GREEN BAY, Wis. — Former Packers general manager Ted Thompson — who drafted Aaron Rodgers, traded away Brett Favre and built the team that won Super Bowl XLV — died Wednesday, according to the team. He was 68.
Thompson died at his home in Texas, the team said in a release.
“Ted was a man of great character and integrity who cared deeply for his family and friends,” current Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst said in a statement. “He was honest and hard-working. He valued his scouts and always did what he felt was right for the Packers organization.
“I learned a great deal from Ted and will always be appreciative for the opportunity he gave me. He was a football man and a scout’s scout, but more importantly, he was a very special person who will be greatly missed.”
Along with 10 seasons as a player in the NFL with the Houston Oilers (1975 to 1984), Thompson served as Packers general manager from 2005 to 2017. The Packers moved him into a consultant role for the 2018 season in part because of his declining health.
In May 2019, after he was inducted into the Packers’ hall of fame, Thompson announced that he was suffering from an autonomic disorder, a condition that causes weakness and cognitive issues. Packers president Mark Murphy did not cite Thompson’s health as a reason for the decision to remove him as general manager immediately after the 2017 season.
Thompson said at the time of his announcement that his doctors did not believe his condition “fit the profile of someone suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy.”
“Our condolences go out to his family,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said Thursday. “Certainly he’s a guy that’s held in the highest regard in this building and I think just around the league. He’s had a tremendous impact, not only on people in this building and obviously [Gutekunst] and a lot of our personnel people, but people in other departments as well. His impact is still felt to this day when you look at our roster, but I think he’s had a tremendous impact amongst many people across the league when you look at the other GMs that have learned under him.
“So certainly we’re sitting here with heavy hearts today. I’ve only had a few opportunities to meet him over the last couple of years, but I just know how important he was to many people in this building.”
Thompson’s first draft pick as Packers general manager was Rodgers, who fell to Green Bay at No. 24 overall.
Before the 2020 draft, Gutekunst, who served as a scout under Thompson, called that decision courageous given that the Packers had Favre still playing at a high level.
“To have the courage at that time to do that, and what that one decision did for the organization for how many years later, that stuck with me,” Gutekunst said. “It could have been real easy to do something different. He thought that was the right thing to do, and he did it. That’s always stuck with me.”
Weeks later, Gutekunst would select quarterback Jordan Love in the first round.
Thompson oversaw the transition from Rodgers to Favre, trading Favre to the New York Jets in August 2008. Although Thompson drew the ire of some fans for a draft-and-develop plan — largely ignoring big-money free agents — he and coach Mike McCarthy, whom Thompson hired in 2006, put together a team that reached four NFC title games (2007, 2010, 2014, 2016) and made eight straight playoff appearances (2009 to 2016).
One of Thompson’s first assignments as a Packers scout in 1992 was to look at film on Favre and give an evaluation to then-GM Ron Wolf, who was contemplating trading for the quarterback.
“[Wolf] left me in a dark room, and I watched some of it, and he comes back in and he goes, ‘Well, what do you think?'” Thompson told ESPN in 2016. “And I said, “What do you think?’ And he goes, ‘I like him. I think I’m going to trade a No. 1 for him.’ I said, ‘I think you ought to do that.’
“He didn’t need any help, but I’ve said this before: Brett, that limited time he got to play in Atlanta, it wasn’t all pretty. But it was pretty when he got to the Green Bay Packers.”
Thompson worked for the Packers as a scout until 1999, when he joined Mike Holmgren with the Seattle Seahawks. In 2005, then-Packers president Bob Harlan lured him back to Green Bay by making him a general manager for the first time.
“I watched him come in and join us when he was very green, working for Ron Wolf, who’s a demanding boss, and he was so good that Ron promoted him twice,” Harlan said at Thompson’s induction into the Packers’ hall of fame. “The first man that Mike Holmgren wanted to take to Seattle with him was Ted Thompson. Ted went to Seattle, built a Super Bowl team, and I just thought when it was time for us to get somebody, he was the one I wanted.”
The soft-spoken Thompson often shied away from the spotlight but occasionally let his wry sense of humor shine through. He was self-deprecating about his playing career, which consisted largely of special teams, and was widely respected by his players.
“He’s not a man of many words, but he always has a positive attitude,” former Packers guard T.J. Lang told ESPN in 2017. “He’s always got a smile on his face. You can definitely tell that any time the guy at the top, the leader of your team, feels that way about your team, it definitely rubs off on the guys.”
Among the Thompson draft picks still on the roster are Rodgers, kicker Mason Crosby, offensive tackle David Bakhtiari, center Corey Linsley, wide receiver Davante Adams, running back Aaron Jones and defensive tackle Kenny Clark.