Mike McCarthy

Mark Murphy Explains Decision To Restructure Packers’ Front Office

After Ted Thompson oversaw one of the NFL’s most stable organizations for over a decade, the Packers will have one of the more unique front office setups going forward.

Thompson moving into a different role with the franchise prompted Packers president Mark Murphy to subsequently divvy up the former GM’s responsibilities between successor Brian Gutekunst and Russ Ball, who was once considered the favorite for the GM post.

Neither will have the power to hire or fire Mike McCarthy, with Murphy being in line to do that if the time comes, and McCarthy will report to Murphy as well. Gutekunst and Ball will report to Murphy, with the former being in charge of the Packers’ offseason and regular-season rosters, along with the draft, with the latter running the salary cap and negotiating deals.

Murphy explained his decision to revamp the front office in an answer to a Packers fan on the team’s website.

A key factor in my thought process was to improve communication within football. I felt that, over time, silos had developed within football operations and communication had suffered,” Murphy said. “Also, I wanted to create a structure that gave Brian the best chance to succeed.

By narrowing his responsibilities, it allows him to focus on the most important aspects of his job, the draft and determining the 90- and 53-man rosters. As I came to the end of the search process, I realized how important it was to keep both Brian and Russ with us. I determined that having both of them (as well as Mike) report to me would help us achieve this objective. Finally, all organizations evolve over time and I believe this change will help us improve as we move forward.”

This adjustment may have come as a way to appease McCarthy, who hasn’t made it too much of a secret he wants the team to be more open to free agency as a method of roster augmentation. A Thompson protege, Ball was not expected to deviate much from Thompson’s old-fashioned approach to team-building. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes McCarthy may have wanted out if Ball was given the job.

But the Packers attempted to keep everyone happy by opting for this arrangement, and their best-of-both-worlds attempt will be interesting to observe this offseason.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Packers Release Safeties Coach Darren Perry

Packers safeties coach Darren Perry has been released to pursue other opportunities, the team reported on Monday. Perry asked for his release and it was granted by head coach Mike McCarthy, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tom Silverstein hears (Twitter link).

Silverstein also notes (Twitter link) that McCarthy wanted Perry to return, but named Jason Simmons secondary coach, who would be over both cornerbacks and safeties.

Perry had served as safeties coach with the Packers since 2009 and coached in the secondary for the Bengals, Steelers and Raiders before moving to Green Bay. Earlier this month, Perry received interest from the Titans, possibly for their defensive coordinator role under new head coach Mike Vrabel, Paul Kuharsky reported (Twitter link).

It is just the latest bit of reshuffling in Green Bay’s busy offseason. After the end of the regular season, longtime general manager Ted Thompson was reassigned. He was replaced by the team’s director of college scouting Brian Gutekunst. The team also added new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.

NFC Notes: Vikings, Cards, Packers, 49ers

For the first time all season, the Vikings will have all three of their quarterbacks healthy when they host New Orleans on Sunday. Even with the return of Sam Bradford and the health of Teddy Bridgewater, Case Keenum “is the guy” reports Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio.

This should come as no surprise, as Keenum has been among the league’s top signal-callers since taking over for Bradford early in the season. The question, however, will be if the team wants to have all three suit up on Sunday. Florio’s sources say that won’t be determined until right before kickoff. Florio thinks untimely concussion evaluations could play into the decision.

Regardless of the decision, Keenum will have as long a leash as possible as the starter. The sixth-year quarterback enjoyed a breakout campaign, throwing for 3,547 yards and 22 touchdowns while posting a stellar 98.3 passer rating. It is unknown at this time if Bradford will leapfrog Bridgewater for the backup role.

