[The Packers] don’t have a majority owner who can shake things up and put fear into everyone in the organization by walking into the building and firing someone on the football staff in midseason.Many Packer fans may be frustrated, because the Patriots seem to get to the Super Bowl more frequently, and there are still the memories of five titles in seven years with Vince Lombardi.
Anyone who believes that’s the Packers’ problem this season has a fundamental misunderstanding of the hierarchy and management structure that has made them the NFL’s second-winningest franchise since 1992. Their .631 winning percentage is behind only New England’s .650 in that time.
For starters, the Packers have a definitive hierarchy even if they don’t have a single owner.
It is to the business organization, however, that I wish to speak.
Most importantly, it puts football decisions in the hands of people trained in football. The GM sinks or swims based on the team’s performance, and the hierarchy is clearly defined: The president hires and fires the GM, and the GM hires and fires the coach.Specialization, division of labor, span of control. So far, so good. Better: no cult of the disruptive CEO.
The president's and executive committee’s expertise is in the business world, or in Murphy’s case athletics administration and NFL business matters, not in building a football team. They don’t tell the GM how to run the club. If the president doesn’t like the way football is going, he can fire the GM. But he and the committee are not involved in actual football decisions, and rightly so.
The separation of authority also has served a second purpose: It has made the Packers’ GM job – and by extension, coaching and scouting in the organization – one of the most attractive in the league.More to the point, there's no short-termism. (Because of the way the league allocates resources, and because each team confronts a salary cap, loading up on marquee free agents for a Super Bowl run depletes capital. The marquee players get hurt, or the team doesn't get to the big game?)
If you’re the Packers’ GM, you can run the organization your way, with minimal interference from your boss. You succeed or fail based on your decisions, not decisions forced on you from above. And because the team doesn’t have an owner siphoning off profits for his own enrichment, all the money the franchise makes goes back into football. The Packers are among the best-resourced teams in the league.
So teams with a majority owner can be patient, even if it’s the exception, not the rule. And it’s worth noting that [Pittsburgh's] Rooneys are among the few owners in the league whose primary business is football.Patience: something investment managers and corporate leaders, particularly in capital-intensive businesses might consider.
As for the Packers, [Ron] Wolf or [Ted] Thompson has been the GM for 21 of the last 25 seasons. Their scouting system and staff have been stable, and they’ve had only four head coaches over that time.
To be clear, this isn’t an argument for the Packers to do nothing this offseason. The season needs to play out before we weigh in on that.
But the Packers have a structure in place to make changes. [Head coach Mike] McCarthy can fire any assistant coach at any time. Thompson can fire McCarthy at any time. And ditto for [president Mike] Murphy with Thompson.