Rick Spielman and Ted Thompson: A Comparison


Feb 20, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman speaks during a press conference during the 2014 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

It’s widely been speculated that Rick Spielman is on the hot seat in this year’s upcoming draft. If he fails to deliver with a viable quarterback, he’s likely out at the Vikings general manager.

Meanwhile, Ted Thompson is preparing to add some young talent that could help push his team over the hump and to the second Super Bowl of his tenure.

There’s hardly a football mind out there who doesn’t sing the praises of Ted Thompson and his “best player available” approach. He’s seen as one of the best general managers in the league despite putting almost all his eggs into the draft basket and ignoring free agency and trades.

These two men are polar opposites in terms of their job security and their frachises’ goals for 2014.

But are their results in the draft really that different? In an article up on the MMQB, Greg Bedard provided an interesting statistic: since taking over as Packer’s GM in 2005, approximately 9 percent of the players Thompson has drafted have gone on to make the Pro Bowl (note: the article says 8 percent but I counted eight Pro Bowlers in Thompson’s tenure, not seven). Spielman’s Pro Bowl percentage is 13.

The two men have drafted an equal number of Pro Bowlers by my count, at eight apiece. The interesting thing is that it’s taken Spielman 26 less picks to get to eight.

Since taking over as manager of the Vikings draft room in 2006 according to Bedard, Spielman picks Chad Greenway (’06), Adrian Peterson (’07), Sidney Rice (’07), Percy Harvin (’09), Kyle Rudolph (’11), Matt Kalil (’12), Blair Walsh (’12) and Cordarrelle Patterson (’13) have all made the trip to Hawaii.

Note: I say according to Bedard because he says Spielman was in charge on draft day starting in 2006. While Brad Childress had final say over the roster at that point, if Bedard said Spielman was in charge of the draft that means it’s fair to hold him accountable for the team’s failures and successes on draft night starting then.

Ted Thompson’s Pro Bowlers are Aaron Rodgers (’05), Nick Collins (’05), Greg Jennings (’06), AJ Hawk (’06), Josh Sitton (’08), Clay Matthews (’09), BJ Raji (’09) and Eddie Lacy (’13).

Of those eight Pro Bowlers, each general manager has managed to retain six on their current roster. Spielman let Rice walk after 2009 and traded Percy Harvin last year for a first, third, and seventh round pick. Collins was forced to retire due to injuries for the Packers, and they let Jennings sign with the Vikings in free agency last year.

One could make the argument that Spielman deserves to have one more Pro Bowler in this discussion as well when it comes to the draft. While not a Spielman draft pick, Speilman did use a first round pick and two third round picks to acquire Jared Allen from the Kansas City Chiefs.

The two men have used the draft to obtain an equal number of All-Pro players as well if Allen is factored into the equation.

Peterson, Allen, Walsh, Patterson, and John Sullivan (’08) have made the All-Pro team for Rick Spielman. Rodgers, Collins, Matthews, Sitton and Lacy have made the All-Pro team for Thompson.

With Collins’ retirement and Allen’s departure in free agency, both men have an equal number of All-Pro picks remaining on their roster.

While measuring draft success by Pro Bowl and All-Pro appearances is by no means a perfect system (plenty of quality picks were excluded from both sides), but if Spielman is this close to Thompson in results in fewer draft picks, why are the two men is such opposite league standing?

The answer, of course, is painfully obvious: Aaron Rodgers.

Thompson scooped up the falling Rodgers in the 2005 draft and his team has only strayed from contention for one year (2008) since then. Rodgers, as the team’s franchise quarterback, has covered up the team’s roster flaws and carried the Packers to victory year in and year out.

No Pro Bowlers or All Pros have emerged from Thompson’s drafts in 2010, 2011 or 2012, but despite average drafts the Packers contended each of those seasons. They were even crowned league champions in 2010.

Spielman has done a remarkable job in the draft, averaging almost a Pro Bowler per year. That’s remarkable consistency with the draft being as unpredictable as it is.

But the one thing he has not done is find a man who can start under center. And if he fails to do that soon he’ll be busy making copies of his resume to send to other teams.

In reality, the only major difference between Spielman and Thompson is one draft pick back in 2005.

The problem for Spielman is, that pick made all the difference in the world.

What do you think Vikings fans? Is it fair that Spielman is on the hot seat right now, or does he need to get the quarterback pick right to earn your respect? Sound off in the comments below or talk to me on Twitter @Goatman102!