Here is more from around the NFC:

  • Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur is the perfect candidate for the Cardinals head-coaching vacancy, AZ Central’s Dan Bickley writes. Bickley notes Shurmur’s ability to get the most out of his quarterback as the underlying factor. He also thinks the hiring of Shurmur would ensure the return of Larry Fitzgerald. The hiring, however, would go in opposition to former head coach Bruce Arians’ wishes that defensive coordinator James Bettcher get the job.
  • Packers head coach Mike McCarthy reportedly met with team president and CEO Mark Murphy and expressed concerns Russ Ball wouldn’t be aggressive in free agency, USA Today’s Pete Dougherty reports. The meeting in theory caused Murphy to not promote Ball to general manager after Ted Thompson left the spot. Dougherty has doubts that the meeting had any impact on the situation. He also laid out another theory that Murphy preferred Brian Gutekunst all along for the job.
  • There is confidence on both sides that the 49ers and Jimmy Garoppolo will strike a deal, NBC Sports’ Matt Maiocco writes. If the sides don’t reach an agreement, it’s almost a guarantee that the quarterback will be franchised. After leading the Niners to wins in each of his first five starts, Jimmy G is a safe bet to be the QB in San Francisco for a long time.

Packers Rumors: Wolf, Gutekunst, FA

An offer for a prominent Packers job is on the table for Eliot Wolf, Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports (on Twitter), but it’s uncertain he accepts it at this point. Before the sides can progress on a deal, the 35-year-old exec must determine if he wants to stay in Green Bay. Wolf was bypassed for this job after withdrawing his name from consideration for the 49ers’ GM position last year, and the Browns are expected to pursue him. Wolf worked with John Dorsey for several years before Dorsey became the Chiefs’ GM in 2013. New Green Bay GM Brian Gutekunst said Monday (via Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com) he wants Wolf to remain on staff but acknowledged executive has other opportunities.

Here’s more from Green Bay and the latest from the North divisions.

  • What could change for the Packers is their offseason approach. The Ted Thompson years involved scant free agency participation, but Gutekunst looks to have a more modern approach to player procurement. Gutekunst said the Packers will be active in free agency, at least participating in bidding for players they covet, and (via Silverstein, on Twitter) the new GM said this announcement excited the Packers’ staff. “We’re not going to leave any stone unturned in every avenue of player acquisition,” Gutekunst said, via Wes Hodkiewicz of Packers.com (Twitter link). “… Our foundation is going to be the draft, but [free agency] is an absolute must as an accessory piece. We’re not going to be able to sign every player, [but] we want to be in the know of everything that’s going on. We have to be prepared to pull the trigger.”
  • Gutekunst may not be making a change at head coach anytime soon. Signed last week to an extension that runs through 2019, Mike McCarthy doesn’t look to have lost any support as a result of this front office change. “We have a great relationship,” Gutekunst said today. “I have a ton of respect for him as a football coach and as a man.”
  • Team president Mark Murphy said (via Demovsky), however, if a decision is made to ultimately fire McCarthy, he will make it and be responsible for hiring his successor. Other than that, Murphy said he will not meddle in football decisions. Silverstein notes (via Twitter) the previous arrangement involved all football parties answering to Thompson whereas this one could leave some uncertainty with Gutekunst, McCarthy and Russ Ball each reporting to Murphy. Ball has been given a title bump and now has a more direct line to Murphy.
  • McCarthy’s comments last week about the next GM being a “good fit” may have been a shot at Thompson’s free agency-phobic tendencies, Silverstein writes, adding they also may have induced the Packers to contact the Seahawks about a John Schneider interview. While Seattle blocked that move, Silverstein notes McCarthy’s comments may have prompted Murphy to hire Gutekunst in order to see the team take a more proactive approach to stocking the roster in free agency. Silverstein writes Ball was expected to approach free agency like Thompson, his mentor, so this decision could be interpreted as McCarthy getting his way. While Gutekunst worked under Thompson throughout the latter’s tenure, Silverstein writes that other execs who received opportunities elsewhere — Schneider, Dorsey and Reggie McKenzie — were not shy about signing free agents.

Russ Ball To Remain With Packers

The Packers promoted Brian Gutekunst to GM and continued their in-house approach to football operations, but this will result in a change in how their front office is structured.

Without Ted Thompson in the fold, Gutekunst won’t be the only person reporting directly to team president Mark Murphy. Fellow GM candidate Russ Ball will be staying with the Packers and will now join Gutekunst and Mike McCarthy in reporting directly to Murphy, Tyler Dunne of Bleacher Report reports (on Twitter).

Ball will also receive a new title and a raise, Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com reports. The 10-year Packers exec is now the franchise’s executive vice president/director of football operations, although Demovsky adds the cap guru’s duties will remain largely the same — negotiating contracts, being in charge of the cap and overseeing other departments.

