Former Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson died Wednesday night at the age of 68.
A veteran personnel man, Thompson spent all but five of his 26 active years in NFL front offices with the Packers. He was a two-time Super Bowl champion in Titletown, earning a ring as director of pro personnel in the 1996 season and as general manager 14 years later.
"His impact is still felt today," Packers coach Matt LaFleur said at his press conference Thursday. "I think it's felt all around the league. There's a lot of heavy hearts here today."
Before entering the personnel ranks, Thompson was a linebacker and special-teamer for the Houston Oilers for 10 seasons. Undrafted out of Southern Methodist, Thompson joined Bum Phillips' Oilers in 1975 and played 146 games for the franchise over the next decade. In addition to logging snaps on defense and special teams in seven postseason games and starting nine regular-season games over his career, Thompson attempted and hit four extra-point tries in a 1980 loss to the New York Jets.
Within eight years of the end of his playing career, Thompson was back in football as a scout for then-Packers general manager Ron Wolf. From there, Thompson climbed the ranks in Green Bay from scout to director of pro personnel to director of player personnel. He returned to the Packers in 2005 to take over for head coach Mike Sherman, who was also acting as Green Bay's general manager.
As Packers GM, Thompson was responsible for hiring Mike McCarthy as head coach and drafting fixtures of Green Bay's Super Bowl-winning team in 2010 and beyond, including Aaron Rodgers, Nick Collins, A.J. Hawk, Greg Jennings, James Jones, Mason Crosby, Jordy Nelson, Clay Matthews, B.J. Raji, T.J. Lang, Bryan Bulaga, Morgan Burnett, Randall Cobb, David Bakhtiari, Mike Daniels, Corey Linsley, Davante Adams and Kenny Clark. Thompson drafted 16 players who went on to make at least one Pro Bowl while with the Packers.
"Ted gave me an opportunity of a lifetime," McCarthy, now the head coach of the Cowboys, said in a statement. "As a young first-time head coach, who thought he had all the answers, I couldn't have been matched with a more perfect leader. He taught me patience. I will forever remember all of the times he would simply smile at me and say, 'Slow down young man.'"
Green Bay compiled a 125-82-1 record and tallied nine playoff appearances over Thompson's 13 seasons as general manager, claiming a win in Super Bowl XLV over the Pittsburgh Steelers, the franchise's fourth.
Thompson's legacy in Green Bay lives on in the Packers' current roster. Among the players set to enter Sunday's NFC Championship Game who were drafted by Thompson are Rodgers, Adams, Bakhtiari, Linsley, Clark, Crosby, Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams and Kevin King.
Rodgers, who was Thompson's first-ever Packers draft pick as general manager, said in a statement, "I'm really thankful for Ted. The fact that I was his first draft pick will always link us together. I always appreciated his steady hand and the conversations that we would have. He always made things pretty clear about what he expected from the team and what he expected from me. He always preached to put the team first, to not be a distraction, to be a good teammate, to be a good professional, and I always appreciated those comments. He would always start the season and address the team for a few minutes and he would always finish with, 'Godspeed.' As he passes on, I want to thank him for what he meant to myself, the team and the organization, and wish him Godspeed."
James Jones, currently a NFL Network analyst, posted the follow remembrance for Thompson on Twitter:
Thompson also worked for the Seattle Seahawks as their general manager from 2000-2004; the year after he left Seattle for Green Bay, the Seahawks roster he built reached its first Super Bowl in franchise history.
Following the 2017 season, Thompson was reassigned within the organization to senior advisor to football operations. Brian Gutekunst, Green Bay's current general manager, soon took over GM duties.
"Ted was a man of great character and integrity who cared deeply for his family and friends," 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."
Thompson was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in 2019.