There will come a time when Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy are no longer selecting and coaching players for the Packers, and when that day arrives, let’s hope the search for their replacements is a lot broader than it’s been in the past 20 years.
The last time a general manager or a head coach with no previous ties to the Green Bay organization was hired was in November 1991 when Ron Wolf was named general manager. A few months later he brought in Mike Holmgren to be his coach. Neither had ever worked for the Packers before. What team president and CEO Bob Harlan did was hire the very best man he could find. Wolf then did the exact same thing with Holmgren. Together, they took a laughingstock of a franchise and turned it into a power. But since then, every key hire (one GM and three coaches) already had the words ‘Green Bay Packers’ on his resume.
Ray Rhodes, who replaced Holmgren in 1999, was Green Bay’s defensive coordinator in 1992 and 1993. Mike Sherman, who replaced Rhodes in 2000 was Green Bay’s tight ends coach in 1997 and 1998. Thompson, who replaced Sherman as GM in 2005, was Green Bay’s director of player personnel from 1993 to 1999. And McCarthy, who replaced Sherman in 2006, was Green Bay’s QBs coach in 1999. And while each man – aside from Rhodes – had plenty of success, it’s fair to wonder if the team would’ve been even more successful if the very best men were hired and not just the very best men with ties to the organization.
After 25 years of sustained success and blessed with no meddling owner and the best player in the league, the jobs of GM and head coach of the Packers are without a doubt the most attractive in the league. If he wants to move on from Thompson and McCarthy after this season, team president and CEO Mark Murphy could pretty much hire anyone he wants. Respected personnel directors like New England’s Nick Cesario and Baltimore’s Eric DeCosta, who have turned down numerous job offers for years, would likely jump at the opportunity to come to Green Bay. And what coach – either a young up and comer or someone more established – would turn down the chance to take over a team with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback?
Would I mind former Packers player and front office executive John Dorsey returning to take over as GM? Not really, but would he be the best candidate or would he be the best candidate known to Murphy? And while sometimes that turns out to be one in the same, history says it’s not likely. Legendary GMs like Wolf, George Young (Giants), Bill Polian (Colts) and Bobby Beathard (Redskins) had no prior ties to the organizations they eventually led to glory. It’s the same thing with coaches. Vince Lombardi (Packers), Don Shula (Dolphins), Tom Landry (Cowboys), Bill Walsh (49ers), Joe Gibbs (Redskins) and Jimmy Johnson (Cowboys) had no previous ties to the organizations they eventually led to multiple Super Bowl championships.
I have absolutely no idea when Thompson and McCarthy are going to move on, but when they do I’d like to see Murphy – or whoever is running the team at the time – select their replacements from the widest pool of candidates possible. The Packers are one of the few teams in the National Football League that can literally have their pick of any GM and coach it wants. It’s time to seize on this advantage. There are a lot of great directors of player personnel and coordinators out there, and while this might be difficult to believe based on the past couple of decades, most have never stepped foot inside 1265 Lombardi Avenue.