Putting trust in Packers GM Ted Thompson
Kelly Hodgson, Packers contributor
Tackle Bryan Bulaga.Photo: Image by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
GREEN BAY - Week two of Packers training camp is barely in the books. Bryan Bulaga has been lost for the season with a knee injury, the Packers went into radio silence, Jordy Nelson will have to miss the entire preseason and the team signed quarterback Vince Young.
Yes, it’s the same Young that declared that the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles were an unstoppable Dream Team.
It’s not exactly a confidence-instilling quartet of events for fans. While it is easy to assume crash positions and panic, Ted Thompson's moves as GM show why they do not signal a death spiral for the Green Bay Packers.
Substitute Bulaga’s name with Clifton or Tauscher, and the Packers have dealt with the same sort of adversity year after year. Yet they still managed to remain a perennial football powerhouse and win a fourth Super Bowl with their biggest-named offensive lineman on sidelines.
With the 2013 season still in its infancy, the Packers look to lean on fourth round draft pick David Bahktiari to step up and protect their recent $110 million investment in Aaron Rodgers.
There is still plenty of time to prepare this rookie for his new role.
Anything has to be better than a repeat of Marshall Newhouse’s 2012 performance where he gave away 9.5 sacks, nearly a dozen hits and hurries and double that in the number of blown blocks.
Putting a rookie on the line is nothing new for the Packers. History always seems to repeat itself. Rookies have played pivotal roles joining the line. It wasn’t all that long ago when rookies named Clifton, Tauscher and Bulaga protected the likes of Favre and Rodgers.
All indications suggest that Bahktiari will rise to the occasion like the generations of rookie linemen before him.
Meanwhile, the more pressing question this week seems to be: why Vince Young?
Clearly he bucks the No Drama policy that head coach Mike McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson have infused throughout the organization.
Yes, he has famously flapped his gums, it doesn’t help that he hasn’t played football in nearly an entire year, and he is the same quarterback that was cut by the same coach that drafted him in the third overall pick in 2006 for fairy nebulous “team policy” reasons.
But this is the same quarterback that led the Texas Longhorns to the Rose Bowl and BCS championship (yes, we all know his knee was down) in 2006...
...the same QB that has starting experience in the NFL.
The more cynical may say that Ted Thompson has only brought him in to be a reasonable facsimile to Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III on the scout team so that the defense can become more versed in the read option only to be cut after the second game of the season.
Others will argue that it is his experience leading NFL teams to victory in the not-so-distant past that gives him the leg up on Graham Harrell or BJ Coleman.
Ted Thompson very well may be playing a green and gold version of Moneyball and has found a solid insurance policy for Aaron Rodgers at a bargain price.
While the terms of Young’s one-year deal with Green Bay were not initially disclosed, it was assumed that he signed for the veteran’s league minimum of $840,000.
Young’s critics have famously described him as a great runner and only an average passer. If Aaron Rodgers career passer rating of 104.5 is the A+ gold standard, then Vince Young’s is a solid C—a hardly flashy yet dependable 74.5.
He will never be an MVP caliber quarterback like Rodgers, but his type of reliability caught the eye of Ted Thompson in 2006 and it obviously still resonates with the Packers’ general manager today.
As an insurance policy for Rodgers should he ever go down with an injury, Young does not need to recreate Rodgers’ brilliance in the air. His role would be to keep the offense competitive, by ground if necessary. He’d need to hold the fort down. No more, no less.
At this point in their careers, the same cannot be said for Harrell and Coleman.
Very few will forget how Graham Harrell blew a chance to all but guarantee a Packers’ victory last September against the New Orleans Saints. Rodgers temporarily left the game after a gouge to the eye.
The ball was on the goal line, and all Harrell had to do was either hand it off or hold on to it and lean into the end zone. Unfortunately, Harrell fumbled and the Saints recovered.
Up until the Family Night scrimmage, many had assumed the understudy role was B.J. Coleman’s to lose. But after a disappointing performance, he proved that he likely needs another year of development on a practice squad before he is ready to be a backup QB.
Ted Thompson often finds talent where one least suspects it - lesser no-name colleges and used car salesmen. The Next Man Up has long been his mantra, often for pennies on the dollar.
He had the foresight to draft a champion quarterback while his current one was still setting records. He finds diamonds in the rough in the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds of the draft. He is hesitant to build a team through free agency. Everything Thompson does is deliberate.
He didn’t plan to lose Bulaga for another season, but he saw something in David Bahktiari that he pulled the trigger and drafted him in April.
He knows how losing Aaron Rodgers for even a few minutes can change the entire tone of a game. He needs someone reliable to fill those irreplaceable shoes if the need arises.
Thompson never succumbs to drama. He simply faces problems head on as well as preventing them before they occur, and that is exactly why "In Ted We Trust."
Kelly Hodgson (@ceallaigh_k on Twitter) who grew up across the river from Lambeau Field, is the co-host of the podcast "Out of the Pocket" at Packerstalk.com. Her other Packers musings can be found at PocketDoppler.com.