Packers Stay on Right Side of Revolving Door

Thompson (Benny Sieu/USA TODAY)

While playoff teams come and playoff teams go, Ted Thompson has kept the Packers on the right side of the equation. Hitting a home run with Aaron Rodgers obviously has helped the team stay on top, but that's not the only reason.

Getting to the top of the mountain is difficult.

Staying on top of the mountain, of course, is even more difficult.

It's also difficult to stay on that mountain's lower elevations.

Thus, the Green Bay Packers' sustained success is a tribute to general manager Ted Thompson and his scouts. Over the past five seasons, 56.7 percent of teams that reached the playoffs one season were able to return to the postseason party the next season. The Packers, however, have qualified for the playoffs in each of the past five seasons. New England is the only other team to have accomplished that feat.

"Well, certainly, that's a testament to the people who came before my tenure, too," Thompson said before the draft. "It's remarkable this organization has been able to be as successful over a long period of time. Having said that, from a draft standpoint, you just do the best you can. If you're picking at 32 — bless my heart, I wish we were — you're still picking. You're still trying to find guys who are going to help your team not only now but certainly in the future."

Picking late in the draft poses obvious challenges. Green Bay picked 21st in 2014, 26th in 2013, 28th in 2012, 32nd in 2011 and 23rd in 2010. Looking back even further, since Ron Wolf, Mike Holmgren and Brett Favre took the Packers to the playoffs in 1992, Green Bay has had just three top-10 picks (Jamal Reynolds, No. 10, 2001; A.J. Hawk, No. 5, 2006; B.J. Raji, No. 9, 2009).

Moreover, they've picked from the top half of the first round just seven times in the past 22 drafts. By comparison, they've picked from the bottom quarter of the first round 12 times during that span.

It's not just the first round, of course. The Packers have been picking toward the end of every round for each of the past five drafts. Thus, for round after round after round, the Packers have been picking behind the likes of the Lions, Bears and Vikings for most of the last two decades.

And yet, Green Bay has remained the undisputed heavyweight champion of the NFC North. The two major reasons are Thompson's management of the salary cap — as unpopular as it is each year during free agency — and the critical success in finding franchise quarterbacks.

Wolf hit a home run on Favre and Thompson hit a home run on Aaron Rodgers. Favre cost the Packers the 19th pick of the 1992 draft while Rodgers was acquired with the 24th pick in 2005. Contrast that success to Detroit hitting on Matthew Stafford (No. 1 overall, 2009) but whiffing on Joey Harrington (No. 3, 2002) and Andre Ware (No. 7, 1990). Or Chicago missing on both Rex Grossman (No. 22, 2003) and Cade McNown (No. 12, 1999). Or Minnesota missing on Christian Ponder (No. 12, 2011) — which necessitated the Vikings using the 32nd overall pick of this year's draft on Teddy Bridgewater — and settling for a double with Daunte Culpepper (No. 11, 1999).

It goes beyond the quarterbacks. Thompson has made a killing with his second-round receivers, fourth-round offensive linemen and undrafted cornerbacks.

"If you keep your eye on the ball, there's players to be had," Thompson said. "There's always college free agents that make teams and wind up being good players. So, nobody drafts those guys. And there's always the fifth-, sixth- and seventh-round guys that wind up contributing. So, keep your eye on the ball, take good players, make sure they're good people in the locker room (and) you give yourself a chance."

Thus, Green Bay has avoided the postseason revolving door.

In 2008, the division champions were the New York Giants, Minnesota, Carolina, Arizona, Miami, Pittsburgh, Tennessee and San Diego, and the wild card teams were Philadelphia, Atlanta, Baltimore and Indianapolis.

In the five years that have followed, here are the playoff teams and the success rates of the prior season's postseason participants.

2009 – Division champions: Dallas, Minnesota, New Orleans, Arizona, New England, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and San Diego. Wild cards: Philadelphia, Green Bay, Baltimore and New York Jets. Results: Three division champions repeated (38 percent), six teams returned to the playoffs (50 percent).

2010 – Division champions: Philadelphia, Chicago, Atlanta, Seattle, New England, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis and Kansas City. Wild cards: Green Bay, New Orleans, Baltimore and New York Jets. Results: Two division champions repeated (25 percent) and seven teams returned to the playoffs (58 percent).

2011 – Division champions: New York Giants, Green Bay, New Orleans, San Francisco, New England, Baltimore, Houston and Denver. Wild cards: Detroit, Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. Results: One division champion repeated (13 percent) and six teams returned to the playoffs (50 percent).

2012 – Division champions: Washington, Green Bay, Atlanta, San Francisco, New England, Baltimore, Houston and Denver. Wild cards: Minnesota, Seattle, Cincinnati and Indianapolis. Results: Six division champions repeated (75 percent) and eight teams returned to the playoffs (67 percent).

2013 – Division champions: Philadelphia, Green Bay, Carolina, Seattle, New England, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Denver. Wild cards: New Orleans, San Francisco, Kansas City and San Diego. Results: Three division champions repeated (38 percent) and seven playoff teams returned (58 percent).


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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