Fellow GM candidate Eliot Wolf not being mentioned in this troika that now reports to Murphy could signal his imminent exit from Green Bay. The sought-after GM interviewee figures to have opportunities elsewhere, with reported interest coming from the John Dorsey-led Browns, if he so chooses.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Packers To Hire Brian Gutekunst As GM

The Packers are promoting their director of player personnel, Brian Gutekunst, to general manager, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports (via Twitter) that it will be a five-year deal for Gutekunst.

Brian Gutekunst (vertical)

Gutekunst is highly respected in scouting circles, and Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com writes that Gutekunst is the most well-rounded scout in Green Bay’s personnel department. Demovsky adds that Gutekunst dazzled Packers’ brass in his recent interview with the club.

Green Bay elected to hire Gutekunst, who has a strong personnel background, as opposed to fellow internal candidate Russ Ball, who is more of a salary cap guru (despite the fact that Ball was seen as the frontrunner throughout much of this process). In addition to Ball, the team also interviewed director of football operations Eliot Wolf, who for years was seen as the heir apparent to longtime GM Ted Thompson. Thompson, of course, stepped down to a different role within the organization at the beginning of the month, thereby triggering the team’s search for a replacement. It will be interesting to see what will become of Wolf and Ball now.

The Packers also expressed interest in Vikings assistant GM George Paton — though Minnesota denied Green Bay’s request to interview Paton — Seahawks GM John Schneider, and Ravens assistant GM Eric DeCosta. But in Gutekunst, they get an executive who was been with the club for 19 years — he started his Packers tenure as a collegiate scout — and who appears ready for his chance to run a franchise. Indeed, he had an excellent interview with the 49ers last offseason and nearly became San Francisco’s GM.

As Ed Werder tweets, an internal hiring like this one may be good news for Packers head coach Mike McCarthy, whose long-term future with the team could be bolstered with Gutekunst’s promotion.

Gutekunst was scheduled to interview with the Texans for Houston’s GM job today. Per John McClain of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter), Gutekunst did travel to Houston yesterday and had dinner with Texans head coach Bill O’Brien, but Green Bay never gave him the chance to interview with with the Texans.

The Texans, meanwhile, are likely to hire Bills VP of player personnel Brian Gaine as their next GM, according to multiple sources.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Packers Expected To Bring Back Joe Philbin

Prior to what amounted to a failed stint coaching the Dolphins, Joe Philbin operated as the Packers’ offensive coordinator. It looks like he will be headed back to Green Bay for a similar role.

The Packers are expected to rehire Philbin as a key member of their offensive staff, Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com reports. While Philbin might not be given the title of offensive coordinator, Demovsky notes the former Green Bay assistant would assume many of the duties commonly associated with that title. Mike McCarthy will keep play-calling responsibilities, Demovsky reports.

Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets Philbin will be interviewed by his former organization soon, so signs are pointing toward a reunion between the 56-year-old coach and his longest-tenured NFL employer. Philbin coached with the Packers from 2003-11, comprising part of Mike Sherman and McCarthy’s staffs during that span. He was the Green Bay OC from 2007-11. Philbin spent the past two seasons working as the Colts’ offensive line coach.

The Packers are currently filling out their offensive and defensive staffs amid a substantial overhaul. Offensively, the team dismissed OC Edgar Bennett, and quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt let his contract expire to pursue other possible opportunities, Demovsky notes. Wideouts coach Luke Getsy took a job at Mississippi State.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Packers Sign Mike McCarthy To Extension

Mike McCarthy is not a lame duck in Green Bay. The Packers have given the head coach a one-year extension to take him through the 2019 season, according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Demovsky hears that the extension was actually signed during the season, but word of the deal did not leak out until today. Mike McCarthy

[RELATED: Ted Thompson Out As Packers GM]

The Packers are making some major changes this season as Ted Thompson moves from GM to a different role, but McCarthy has been given some additional security. This year, the Packers missed the playoffs for just the third time since 2006, so the team is not automatically hitting the panic button.

