|Packers GM Thompson keeps close ties to Phillips family|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 29 November 2007 10:12|
But when Thompson needs advice or a heart-to-heart talk, he'll usually seek out his longtime mentor and friend, former Houston Oilers coach O.A. ``Bum'' Phillips.
``He's been like a second father, almost,'' Thompson said. ``He's the kind of guy that I can call whenever I'm facing a tough decision in my personal life, or a career decision, and he'll talk to me about it.''
And sometimes the advice comes unsolicited, such as when the 84-year-old Phillips offers Thompson pointers on how to ride a horse - even if Thompson, who grew up in Texas, thinks he's doing just fine on his own.
``I'm not exactly a broncobuster,'' Thompson said. ``But I'm not a greenhorn, either.''
That doesn't exactly stop ol' Bum from offering his two cents.
Once a coach, always a coach.
Every year, Thompson takes a few weeks out of his summer and travels to a ranch in Goliad, Texas to visit Phillips, a bond that reaches back to Thompson's days as an undersized but tough linebacker at SMU and for the Oilers.
The friendship between Thompson and the Phillips family was set to play out on the field Thursday night, when the Packers team Thompson assembled faced a Dallas Cowboys team coached by Bum's son, Wade Phillips, who was a defensive coach for the Oilers during Thompson's playing days.
Outsiders might be surprised that so much was at stake in the game, a showdown between two 10-1 teams angling for a leg up on home-field advantage for the playoffs. The Phillips family wasn't.
When Thompson visited the ranch this summer, Bum Phillips and his wife, Debbie, made a prediction.
``They both said the same thing: 'You guys will both be 11-0 by then,''' Thompson said.
They weren't off by much.
The surprising success of the Packers - and, to some extent, the success of the Cowboys - represents a measure of vindication for Thompson.
Since taking over the depleted roster left from former coach Mike Sherman's disappointing stint as the Packers' GM in 2005, Thompson has been vilified by fans for his conservative approach to building a team through the draft, not free agency.
Thompson even took criticism a few years ago when he interviewed Wade Phillips for the head coaching job now held by Packers coach Mike McCarthy.
In stark contrast to Bum Phillips, who is remembered more for his Texas-sized personality than his winning record with the Oilers and New Orleans Saints, Thompson is fairly shy in media settings. He hasn't gone out of his way to defend his decisions in public.
``He's the same person he's always been,'' Bum Phillips said in a telephone interview from his ranch. ``He's not a talker. He doesn't volunteer information unless he has a reason to.''
Of course, Bum reckons, ``The less you say, the less you have to take back.''
Thompson would prefer to let the decisions he makes speak for themselves on the field. So far, it's working.
``He's not a vindictive guy,'' Bum Phillips said. ``He's a guy with a lot of confidence. He doesn't need to go around telling people he was right. You know it. Everybody else knows it. Why do you have to brag about it?''
Thompson said taking criticism is just a part of Packers fans' passion.
``I might take more heat than a guy in my place in another city,'' Thompson said. ``But there isn't the same passion, the same intensity (elsewhere). Here, everybody you meet in the grocery store, everybody you see in the airport getting on a plane for a scouting trips wants to know what the Packers are doing. Is that a two-edged sword? Sure. But it's a good two-edged sword.''
Thompson does admit to being stung by one line of criticism: When he interviewed Wade Phillips for the Packers' head coaching job after firing Sherman at the end of the 2005 season, many assumed it was just a courtesy interview because of Thompson's connections with the Phillips family - even Wade Phillips himself.
``I think Ted did it as a favor,'' Wade Phillips said this week.
Thompson, however, insists the interview wasn't a favor.
``It wasn't a buddy-buddy thing, or a crony thing,'' Thompson said. ``It doesn't work that way in the NFL. I interviewed Wade because I thought he was a heck of a coaching candidate.''
As it turns out, he might have been right.
``Wade's always been a winner,'' Thompson said. ``He knows how to coach, and he's got a great rapport with his players.''
Thompson and the younger Phillips have exchanged friendly barbs all week. The Cowboys coach opened the week with a salvo directed toward Thompson, joking to reporters that Thompson wasn't a very good player.
``I think he's a better general manager,'' Wade Phillips said. ``I hope he is.''
After reading Phillips' comments, Thompson fired back an e-mail.
``I sent him one back saying, 'You're killing me,''' Thompson said. ``Because I was trying to convince you guys (the media) I was a good player.''
The next day, Phillips joked he'd had a change of heart, and decided to help Thompson pad his resume.
``He really was a good player, started every game and made all the tackles,'' Phillips said, chuckling. ``He said I let the cat out of the bag - he told me he was a great player.''