McCarthy's Upcoming Extension, Thompson's Eventual Retirement, and the Future of the Packers

Kevin C. Cox

How Packers President Mark Murphy handles Mike McCarthy's upcoming extension could either secure future success or doom the team to collapse.

It was only a week ago that we first learned of the possibility that the Packers might lure Seahawks' GM John Schneider back to Green Bay once Ted Thompson finally rides off into the sunset. At that time, the only credible source on the subject was ESPN's Jason Wilde. Now another big name has come forth with more details.

Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel unleashed this news bomb late last night. In it, McGinn discusses the contractual interplay of the Packers' President-General Manager-Head Coach triumvirate and whom the team could eventually peg as Thompson's successor.

Mike McCarthy remains under contract with the Packers through the 2015 season. Generally, coaches receive extensions either heading into the final year of their existing deals or after a major event (a Super Bowl victory) necessitates a bump in compensation. Having qualified for the playoffs in each of the last five seasons (and seven of his nine years as Green Bay's head coach), another extension for McCarthy appears guaranteed at this point.

The trouble with this dynamic comes if Ted Thompson steps down as General Manager in the near future. At 61, he is only a year away from the age where Ron Wolf, Thompson's mentor, retired for good back in 2001. Replacing a GM creates any number of complications, especially when a head coach is already in place. Incoming GMs prefer to bring in their own coaches so as to solidify their position atop the hierarchy. If McCarthy's extension keeps him in Green Bay well past Thompson's tenure, the pool of replacement candidates would shrink accordingly.

One scenario where McCarthy's contract could become problematic is if the Packers pursue 49ers General Manager Trent Baalke as Thompson's replacement. Unlike many of the other candidates name checked in McGinn's piece, Baalke has virtually no ties to the Packers other than growing up in Rosendale, Wisconsin. Baalke's career in football stretches back to 1998 where he worked as a regional scout. After a few years and a short stop in Washington, Baalke joined the 49ers and began working his way up the front office ladder. He's believed to have a close relationship with Ted Thompson, who McGinn notes has sat "almost side-by-side observing workouts at the combine" for years.

While Baalke has built a young NFC West powerhouse in San Francisco that should contend for many years, his relationship with 49ers Head Coach Jim Harbaugh is icy at best. The situation suggests that one or the other could be on their way out of San Francisco in short order. Baalke's deal runs through the 2016 season, the same endpoint for Thompson's current contract. The fortuitous timing could lead to Baalke jumping over to one of the 49ers chief rivals.

Because Baalke did not develop within the Packers' personnel department, he likely wouldn't have any desire to work with McCarthy. Outside of a brief overlap in San Francisco during the 2005 season, neither has any experience working with one another. If McCarthy's next extension makes it impossible for the next GM to replace him, it's difficult to see Baalke coming to Green Bay.

However, the Packers could avoid the issue altogether if Thompson's replacement turns out to be one of his former assistants. Over the past five years, three Packers front office execs have moved into the GM chair in other cities.

John Schneider, who departed Green Bay just before the Packers' title run in 2010, may indeed be the frontrunner to succeed Thompson. According to McGinn, "It's considered almost a foregone conclusion among his colleagues and friends that Schneider regards the Packers as his dream job."

The rationale is simple enough. Schneider grew up in De Pere, a suburb of Green Bay, and spent the majority of his professional career working in the Packers' personnel department. Like many who originate from the area, a return home would certainly tempt Schneider to leave the juggernaut he's built in Seattle.

But perhaps the strongest reason for Schneider to jump ship is the additional power he'd wield in Green Bay. Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll has final say on all personnel decisions, and team owner and business magnate Paul Allen has a reputation as a meddler. Should he return to the Packers, Schneider wouldn't have to deal with either issue, as he has a strong personal relationship with Mike McCarthy and the Packers aren't controlled by an overbearing, monolithic owner. Just as Ted Thompson does now, Schneider could operate with impunity.

Similarly, former Director of College Scouting John Dorsey could be enticed to leave his current post as Chiefs General Manager for a chance to succeed Thompson. While Dorsey currently possesses full control over Kansas City's roster, he "has a deep affection for Wisconsin and the Packers" from his 27 combined years working for the team. Like Schneider, Dorsey worked well with McCarthy and would likely retain him if hired as Thompson's replacement.

While the identity of Thompson's successor remains as shrouded as the Packers' 2014 draft plans, it underscores the issue facing Team President Mark Murphy. While McCarthy clearly has earned another extension, a contract that keeps him in Green Bay well beyond Thompson's eventual retirement could become so onerous as to repel quality GM candidates.

Thus, it's imperative for Team President Mark Murphy to decipher how long Ted Thompson realistically plans to remain in his position and fit McCarthy's next extension within that timeframe. Murphy has already demonstrated skill in this area, as the contracts for Thompson and McCarthy already expire within one year of each other. Keeping those deals in lockstep prevents a situation where the Packers fail to attract a quality GM due to an unwillingness to retain the current head coach.

As such, Murphy controls Green Bay's future. How he acts will either secure the Packers long-term success or doom them to instability and eventual collapse.

Jason Hirschhorn covers the Green Bay Packers for Acme Packing Company. He also serves as the Editor-in-Chief for Hook'em Headlines. His work has previously appeared on Beats Per Minute, Lombardi Ave, and College Hoops Net.
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