Russ Ball

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.

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 Interview Russ Ball, Brian Gutekunst

With Ted Thompson out as general manager in Green Bay, the team has finished interviewing internal candidates regarding the vacant position. After the the Packers spoke with director of football operations Eliot Wolf yesterday, they just finished up talking to VP of football administration Russ Ball and director of player personnel Brian Gutekunst this afternoon, according to Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated (Twitter link). Breer adds that the Packers will speak with their first external candidate for the position in former Bills GM Doug Whaley tomorrow.

Russ Ball (Vertical)

This is the first time that Green Bay is looking for a new leader of the team’s football operations in 13 years. There’s been a recent report that Ball is the favorite to become the next general manager for the Packers. However, there’s been speculation that should the job go to Ball, Wolf and Gutekunst would head to different teams. Although, should one of the two get the job the other would stay in the front office.

While Whaley is the lone person from outside the organization that ownership is scheduled to meet with at the moment, the Packers did get rejected from interviewing Vikings executive George Paton and still have their eye on scheduling a meeting with long time Ravens front office member Eric Decosta. However, Decosta seems like a longshot considering his willingness to stay as the “general manager in waiting” behind Ozzie Newsome.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Russ Ball Favorite For Packers GM?

Packers vice president of football administration/player finance Russ Ball is considered the favorite to become Green Bay’s next general manager, according to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, who reports there is a “preponderance of opinion” both inside the Packers organization and within the NFL as a whole that Green Bay president Mark Murphy is simply “going through the motions” in seeking a replacement for Ted Thompson.Russ Ball (Vertical)

Following Thompson’s reassignment within the Packers’ hierarchy, the club is hoping to hire its next general manager by next week. They’ve started the search process by interviewing director of football operations Eliot Wolf today, and will also meet with two other internal options: Ball, and director of player personnel Brian Gutekunst. Although Green Bay seems likely to promote from within, the team reportedly also has interest in former Bills general manager Doug Whaley.

Unlike Wolf and Gutekunst, Ball doesn’t offer personnel experience, as he’s spent his career on the financial side of operations. However, Murphy said earlier this week that a personnel background won’t be required for the Packers’ next general manager, an indication that Ball could be a serious candidate. If Ball is promoted, though, Green Bay could risk losing Wolf and Gutekunst to other clubs, defections that would weaken a front office that has already seen executive Alonzo Highsmith take a position with the Browns.

Ball, who originally began his NFL career as a strength and conditioning coach, has completed 10 seasons in his current role with the Packers. Prior to joining Green Bay, Ball spent time with the Chiefs, Vikings, Redskins, and Saints, all the while working in administrative roles.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Packers Hope To Hire GM Next Week

The Packers are expected to start their GM interviews on Thursday with an eye on making a hire next week, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). They’ll likely start by interviewing their trio of internal candidates: Russ Ball, Eliot Wolf, and Brian GutekunstEliot Wolf

Ball, the team’s vice president of football administration, is said to have a strong rapport with Packers president Mark Murphy. Promoting him to the GM post would likely lead Wolf and Gutekunst to go elsewhere, but if either Wolf or Gutekunst gets the job, the other exec will likely stay in Green Bay. That could weigh heavily on the decision made by Packers president Mark Murphy, who will be working with search firm Korn Ferry to make the determination.

Wolf and Gutekunst have been in the running for GM jobs in each of the last few offseasons. If they decide to leave the nest, it would not be surprising to see both men running teams in 2018.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Packers Notes: GM Search, Ball, Wolf, Evans

Now that the Packers have reassigned former general manager Ted Thompson (he’s now a senior advisor to football operations, the club announced today), Green Bay is searching for a new decision-maker atop its personnel department. Incumbent vice president of football administration Russ Ball is thought to be a candidate for the position and has a “close relationship” with Packers president Mark Murphy, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, but promoting Ball could cause other problems for Green Bay. If Ball (or an external candidate is hired), the Packers will likely lose fellow personnel men Eliot Wolf and Brian Gutekunst to other clubs, reports Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. However, if one of Wolf or Gutenkunst is promoted to GM, the other man will likely stay in Green Bay, per Silverstein.

