GREEN BAY, Wis. — When Ted Thompson reflected on the 17 total years he’s spent with the Green Bay Packers and observed the roster that he’d built, there was no way he was going to allow himself to retire. In signing an extension to continue his run as general manager, executive vice president and director of football operations for the Packers, Thompson committed himself to several more years with the team that he’s already spent more than a quarter of his life with.
"The more you think about it, the more you think, ‘How nuts are you that you’d walk away from something like this?’ " Thompson said. "It’s important to me. It’s not my family, but I’ve got a lot of really good friends here and co-workers that I enjoy coming to work with every day. It’s life, but it’s life on an exaggerated scale. You’re playing in the NFL and you’re trying to win and compete at the NFL level, and that is so hard to do.
"To get a chance to continue to do that after you put all the chips on the table, there’s very little choice there. I want to be here."
Thompson’s most recent offseason included moments in which it seemed he might not even stick around for the remainder of his then-current contract. The 61-year-old’s previous deal had him scheduled to conduct the 2015 and 2016 drafts for Green Bay before it expired.
When Thompson was a no-show at the NFL Owners Meeting in March for undisclosed personal reasons, it raised some eyebrows. When he arrived at a pre-draft press conference looking beyond worn down, the speculation continued. And when Thompson went out of his way during draft weekend to thank his staff on several occasions, many thought it could be setting the stage to introduce a successor.
None of that ended up being relevant, as Thompson’s "multi-year contract extension" (as it was phrased in the team’s press release) confirms. Thompson, of course, would not divulge how many years were added to his deal — "I’m not a very specific guy," he said — but a multi-year extension likely keeps him with the Packers until at least age 66.
"Most people in life have these artificial dates in mind, ‘I’m going to retire when I’m X years old’ or at a certain age," Thompson said. "I think everybody is different. It seems to me that a lot of people can be very productive later on in life. We’ll see. I enjoy what I do, and I’ve got really good people that I work with, and I think because of that I feel pretty energized to keep going."
Thompson’s time in Green Bay began in 1992 as the assistant director of pro personnel. He was director of pro personnel from 1993-97 and later director of player personnel from 1997-99. He left for five years to become the vice president of football operations for the Seattle Seahawks but returned to the Packers as general manager in 2005.
"That’s what I am; I’m a scout," Thompson said. "That’s what I do. That’s what I enjoy. As a scout, you’re always looking for that so-called diamond in the rough that no one else can find. That’s very difficult to do in this day and age with the communication and the information and the names and that sort of thing. You still are looking to one-up somebody else who’s in your business. I’m still a scout."
Team president and CEO Mark Murphy has been working toward a contract extension for Thompson for a while, describing it on July 10 as "a top priority." During the annual team shareholders meeting July 24, Murphy told the crowd, "The key to the Packers success, it’s Ted Thompson. There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s the best general manager in the league."
Thompson has a 92-62-1 record (playoffs included) since taking over as general manager. His career got off to a great start (at least in hindsight) by drafting quarterback Aaron Rodgers with his first-ever pick. Every player currently on Green Bay’s roster was acquired by Thompson.
"In terms of how I feel, I feel great," Thompson said. "I’m honored that Mark Murphy and the organization would like to have me stay on. This place means a lot to me. Counting the eight years before and almost 10 now, that’s a lot of your life. I’m honored to be a part of it."
Winning a Super Bowl ring after the 2010 season and three division titles in the three years that followed clearly shows that the Packers have been a very good team in recent years. But Thompson insisted that "none of this was based on" the quality of the current roster.
One thing Thompson did vow to do differently upon agreeing to this extension was to see his family more. Though he’s never been married and doesn’t have any kids, he has many family members in Texas.
"I’ve not done a good job of this, but I’m going to make a more concerted effort to go back home and see them from time to time," Thompson said. "It won’t be months at a time, but I want to go back and be more connected to my family.
"Just zip home and maybe see my nephew play ball or something on a Friday night in Texas."
Thompson’s life is football. With all doubts now erased about whether he was approaching the end of his career, he has a long time left to continue building a championship-caliber team in Green Bay.
"It’s easy to say, ‘Well, I’m going to walk off into the sunset’ or go milk some cows or whatever it was I was supposed to go do," Thompson said. "But I have people that I’m responsible for here, too. People that I’ve hired that have taken up this position because of my insistence or encouragement. So there’s a certain amount of responsibility that you have for the people you work with."