[Packer president] Mark Murphy played the percentages and made a football scout the Green Bay Packers’ new general manager.At the same time the Packers introduced Mr Gutekunst, Mr Murphy announced a change in the organization chart, with the general manager, the head coach, and the personnel director, Russ Ball, responsible for respecting the salary cap forming a troika. That's apparently the organization chart of a number of other playoff teams. Heavy, though, is the head that wears the crown.
Next comes the fallout.
Many signs over the past week pointed to Murphy, the Packers’ president and CEO, choosing the team’s salary-cap manager and top administrator on the football side, Russ Ball, as the new GM. Instead, Murphy surprised on Sunday by hiring the 44-year-old Brian Gutekunst, who first joined the Packers as a scouting intern in 1997.
That’s playing the odds. The Packers have been a model franchise ever since Bob Harlan, the team’s chairman emeritus, ceded to the quintessential scout, Ron Wolf, total control over football operations in 1991. There’s a lot to being a GM, but in the end his most important duties are drafting and signing players. If you don’t get that part right, the rest doesn’t matter. So the Packers’ GM really should be a scout above all.
That doesn’t mean Gutekunst will succeed. If it had been John Dorsey or John Schneider or Reggie McKenzie, there’d be a GM track record to go on. Gutekunst has never had this kind of authority, so just as with an on-the-rise scout from another team, we won’t know his capabilities until he does the job.
It’s still too early to know how aggressive new Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst will be in free agency and the trade market, but if you’re head coach Mike McCarthy you got what you wanted.Yes, and after his appointment, Mr Gutekunst was having a little fun on social media, teasing Mr Thompson about a box of scouting tapes devoid of any free agents ...
Who knows how much McCarthy’s pointed remarks Thursday about the new man being a “good fit” (i.e., someone willing to stock his roster with more than just rookies), caused president Mark Murphy to choose a personnel man over an administrator (Russ Ball) as Ted Thompson’s successor?
It’s likely McCarthy’s comments helped influence Murphy’s decision to contact the Seattle Seahawks about the availability of general manager John Schneider. McCarthy and Schneider are close friends and Schneider was instrumental in McCarthy getting the job in Green Bay in 2006.
Even though the Seahawks blocked Murphy’s attempt, McCarthy still won.
Instead of working for Ball, whose mentor has been Thompson and whose aversion to free agency was predicted to be the same, McCarthy gets to work for a guy whose first impression in the personnel business was courtesy of Ron Wolf, the guy who rebuilt a failing franchise through the draft, free agency, trades and any other mode available to him.
Meanwhile, although Mr McCarthy is notionally one among equals when the troika sits down with Mr Murphy, the general manager is still general manager for a reason.
The only thing about lobbying for and getting the type of general manager you wanted is that you have eliminated all the excuses for not winning another Super Bowl.As Dennis Conner had it, no excuse to lose.
If Gutekunst is truly his own man and doesn’t like what he sees next season under McCarthy, he just might decide to go with his own guy. After inheriting coaches, Wolf waited a month and a half before he fired Lindy Infante and Thompson waited a year before he fired Mike Sherman.
And so while McCarthy might have pulled off a little bit of a power play with the hiring of a personnel man, he also set up a must-win scenario for himself next season.
Before the offseason is through, McCarthy will have switched coordinators on both sides of the ball, potentially received a decent amount of free-agent help and taken in a draft class possibly 12 deep, including the highest pick (14th) the team has executed since the 2009 season.
More importantly, he likely will start the season with a healthy Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams, both expected to have fresh new contracts and a chance to become one of the top quarterback-receiver tandems in the NFL. If everything goes right, McCarthy could enter 2018 with the most talent he has had since the 2010 season.
If the Packers wind up having another one of those injury-plagued seasons, no one is going to cut him a break this time around. He calls the shots when it comes to training his football team and the buck stops with him if the Packers can barely field a team in their final game again next season.Likewise, the players might have to be more accountable.
The morning after the Green Bay Packers ended their season with a whimper against the Detroit Lions, winds of change swept through Lambeau Field. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers was fired; so too were defensive line coach Mike Trgovac and inside linebackers coach Scott McCurley.Here's the task facing Mr Gutekunst.
A bombshell quickly followed: Ted Thompson was out as general manager after 13 years.
Later that afternoon, a young member of the Packers’ roster texted a reporter to express concern. He wondered if players were about to be cut. He vowed to play better next season.
“It was up and down for me this year,” the player wrote. “Next year I need it to be all up.”
Such trepidation is exactly the type of environment Brian Gutekunst promised to create when the Packers introduced him as general manager at a news conference Monday. His warm demeanor and deferential fondness toward Thompson, whom he described as a mentor and close friend, provided requisite cushion to unveil an approach to player acquisition and roster management that aligned more closely with Ron Wolf than his immediate predecessor.
“I don’t know that I’d phrase it that the cupboard was bare,” Gutekunst said. “I just think that there became opportunities for guys and they didn’t (take advantage). Now there will be new opportunities and there will probably be new faces and things like that to take on those opportunities. You never really know. We build from the draft, and sometimes you get young players that don’t particularly step up and do their end of it. There was some of that this year.The assistant coaches and coordinators have yet to be named. Being in a position where it's Bring. The. Lombardi. Trophy. Home. is still not a bad place to be going into spring team activities.
“I think we have a lot of quality pieces to this team, but there’s a lot of work to do as well. We need to get competitive at every group. We need to have competition across the board at every group, so nobody feels safe. I think that’s important. I think competition allows talents to rise and allows the cream to kind of rise to the top, so to speak. That, to me, is where we need to go.
“We need to take every opportunity to improve the roster from the top to the bottom so that there’s competition all the time — even at the end of the season when you’re banged up and you’ve got nicks and things that you’re not just holding on but you actually have competition and guys understand that if they don’t perform, there’s someone right there willing to take their spot.”
One way to increase competition is to mine the free-agent pool year-round, something Thompson did very little of in March and even less of as seasons progressed. It’s one thing to splash $50 million or $60 million on a marquee starter whose mere presence can change the tide of an offense or defense. It’s another thing altogether to sign low-budget veterans who provide valuable depth come December and January.