GM Battle: Ted Thompson has been very good, John Schneider has been better
By Brian E Murphy, PackersInsider.com senior editor
~The Packers and the Patriots are the only two teams to make the playoffs each of the past six seasons.
The Seahawks are the reigning Champions and are steamrolling to being the first team to repeat in over a decade.
Both teams have obviously been built well to get to this point.
How they have it, and by whom, is fascinating.
As many know, GM Ted Thompson is the Packers architect. He’s been the Packers GM since 2005.
John Schneider started his career with the Packers, bounced around to Seattle (under Thompson for one year there), to Kansas City, Washington, and then back to Green Bay for a few more years under Thompson.
He landed the Seattle GM job in January of 2010.
In the now-almost five years since, he has quickly built a possible dynasty in the making in Seattle.
Looking at their great defense, from the Legion of Boom to the linebackers and to the trenches, they are a very young team.
On offense, their QB is just finishing his third season. Remember, Aaron Rodgers had yet to start a game until his fourth season.
The Packers are also in great shape, although their overall talent level looked terrible last year when Rodgers was out. They couldn’t rely on their defense to win games as Seattle’s defense is capable of.
Seattle, I must admit, has been very fortunate regarding injuries, however.
This year, they were 6-4, tied with San Francisco, and trailing first place Arizona by three games. At that point in time, with a game at San Francisco on the slate in primetime, the playoffs were a 50-50 proposition, and it appeared the Wildcard route would be their only path.
Well, one team lost it’s starting QB and that was Arizona. They fell apart.
Seattle didn’t lose their QB, not even for one game. Their star RB Marshawn Lynch never missed a game, neither did their stars Richard Sherman or Earl Thomas. And star LB Bobby Wagner recovered from a nagging toe injury and Kam Chancellor got healthy too. Seattle didn’t lose a game since then, while Arizona only won two more games after that point they had a three-game lead on both the 49ers and Seahawks.
Seattle also didn’t lose their star safety Earl Thomas to a career-ending neck injury like the Packers did theirs, Nick Collins.
Seattle didn’t lose OT Russell Okung as a rookie (Schneider’s first ever draft pick), like the Packers did with Derek Sherrod. Sherrod may have been a Pro-Bowl quality bookend tackle for years to come, we will never know due to the devastating double-break of his leg in Kansas City.
Seattle didn’t lose their best ILB, Bobby Wagner, like the Packers did in 2011, Desmond Bishop.
And Seattle didn’t lose their best TE to a career-ending neck injury like the Packers did in 2013 with Jermichael Finley.
So there’s no doubt that luck, good or bad fortune regarding injuries, has been a significant factor in each team’s results and prospective outlooks going forward into this NFC Title game and beyond.
But there are a few key moves, made by Schneider, that have made Seattle the better team right now and the favorite going forward into the next few years.
Let’s take a look at how John and Ted have built these two franchises.
Here are some highlights and lowlights.
Each, of course, has many more highs than lows.
2012 Draft Pick Russell Wilson, Round 3 pick #75 overall.
Schneider had already signed free agent QB Matt Flynn from the Packers, and he was expected to take over from the old Matt Hasselbeck as the Seahawks new QB.
Wilson was “too short” at just 5-10. But Schneider loved him, and convinced Pete Carroll that he would too. Pete did. John felt that Wilson was too good to not grab in the third round.
Flynn was sent to Oakland before that season started as Seattle knew early in camp that Wilson was all that they had hoped for, and then some.
Trading a 4th & 5th round draft pick to Buffalo for 24-year old Marshawn Lynch.
This is the move, directly, that has made the difference. Eddie Lacy has been great, was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year last year, was and is still great, and he has a longer future ahead of him (barring more of those bad luck injuries the Packers seem to get hit with more than anyone else).
But without Lynch, there’s no Super Bowl last year for Seattle.
And there would not have been a Beast Mode Earthquake run in the 2010 playoff win over the then-defending champion Saints.
He’s the Beast Mode they thrive on.
In his past 4 seasons with Seattle, he’s missed just one game. That’s lucky. He had missed plenty of games in Buffalo when he was younger.
He’s rushed for 1204, 1590, 1257, and 1306 yards, and scored 13, 12, 14, and 17 touchdowns these past four regular seasons.
He also has 73 receptions total the past two seasons.
The Packers had been talking to Buffalo to obtain Lynch. So had Seattle. When Lynch was drafted in 2007, Schneider (then with the Packers with Thompson) really wanted Lynch, but Buffalo grabbed him at pick #12, four spots ahead of the Packers sitting at #16. The Packers settled for DL Justin Harrell.
Had The Packers upped the offer to Buffalo to a 3rd round pick instead of 4th (the 5th rounder was conditional and for the following year), the Packers would have had their own Beast Mode. Who knows how that would have helped Green Bay, or if he’d have been able to play every game since then except one, as he has in Seattle. Knowing the Packers bad luck, he could have torn an ACL or broken his leg, neck, etc. But for certain, Seattle would not have been the same.
