Ted Thompson, Who Helped Revive the Packers, Is Dead at 68

Ted Thompson, who as a longtime executive of the Green Bay Packers helped revive one of football’s most enduring dynasties, died on Wednesday at his home in Atlanta, Texas. He was 68.

His death was announced by the Packers.

The team did not specify the cause of death. But after he was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in 2019, Thompson disclosed that he had been found to have an autonomic disorder, which affects the part of the nervous system that controls involuntary actions like the beating of the heart.

Thompson spent eight years in the Packers’ personnel department in the 1990s, when the team rose from its two-decade slumber to regain its swagger with Brett Favre at quarterback and captured a Super Bowl title in the 1996 season. After a five-year stint with the Seattle Seahawks, Thompson returned to Green Bay in 2005 as general manager and immediately made one of his most contentious yet consequential decisions: drafting quarterback Aaron Rodgers out of the University of California, Berkeley, in the first round.

Thompson — who eschewed signing free agents, preferring to stockpile draft picks and to take the best player still available in the draft regardless of his position — said he was surprised that Rodgers hadn’t been picked earlier on the first night of the 2005 draft.

“I have no clue as to what happened and why it turned out the way it did,” he said with typical understatement. “I think the good Lord was shining down on the Green Bay Packers, and certainly me.”

The pick set off alarm bells because it signaled the beginning of the end of Favre’s long tenure with the Packers. Favre, then in his mid-30s, was celebrated for his role in reviving the franchise, and for his outsize character, which made him one of the faces of the N.F.L. But grabbing Rodgers was a prescient move. Favre’s production, while still solid, had slowed.

Favre, who turned 36 that fall, felt snubbed and toyed with the idea of retirement. After the 2007 season, he left Green Bay for the Jets; he later played for the Minnesota Vikings.

Rodgers took over the starting role after three years as Favre’s understudy. He had a rough first season, and Thompson was widely criticized for having drafted him; some Packers fans created websites calling for his dismissal. But Rodgers soon caught his stride and helped catapult the Packers into another decade of sustained success, including, in the 2010 season, the franchise’s fourth Super Bowl championship.

(The Packers will vie for another shot at the Super Bowl on Sunday when they play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the N.F.C. championship game.)

In addition to Rodgers, who has won the N.F.L. Most Valuable Player Award twice, Thompson signed cornerback Charles Woodson, the league’s defensive player of the year in 2009; linebacker Clay Matthews, the franchise leader in sacks; wide receiver Jordy Nelson; and more than a dozen other players who made at least one Pro Bowl appearance.

Thompson was named N.F.L. executive of the year by his peers in 2007 and 2011.

Ted Clarence Thompson was born on Jan. 17, 1953, in Atlanta, Texas. His father, Jimmy, was a rancher, and his mother, Elta, was a homemaker. He helped his father, who was also a Little League coach and a disciplinarian, by feeding the cattle on the ranch.

Growing up in East Texas in the heart of football country, Thompson played running back, linebacker and place-kicker in high school. At Southern Methodist University, he was a starter for three years and was named to the academic All-Southwest Conference team; he also played on the baseball team. He finished with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

Signed as an undrafted free agent by Coach Bum Phillips of the Houston Oilers in 1975, Thompson played linebacker with the Oilers for a decade, retiring after the 1984 season. He missed just one game because of injury.

In his second stint in Green Bay, he grew into a towering figure at Lambeau Field, a talented scout who was considered humble. In 2017 he assumed an advisory role because of health concerns, according to the team’s president, Mark Murphy.

Ron Wolf, Thompson’s predecessor and mentor in Green Bay, said that behind his protégé’s aw-shucks charm was a man with a self-made confidence.

“You have to look at his history,” Wolf said before the Packers won Super Bowl XLV. “He wasn’t drafted. He hung on. That toughness manifests itself now in what he’s been able to accomplish. He did it like Sinatra — his way. And he did it with the most prestigious franchise in the N.F.L. from a historical perspective.”

Thompson is survived by a sister, Debbie Fortenberry, and two brothers, Frank and Jim.

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