There was a moment - a single one - when I knew that former Packer coaches Bart Starr and Ray Rhodes would be fired. They both did essentially the same thing. In 1983, Starr sat on his timeouts - arms folded and jaw set - while the Bears ran down the clock and kicked a game winner that knocked the team out of the playoffs. Rhodes did much the same thing in '99 against the Panthers, this time refusing to call a time out so that Carolina (who had first and goal and enough time to use all the downs remaining to them) could score the go ahead touchdown with virtually no time on the clock. Rhodes had the same look of defiance that Starr had. "I'm going to screw this up and there is nothing you can do about it." Neither could be permitted to coach the team after such singular cluelessness.
I had been wondering whether we saw the end of Ted Thompson's career when he said the name "Justin Herill" in the first round of the draft. I have come to believe that would be unfair. Herrill may be very good if he stays out of the hospital.
I am less certain that he hasn't irredeemably fouled his nest with his refusal to spend a fourth round draft choice for Randy Moss. The decision - in and of itself - is inexplicable particularly given the way that Thompson used his latter round choices this year, generally taking guys a round or two before anyone else would. In the third round, for example, he takes a wideout whose singular accomplishment is to be second-team All-WAC and a safety who is said to look like Tarzan and play like Jane. Wouldn't taking a flyer on Moss have been smarter than gambling on these guys?
Now we hear that Brett Farve demanded to be traded in light of Thompson's thick-necked refusal to do anything to help him on offense next year. I think a few things are possible.
1. Thompson believes that last year's 8-8 season was a fluke and does not think he can make the playoffs this year. For that reason, he doesn't care about getting Farve immediate help because he doesn't believe that it will accomplish anything.
2. This is all a struggle for the mind of Ted Thompson. He has done nothing and this is a way for Farve and Thompson's critics within the organization to let him know that he better quit sitting on his hands. He needs to sign Keshawn Johnson or do something else to show that he wants to win now.
3. If Thompson was building for the future, his refusal to make the slightest concession to now has put him in a box. Maybe he thinks that the Packers future is in 2009, but his future is now. If he doesn't win, he will become the most unpopular man in Wisconsin (he's up there now) and its not clear that, in the peculiar culture of the Green Bay Packers, that you can be that and keep your job.
4. If he trades Farve, he will have to watch home games from his home. He'd be absolutely crazy to show his face at Lambeau and the only way that he could get past that is to go deep into the playoffs.
5. I wonder if Thompson is a bit like the old baseball scouts in Moneyball. He outguesses himself and places too much emphasis on an impressive body ("five tool guys" in baseball) even if that body's owner has never been able to keep it healthy or to use it to accomplish anything outstanding on the football field. On the other hand, there is some indication that his '06 draft was pretty good, so ....
6. As to his performance lately, there seem to be only two possibilities: Ted Thompson is an idiot or everyone else is.