Here’s more on the Packers:

  • While the Packers will utilize search firm Korn Ferry as they look for a new general manager, Murphy told reporters that he will make the final call on the club’s top personnel job (Twitter links via Jason Wilde of ESPN.com). Additionally, Green Bay’s next GM will have the power to fire the team’s head coach, an interesting development given that Mike McCarthy is currently signed through 2019. Murphy said “[McCarthy] will be our coach,” an indication that the new Packers general manager will be stuck with McCarthy for at least one campaign.
  • Green Bay’s decision to extend McCarthy’s contract will allow the longtime head coach more flexibility as he seeks to fill out his staff, writes Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. The most pressing decision for McCarthy will be to hire a new defensive coordinator following Dom Capers‘ firing, but the Packers will also see change on the offensive side of the ball. Luke Getsy, who’s served as Green Bay’s wide receivers coach for the past two seasons, is now Mississippi State’s offensive coordinator, per Demovsky.
  • The Packers have interest in re-signing veteran guard Jahri Evans, who will become a free agent in March, per Ryan Wood of PackersNews.com (Twitter link). Evans would likely need to accept less than the $2.25MM he earned in 2017, per Wood, and the 34-year-old offensive lineman would almost certainly ink a one-year pact. In his first season outside of New Orleans, Evans ranked as the No. 30 guard among 82 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus.

Ted Thompson Out As Packers GM

The Packers are now searching for a new general manager after Ted Thompson is expected to take a new role in the organization, sources tell NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (Twitter link). Ted Thompson

ESPN’s Chris Mortensen confirmed Thompson will assume a new role within the team and the front office will undergo an overhaul, led by team president Mark Murphy (Twitter link).

Thompson has operated as the team’s general manager since 2005 and has been with the team through two stints since 1992. In his first NFL Draft, Thompson selected Aaron Rodgers with the 24th overall pick. Green Bay has been among the best teams in the draft since Thompson’s arrival, plucking stars like Clay Matthews and Jordy Nelson.

Under Thompson’s watch, the team advanced to the playoffs nine times and won the Super Bowl in 2010. The Packers missed the postseason for the first time since 2008 when it finished 7-9 in 2017.

There are several internal candidates to keep an eye on to take over as general manager, including director of college scouting Brian Gutekunst, director of football operations Eliot Wolf and vice president of football administration/player finance Russ Ball, Rapoport reports (Twitter link). Mortensen reported all three are expected to receive new duties with the change. (Twitter link). The team is expected hire a true general manager and will not operate with all three in the position, ESPN’s Jason Wilde reports (Twitter link).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

John Dorsey Unlikely To Return To Packers?

After being fired as the Chiefs’ general manager earlier today, John Dorsey is unlikely to return to the Packers, with whom he’s the spent the majority of his professional career, according to Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports (Twitter links: 1, 2, 3, 4).John Dorsey (Vertical)

Dorsey has been mentioned as a candidate to succeed Green Bay GM Ted Thompson since January, when a report indicated Dorsey could head to Green Bay when his Kansas City contract expired after 2017. Dorsey helped to build the Packers into a consistent contender, first as a college scout from 1991-97 and then as director of college scouting in 1998. After a one-year stint as the Seahawks’ director of player personnel in 1999, Dorsey returned to the Packers, where he served as the team’s director of college scouting from 2000-11 and as the director of football operations in 2012.

However, the next Packers general manager is more likely to be one of director of football operations Eliot Wolf, director of player personnel Brian Gutekunst, or vice president of football administration Russ Ball, per Robinson. Wolf and Gutekunst, specifically, have turned down opportunities to interview elsewhere (including San Francisco earlier this year) in order to remain in Green Bay, while Ball has been “working to broaden his knowledge base” in order to be prepared for a jump to GM.

That’s not to say Dorsey doesn’t have interest in returning to the Packers, as Robinson reports Dorsey has “overwhelming respect” for Thomspson and is “very fond” of the Packers organization. But his presence on Green Bay’s personnel staff could “ruffle some feathers,” per Robinson, especially because the trio of Wolf, Gutekunst, and Ball have remained on board instead of pursuing other jobs.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Packers Have No GM Succession Plan In Place

Packers execs Eliot Wolf and Brian Gutekunst were both considered for GM jobs this offseason and it stands to reason that they will continue to be in the mix for those gigs going forward. Despite the fact that they are in high demand, neither man has been told that they will succeed GM Ted Thompson (link via Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com). Eliot Wolf

[RELATED: Packers Notes: Thompson, Montgomery, Lacy]

I don’t think you can make promises,” team president Mark Murphy said with regards to the two young scouts and cap guru Russ Ball. “Especially [because] the league changes so much year to year.”

Murphy says that he has an idea of how long Thompson, 64, will stay on the job, but he declined to disclose that timetable publicly. It’s also not immediately clear whether Thompson’s contract runs out after the 2018 season or following the 2019 draft.

On the field, the Packers have built a winning team by building talent from within. That philosophy extends to the front office, where they have multiple young candidates who are ostensibly ready to run the show. Interestingly, the Packers could reportedly change course this offseason and be active on the open market.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.