Few general managers in the NFL garner as much respect and admiration as the Packers Ted Thompson. Not only has Thompson built a perennial playoff team and title contender in Green Bay, but he also successfully navigated the Packers into the post-Brett Favre era when many decried moving on as impertinent and dangerous. Green Bay's Super Bowl XLV victory and subsequent 15-1 campaign cemented Thompson's legacy as one of the best talent evaluators in the league.
But at age 61, Thompson won't be around forever. While he hasn't commented on how long he plans to remain general manager, retirement may come sooner than many expect. Unfortunately for the Packers, most of the obvious successor candidates have departed for bigger opportunities over the past five seasons. In January 2013, the Chiefs hired away Director of College Scouting John Dorsey. A year before that Reggie McKenzie left his post as Director of Player Personnel to become GM of the Raiders. Perhaps the biggest blow came during the offseason leading up to the Packers' eventual title year when the Seahawks brought over Director of Football Operations John Schneider to rebuild their franchise.
While the Packers continue to develop young talent evaluators such as Eliot Wolf, Brian Gutekunst, and Alonzo Highsmith, they're still many years away from being considered for a GM position. Russ Ball is perhaps Thompson's most trusted executive, but like Andrew Brandt before him, he may be better off in a negotiator role. Accordingly, if Thompson steps away in the next few years, the team may be forced to look outside to replace him.
Could the Packers go after one of their former executives like John Schneider?
That's exactly what ESPN Wisconsin's Jason Wilde suggested on Friday's edition of Green and Gold Today.
"If you were asking who the heir apparent (to Ted Thompson) is on staff, I would say [Russ Ball]. If you're asking me who I think the next GM of the Green Bay Packers will be, I would say John Schneider, and they someday have to give a draft pick to the Seahawks to get him to do it."
For those unfamiliar with Jason Wilde, he's one of the Packers' best-connected beat writers. He's good friends with John Schneider, which is why the Seahawks GM made an appearance on Green and Gold Today the Friday before his team defeated the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII. While it's hard to envision anyone stepping away from one of the youngest world champions in NFL history, it's equally difficult to see Wilde bringing up Schneider without ample reason to believe a return to the Packers is possible.
Part of Wilde's rationale may be that Schneider bolted Seattle for the Packers once already. When Mike Holmgren left Green Bay to become the Head Coach and overlord of the Seahawks, he hired Schneider as his Director of Player Personnel. After one year, Schneider voluntarily left for a lesser position in Green Bay where Ron Wolf, his old mentor, was still working as General Manager. As a native of Wisconsin, Schneider also has family ties to the area.
It's important to remember that before the Packers can hire anyone as their next general manager, Ted Thompson must first retire. With the success he's brought to Green Bay, there's every reason to think he'll remain in the big chair as long as he sees fit. While Schneider would be an excellent choice to succeed him, Thompson could very well remain in his position for another decade.