- Drafting Richard Sherman Pick #154 in 2011
- Drafting Kam Chancellor pick #133 in 2010
- Drafting Earl Thomas pick #12 in 2010
- Drafting Bobby Wagner pick #47 in 2012 (Jerel Worthy was picked 4 spots later)
- Drafting KJ Wright pick #99 in 2011
Yes, that basically is the Legion of Boom, plus their two great linebackers. Earl Thomas, #12 overall, was their second first-round pick in 2010, Scheiders’ first with the team. LT Russell Okung was their first in that round.
All the others were taken much later in drafts, including Sherman who went in the fifth round and went after the Packers selected a TE who bombed out, and another cornerback (House) who has proven to be a fraction of the player that Sherman has been right out the gate as a rookie until now, where he is considered to be the best CB in the NFL.
Now in all honestly, House has been okay for a fourth round pick. You’ll take a result like him with your fourth or fifth round picks. But late round four or round five, the difference between Sherman and House is so significant, that Schneider wins a big one here over Thompson.
I consider this the reverse of fortunes that Thompson pulled on Belichick in the 2006 Draft when he traded down with him, as Belichick wanted WR Chad Jackson from Florida. Later in the second round, Thompson grabbed a WR of his own, Greg Jennings. Jennings was great and instrumental in the Packers being great and winning the Super Bowl. Jackson busted.
House has been better than Jackson ever was, but Sherman has been sensational, obviously, because he’s made sure we all know.
I’ll always wonder if Ted interviewed Sherman in that draft process, and was turned off by his outspoken, loud persona. House is much quieter, like Ted is.
- Signing DE Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, and O’Brien Schofield to as free agents before 2013 season.
They all are still key players right now and all have gotten to Aaron Rodgers in the past. They were proven, but still young, hungry pass rushers. Those guys are the equivalent of the Packers additions of Julius Peppers and Letroy Guion, only younger and less expensive, at least initially. Bennett and Avril earned themselves lucrative extensions.
Matt Flynn signing.
Trading so much for Percy Harvin.
Now here’s the thing about both of those: Neither move hurt them, and Harvin paid some big dividends in his limited time in a Seahawks uniform. He was phenomenal in the Super Bowl.
And he was great in week one this year against the Packers. The guy’s attitude was a problem, and they shipped him out for less than they paid, but they won the Super Bowl with him, and this year, they still are the #1 seed and the Super Bowl favorite, despite having him for the first third of the season.
He helped them more than he hurt them, so that’s not even a mistake that was costly.
Same thing with Matt Flynn. While they overpaid for him, and overrated him as a starter, they cut their losses right away, and moved to the rookie Russell Wilson. Of course, it’s helped that Wilson has never missed a single game now through three full seasons and post-season. They never have to play Tarvarris Jackson. Some teams, like Arizona, St. Louis, Green Bay last year (Wallace, Tolzein, Flynn) have to try and survive with #2, #3 QB’s. Not Seattle.
2005 Draft Pick Aaron Rodgers pick # 24
2009 Draft: Traded up and drafted Clay Matthews pick # 26 (great trade with NE)
2006 Free Agent signing of Charles Woodson
Woodson is now a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and the Packers got most of his good stuff and all of his great stuff. He was the 2009 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and his attitude and leadership was paramount to the Packers miracle run to the Super Bowl the following season.
2013 Draft pick Eddie Lacy pick # 61
2011 Draft Pick Randall Cobb pick #64
2006 Draft pick Greg Jennings pick # 52 (great trade with NE)
2008 Draft pick Jordy Nelson pick #37. St. Louis and Washington had just taken WR’s two and three picks before (Donnie Avery, Devin Thomas)
2012 Draft pick Mike Daniels pick #132
2014 Free Agent addition of Julius Peppers
2008 second round: Brian Brohm and Pat Lee.
Two total whiffs. Jamaal Charles would go a few picks after Thompson took Brohm and Lee.
Where would the Packers be had they Charles and that game-breaking speed?
2012: Had Ted Thompson selected ILB BOBBY WAGNER instead of DE>OLB NICK PERRY, who went a dozen or so picks later?
2011: Had Ted Thompson swung for CB RICHARD SHERMAN instead of CB DAVON HOUSE with his 131 pick. Or with his #141 pick instead of TE D.J WILLIAMS.
Schneider took Sherman at #154.
Again, House at that point in a draft was a nice pick. But look how Sherman has helped make Seattle great, whereas House is still a third or fourth CB on the Packers behind Shields, Williams, and Hayward.
Maybe Sherman wouldn’t have blossomed into the NFL’s best CB if the Packers took him. Maybe he wouldn’t even be a Pro Bowler. But one thing’s for sure, Seattle would not nearly be as good, and this wouldn’t have happened: