When a football team places 14 players – including six starters – on IR during the season and still has a chance to win 10 games, it’s going to be hard to find fault with the work of the general manager. That’s why it took us twice as long to come up with Ted Thompson’s five worst moves of the year as it did to come up with his five best. Here they are:
1) Signing Sam Shields and Frank Zombo – Two rookies nobody wanted on draft weekend have wound up playing significant roles for one of the league’s top defenses. Thompson paid a combined $11,000 for Shields and Zombo. As it turned out, he could’ve spent first and fourth round picks on the two and nobody would be batting an eye today.
2) Not trading Desmond Bishop – Thompson turned down a number of offers for his No. 4 inside inebacker during the spring and summer. By fall, Bishop was starting. By winter, he was one of the best players on defense. By next spring, he’ll be a very rich young man – either in Green Bay or someplace else.
3) Signing Charlie Peprah – Thompson’s only free agent signing elicited nothing but yawns in April. Six months and 10 solid starts later, it deserves a big thumbs up. And even though Peprah is probably only keeping the seat warm for young Morgan Burnett, he has proven to be an upgrade over Atari Bigy.
4) Claiming Howard Green – Thompson seldom adds veterans to the roster during the season, but he deviated from form and claimed the 31-year-old off waivers from the Jets in late October. The journeyman has proven to be a godsend after Ryan Pickett and Cullen Jenkins missed substantial time with injuries.
5) Keeping Daryn Colledge – It would’ve been easy to dump Colledge after his poor ’09 season, but Thompson decided to hold on to the veteran guard. It was a wise decision. Colledge has enjoyed a bounce back year and his value to the team became evident when he was injured a few weeks ago in Detroit.
1) Not finding a return man – We’ve been begging Thompson to acquire a legitimate returner for years, but he continues to accept mediocrity at this important position. Even worse, Green Bay was forced to use Shields and Tramon Williams on returns. Neither has been good, so the reward hardly equaled the risk.
2) Not drafting an outside linebacker - The three most important positions in a 3-4 are nose tackle and outside linebacker. The Packers are set at nose tackle (B.J. Raji) and at left outside linebacker (Clay Matthews), but they’re just fooling themselves with Zombo and Brad Jones. As impressive as Matthews and the defense have been this season, both will be that much better once this need is finally filled.
3) Not signing Ryan Torain – Thompson needed to add a running back after Ryan Grant got injured and he chose rookie Dimitri Nance over veteran Ryan Torain. The former spent nearly three months learning the offense before finally getting on the field. The latter, who impressed Green Bay officials in a workout in Nov. 2009, signed with the Skins and has rushed for 681 yards (4.7 average) and scored 6 TDs.
4) Not acquiring picks – Five players released by the Packers on Sept. 4 were claimed off waivers within 48 hours. Thompson almost certainly could’ve picked up a late draft choice or two had he been willing to make trades a week or two prior to cutdown day. Instead, fearing injuries, he played it conservative and got nothing in exchange for commodities that proved to be in demand around the league.
5) Keeping Donald Lee over Spencer Havner – Like the one above, this was hardly a huge mistake (it ain’t easy coming up with worst moves). Still, it was obvious during training camp that Lee had next to nothing left. And while Havner is hardly the second-coming of Jason Witten, he would’ve offered more in the passing game after Jermichael Finley went down. He also would’ve helped more on special teams.