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History of first-year GMs from Ted Thompson tree suggests aggressive 2018 offseason

Ted Thompson had a particular way of approaching team building, but his proteges have been much more active in GM jobs elsewhere.

2015 NFL Scouting Combine
John Schneider left notoriously risk-averse Ted Thompson and immediately began aggressively acquiring talent.

When John Schneider left the Packers front office for the Seattle Seahawks GM job in 2010, he treated talent acquisition like a repressed teenager going off to college.

He partied hard.

According to, Schneider completed 284 roster transactions in his first year at the helm. The apple didn’t just fall far from the Ted Thompson tree; it rolled down the hill, into a river and flowed into the ocean.

Can we separate the “Ted Thompson method” from Ted Thompson? We’ll find out this offseason with new GM Brian Gutekunst taking over the controls, though one hint may come from that move in itself.

If the status quo were just fine, does Mark Murphy make this change at all? If the idea isn’t to be more aggressive, why make a change from a successful GM like Thompson in the prime of Aaron Rodgers’ career? Keeping Gutekunst certainly played a role, but the Packers likely could have kept evaluators like Eliot Wolf and Alonzo Highsmith by not rocking the boat at all.

More than likely, Murphy’s bold move stemmed from a preferred philosophical change in roster building. And while we don’t know what a Brian Gutekunst philosophy is, there’s ample reason to believe the Thompson mantra was truly Thompson’s and not a franchise-wide shared vision.

Looking at the careers of proteges who went on to GM jobs else, including Schneider, the “we don’t do free agency” approach simply doesn’t translate to other situations.

True, those teams have owners and different organizational structures, so we can’t know for sure if a more risk-taking approach to free agency comes from the front office or not, the pattern of behavior remains clear.

Here’s a look at what Thompson and his GM tree have done in their first season on the job in free agency and in the first three rounds of the draft.

Ted Thompson Green Bay Packers 2005

Free agent signings

  • Adrian Klemm G

Top Draft Picks

  • Aaron Rodgers QB
  • Nick Collins S
  • Terrance Murphy WR

John Schneider Seattle Seahawks 2010

Free agent signings/trades

  • Chris Clemons DE
  • Johnson Henderson DT
  • Charlie Whitehurst QB
  • Marshawn Lynch RB (trade)
  • LenDale White RB (trade)
  • Kevin Vickerson DT (trade)
  • Leon Washington RB (trade)

Top Draft Picks

  • Russell Okung OT
  • Earl Thomas S
  • Golden Tate WR

Reggie McKenzie Oakland Raiders 2012

Free agent signings

  • Phillip Wheeler LB
  • Shawntae Spencer CB
  • Ron Bartell CB
  • Pat Lee CB

Top Draft Picks

  • Tony Bergstromm OT*

*McKenzie only had a third-round pick after Raiders previously traded first two selections.

John Dorsey Kansas City Chiefs 2013

Free agent signings

  • Donnie Avery WR
  • Mike DeVito DL
  • Anthony Fasano TE
  • Geoff Schwartz OT
  • Sean Smith CB
  • Frank Zombo OLB

Top Draft Picks

  • Eric Fisher OT
  • Travis Kelce TE
  • Knile Davis RB

Not only did these former Packers front office men eschew the Thompson model of ignoring free agency (something Thompson himself did in 2006 when he splurged on Charles Woodson, Ryan Pickett and Marquand Manuel), but they all made significant moves in their first offseason.

Even cap-strapped Reggie McKenzie went out and added rotational players to the Raiders roster in that first season.

No one should expect Gutekunst to go full Schneider and swing trades left and right, but the track record suggests the Packers will be players in free agency this offseason. That could even just be to tidy up around the edges, much like Green Bay did last offseason with players like Ahmad Brooks, Quinton Dial, Lance Kendricks, and Ricky Jean-Francois.

There’s also an interesting pattern in their drafts, which could tell us something cultural about how they value team building.

In every non-Thompson first year, the GMs took an offensive tackle in with one of their first three picks.

And if we give Reggie McKenzie his first full draft from 2013, he doubles down and does it again taking Menelik Watson in the second round, even more reason to suggest the Thompson model values top-end OTs as foundational (even if Schneider promptly forgot how to build an OL after that).

This is hardly revelatory as it’s the consensus around the league OT is a premium position. But the fact every single GM used a premium pick on one in Year 1 -- and not just that, all took one in the first two rounds — strongly suggests solidifying that position will be a top priority of Gutekunst.

How much loyalty will he feel to a player like Jason Spriggs who has struggled early in his career, but is still a young, toolsy former high pick of Ted Thompson?

Perhaps the more interesting question will be how much Gutekunst will use the thresholds and standards Thompson kept to in his drafting of certain positions. These other GMs have strayed at times from those requirements and it’s paid off for them.

With Thompson still in the scouting office, will Gutekunst look to think more outside the box? We won’t know until this spring. Ditto for how much influence Thompson/Murphy will have on free agent acquisition.

But if Gutekunst is left to his own devices in terms of decision making, there’s ample evidence to suggest he won’t be a Thompson clone. He’ll likely add talent in free agency, and almost certainly add a tackle in the top-100.

Beyond that, I’m not sure even Gutekunst knows what to expect.