McCarthy owns a 121-70-1 record in his 12-year run as head coach, including a Super Bowl victory in the 2010 season. He’ll look to get the Packers back on track in 2018, though he’ll be doing it with a new defensive staff after the firing of coordinator Dom Capers and other assistants. On the other side of the ball, the Packers are expecting to have a healthy Aaron Rodgers under center and that should help more than anything.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Rodgers, Stafford, Bucs

Despite the Packers falling behind in the NFC playoff picture, quarterback Aaron Rodgers was seen throwing the ball around prior to the start of the team’s Sunday night game in Pittsburgh. Now with Rodgers clearly progressing well, the soon-to-be 34-year-old may be ready to return to practice at the end of next week, reports Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. Demovsky passed along that head coach Mike McCarthy dodged a question about if he expected his starting QB to return this season. The earliest date Rodgers could be activated off the injured reserve would be in Week 15.

  • Fellow NFC North signal, Lions QB Matthew Stafford suffered an injury of his own on Thanksgiving, but appears to be “feeling better”, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. The injury appeared to be more serious, but is being classified as a sprained ankle by team doctors. “I’m feeling better,” Stafford said after practice on Monday. “Obviously stuck around in town this weekend, got a bunch of treatment on it. We’ll see. Coach (Jim Caldwell) will put out that report on Wednesday or whatever it is for practice and all that kind of stuff, but it’s getting better and hopefully it’ll continue to get better.” Obviously, the franchise quarterback will not be 100% healthy entering Week 13, but he’s fought through injuries before and it looks like he’ll be healthy enough to take on the Ravens this Sunday.
  • Despite an earlier report that Mississippi State may be targeting Buccaneers offensive coordinator Todd Monken for their heading coaching vacancy, Tampa Bay head coach Dirk Koetter hasn’t heard anything about school’s interest, according to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times (Twitter link). “To my knowledge, Todd Monken has not been contacted by Mississippi State. That comes from his mouth to my ear.” While the interest may be more in the gathering stage at this point, expect to hear some NFL assistants get some looks from schools as jobs open up. Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin is reportedly garnering interest in Arizona State’s open head coach position.
  • On the field, Stroud also reports that QB Jameis Winston could begin throwing again at practice this week, and could get enough work to start vs. the Packers this weekend. This would be a positive development for the third-year signal caller as he’s missed the team’s last three games with a shoulder injury. While the news is positive, Winston is also dealing with an NFL investigation off the field regarding a sexual assault allegation that stems from when Winston rode in an Uber last year.

NFC North Notes: Diggs, Packers, Rudock

The Vikings are unlikely to have their top wide receiver, Stefon Diggs, for their Thanksgiving showdown with the NFC North rival Lions, reports Adam Schefter of ESPN (Twitter link). Diggs, who’s dealing with a knee injury and hasn’t practiced this week, easily paces the Vikings in receptions (67), targets (87) and yards (747). Minnesota defeated the Texans in its only game without Diggs this season, but the Vikings have lost four of five since and now have the same record (6-4) as first-place Detroit.

More from the division:

  • At 4-6, the Packers have been among the NFL’s most disappointing teams this year, but club president Mark Murphy gave votes of confidence to general manager Ted Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy in an interview with WTMJ Radio (via Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com). “I do hear from a lot of fans. And I tell fans: Like them, I’m disappointed,” Murphy said. “Certainly, the season hasn’t gone the way we had all hoped, but there’s a lot of football left to be played. And the other thing I tell people is, you’ve got to look at Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy’s track record.” Green Bay is currently in danger of missing the playoffs for just the third time since 2006, the year Thompson hired McCarthy. CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora reported Sunday that both Thompson and defensive coordinator Dom Capers could be in trouble at year’s end. The Packers then lost in resounding fashion, 42-24, in Washington.
  • Before the Lions elevated quarterback Jake Rudock to their active roster Wednesday, the division-rival Bears tried to sign the sixth-round rookie away, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press tweets. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter) adds that Chicago wasn’t the only team looking to pluck him.
  • Green Bay won’t get injured running back Eddie Lacy or concussed cornerback Sam Shields back this season, which will surely make its uphill climb all the more difficult. Jay Cutler, on the other hand, might return this year for Chicago.

Zach Links contributed to this post.