General manager Ted Thompson’s contract expires after the 2018 NFL Draft, so the next 10 months should be filled with rumors as to who’ll be running the team a year from now. Here’s my list of possibilities, from most likely to least likely:
TED THOMPSON – Assuming both his health and his team remain good, it’s hard to imagine the 64-year-old voluntarily walking away from the sweetest GM gig in sports. Thompson doesn’t have to speak with the press from July through March. Thanks to VP Russ Ball, he rarely has to deal with administrative duties. And he doesn’t even have to be bothered with pesky job interviews (the last key front office hire was Ball in 2008, and he came via a recommendation from coach Mike McCarthy). In short, Thompson is paid $3 million a year to be a glorified scout. Of course, there’s always a chance Mark Murphy could force him out, but how realistic is that? The prez seems thrilled to not have to deal with the football side of things and spend most of his time figuring out ways to make the franchise even more lucrative.
JOHN DORSEY – Until he signs an extension with the Chiefs – his deal expires after the 2018 draft – this will be a viable option, and perhaps the only one that would get Murphy to even think about nudging Thompson out the door. Dorsey has established himself as one of the top GMs in the league since leaving the Green Bay front office in 2013, and although he keeps saying how much he enjoys being in Kansas City, the chance to have complete control of a franchise would have to be very tempting. Right now, he reports to coach Andy Reid, who doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. My gut tells me that Dorsey will ultimately re-sign with the Chiefs, but if he doesn’t, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he winds up back in the place he called home as first a player and then a scout for 27 years – whether Thompson likes it or not.
RUSS BALL – I’ve been writing about this possibility for a few years, and it’s now become a hot topic among the local media. Forget all the talk about him attending practices and watching film – this guy is a (very good) bean counter. But he’s also close to the head coach, and that’s why he’s a legitimate candidate to replace Thompson. Assuming McCarthy returns in 2018 – and that’s not a certainty – Ball would be a more logical replacement than director of football operations Eliot Wolf. Could you imagine a 53-year-old Super Bowl-winning coach taking orders from a 35-year-old with no experience as a general manager? It might make the most sense – at least in the short term – to replace Thompson with Ball and either keep Wolf in his current position or give director of college scouting Brian Gutekunst a promotion. This would obviously be the most unorthodox move, but it could also be the one that creates the least amount of drama.
BRIAN GUTEKUNST – While I don’t see this happening as long as McCarthy is still around, I think he’d get the nod over Wolf, whom I’ve always thought would begin his GM career elsewhere before perhaps returning to run the Packers. Not only would holding the same job in the same place as your Hall of Fame father be daunting, but how about learning on the job while also expected to win another Super Bowl or two before future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers calls it a career? Gutekunst would also be learning on the job, but he’s nine years older than Wolf and has six more years of experience. And just as importantly, he seems to have an even better reputation around the league. Both the 49ers and the Bills were clearly more interested in Gutekunst than Wolf when the two teams were searching for GMs at the end of last season.
Here’s one more thing on Wolf. Based on his current job, there’s no question he’d be the logical heir to the throne. But if that was truly the case, he wouldn’t have interviewed with San Francisco and Buffalo. Those were terrible jobs. Both teams have meddling and incompetent owners, and both teams already had a new head coach in place. That tells me Wolf knows he’s not going to be Thompson’s replacement next year. or – and this is the one I’m going with – he knows the Packers won’t be looking for a replacement next year.