is one victory away from being world champions.

"This is really gratifying to be able to get the Packers back to the Super Bowl," Thompson said.

It had to be in many more ways than he showed. Killing Thompson became a blood sport in Wisconsin when he traded Brett Favre in August 2008. The nastiness intensified when he balked at paying high-priced free agents, choosing to stay the course, his course, of building through the draft.

Yet Thompson never let any of it bother him -- or at least he didn't show it. Thompson doesn't show a lot of emotion anyway, if ever. When the Packers went up two scores on the Bears following B.J. Raji's interception in the NFC Championship Game, apparently sealing the game, Thompson did little more than just shake hands with those around him, others who seemed far more juiced than Thompson.

On to the next one. Ho-hum.

"The negatives or the positives don't really affect me," Thompson said. "Quite frankly, very few people know what they're talking about."

That's about as much of a shot as you'll get from Thompson. This former NFL linebacker -- about 50 pounds or so ago -- doesn't have the personality of a guy who used to tackle running backs for a living.

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He's about as exciting as a stroll through a cheese factory.

To most NFL fans, he's simply the guy who ran Brett Favre out of town. They know the name, but few could pick him out of a lineup. Hint: He's tall, lean with a lot of grey hair. And you can usually find him in front of a tape machine or at a college workout somewhere. He doesn't like the spotlight. He might be the NFL's most private decision maker.

During media day Tuesday, a day when most general managers would bask in their success, Thompson stood behind a podium, away from the masses.

Asked about those who questioned him, he brushed it off.

"The NFL is a very interesting business," Thompson said. "It's very competitive, and there are a lot of difficult times you go through in my job. You just try to make honest decisions and then you look forward to the next thing because there's always a next thing."

That's truly who Ted Thompson is: A scout who has morphed into a heck of a general manager.

"Most people forget about Ted Thompson that he not only is a great general manager, he's an outstanding talent evaluator," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "He still gets out on the road the same number of weeks he always has. When he's looking at these players come draft time, you know he has a clear understanding about each and every player we are getting ready to draft.

'Quite frankly, very few people know what they're talking about,' Thompson says of critics. (AP)  
'Quite frankly, very few people know what they're talking about,' Thompson says of critics. (AP)  
"That's a great positive as a coach because you know he's picking the right kind of players and athletes -- someone you can fit into your program. That's what we're about. We're about drafting and developing players. It's worked. That's why we're here and we'll continue to do that."

It worked, but not without the criticism. Scan the Packers roster and you find a homegrown, young roster filled with potential stars. Of the starting 22 players for Sunday's game, 14 of them are 27 or younger. Of those 22, 18 are homegrown products with Thompson drafting 13 of them in the past five drafts.

There were many times when the fans pushed Thompson to do something aside from staying true to the draft. When Favre pushed Thompson to acquire Randy Moss in 2005, Thompson avoided it and ultimately led to the feud between the two. That move, as well as the drafting of Aaron Rodgers in 2005, are the two moves that led to the fraying of the relationship, leading to Favre being allowed to leave.

How sexy is it drafting a quarterback when a legend is still slinging it around pretty good?

Just this year, when starting running back Ryan Grant went down for the season, fans pushed Thompson to trade for Marshawn Lynch. He held true to his beliefs, obviously with the idea that unknown running back James Starks could be the answer at running back.

As the Packers struggled to run the football during the regular season, that strategy seemed to backfire. But Starks came alive in the playoffs and has been a big reason why the Packers won three consecutive road games to get to the Super Bowl.

"A lot of credit has to go to Ted Thompson and the personnel staff just the way that they're structured, their work ethic, the principles are in place," McCarthy said. "I don't know if there's another general manager that hits the road as much as Ted Thompson does. When you're in a personnel meeting prior to the draft and discussions are going around the table about a player you know when the final decision is made that Ted has probably had his eyes on him and definitely has done his due diligence. It's very impressive to watch now for five years and it's a big part of why we select the right people. We have to give our personnel department a lot of credit for our season."

One more thing: It might be time to shut down that Fire Ted Thompson site. After what Thompson has done, I'm not sure there is much of a market for that anymore.

Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.

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