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Green Bay Packers: Ted Thompson Admits Defeat at Safety Position

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | The Green Bay Packers made the difficult decision to part ways with safety Jerron McMillian on Tuesday of this week.

The 2012 fourth-round pick had seen his snap count decrease steadily throughout the year, so the announcement by the Packers yesterday wasn't terribly surprising.

Head coach Mike McCarthy has been quietly fuming over the last few weeks as he's seen his team's playoff chances fade alongside their tackling fundamentals.

After hearing McCarthy speak ominously about potential changes to the team during their recent 0-4-1 slide, McMillian's departure is fairly anti-climatic. At least in the near term. It's doubtful that the release of a bench-warmer will have a significant impact on the team's struggling defense, aside from possibly lighting a fire under some of the other fringe players.

The more important dimension to McMillian's firing relates to Ted Thompson and his well-known draft and develop strategy. Because of the aforementioned approach, the Packers have the most players of any team in the NFL to dress for only one squad.

Ted Thompson gained notoriety in 2010 when the exceptional depth of his eventual Super Bowl champion team helped bridge more than a few gaps due to injury.

Bolstered by that high degree of success, Thompson has been chugging his own Kool-Aid since that epic title run. Often to the chagrin of Packer Nation, Thompson has held almost exclusively to the draft in seeking fresh talent.

Prior to the start of the 2013 season, I suggested in an article that the Packers were looking fairly thin at both safety and offensive line. Since losing Nick Collins to injury and Scott Wells to free agency, the Packers have experienced a void in depth and leadership at both of those key positions.

Based on the release of a once-coveted draft pick like McMillian, there's now reason to believe the team's general manager may be considering a shift in his ongoing philosophy. McMillian was a only second-year player in the Packers' system, thus given little time to flourish in the "develop" stage of the "draft and develop" one-two punch.

After investing so much time and resources scouting, drafting and training Jerron McMillian, it seems doubtful the team completely gave up on his long-term ability. "Draft and develop" inherently means the team probably never viewed McMillian as an immediate contributor.

The second, and arguably more likely scenario, is that Thompson simply decided his plan to "draft and develop" a replacement for Nick Collins via McMillian was too much of a long-term gamble.

Thompson, like any other human, is subject to emotions. Seeing his team go down in flames after the loss of Aaron Rodgers has likely been at least a small blow to his confidence. Like it or not, the NFL is a "win now" league, and Thompson may be feeling more pressure to dabble in free agency to get the immediate help he needs.

The current lack of experienced safety talent on the Packer roster makes it a good starting point for a veteran upgrade. There are typically only two "true" safeties on the field at any one time, so a single quality upgrade can drastically change the overall performance of the unit. Imagine Morgan Burnett paired up with an all-pro.

If the Packers miss the playoffs in 2013, the general manager of the team will find his seat warming considerably faster than after their ugly playoff loss to San Francisco last year.

Ultimately, that could mean the large group of vocal fans clamoring for Ted Thompson to do more in free agency could see action a lot sooner than they may have previously anticipated.

Andrew Prochnow is a derivatives trader by day and a Green Bay Packers fan by night. He is a regular contributor at Yahoo Sports and The Bleacher Report. Tweet him @AndrewProchnow.

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