A new era is about to dawn for the Green Bay Packers organization - hopefully for the better - as it heads into a critical offseason.
For the first time since Ted Thompson was hired in 2005, the Packers are searching for a new general manager. It’s truly been a period of continuity for the Packers’ front office, which hasn’t faced uncertainty near the top of the organization since 2006 when Mike McCarthy replaced Sherman as head coach and 2007 when Mark Murphy was hired as President and CEO.
Although Thompson’s tenure in Green Bay can be both criticized and exalted depending on the lens it’s viewed in, the Packers survived a precarious position when he was hired in 2005 and have a Super Bowl ring to remember it by. Now, with the Packers’ time near the top of the NFC in limbo without a general manager, defensive coordinator, and several defensive assistants, it’s time for the Packers to strike gold with another GM hire.
In his Tuesday press conference, Murphy said he wouldn’t limit himself to simply exploring an internal hire for the GM spot despite the trio of candidates that have emerged. Murphy called the Packers an “attractive job” and didn’t rule out current general managers and assistant general managers across the league. It’s unclear how the new hire will impact internal candidates left out, several of which who make up Green Bay’s true organizational brain trust. Senior personnel executive Alonzo Highsmith has already left for a front office position with John Dorsey and the Cleveland Browns. While Thompson is expected to stay on board as an adviser to aid the transition, Murphy assured the media that the new GM will have final say in all the typical roles Thompson has previously held.
That includes the hiring and firing of the head coach.
While McCarthy’s job is safe this upcoming season, it’s interesting to note that McCarthy was given a one-year extension to avoid a “lame duck” scenario, much like the contract that Mike Sherman was handed when Thompson was named general manager. Sherman was still fired after one season, however. History has shown that new general managers like to hire their own people and despite a Super Bowl victory on McCarthy’s resume, Green Bay has seemingly underachieved with future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers the past seven years.
The open defensive coordinator position will still be McCarthy’s hire according to Murphy, and it’s vital the right person is hired for the sake of McCarthy’s future and Packers fans everywhere.
It was never more evident than this season that change was needed on a unit that posted horrendous situational numbers and was repeatedly unable to slow opposing offenses in the midst of a Rodgers-less offense. Dom Capers is not as awful a defensive mind as many would be inclined to think, but it was clear that the defense needed a new voice to minimize repetitive mental errors.
Joe Whitt, Jr. and Darren Perry, Green Bay’s cornerbacks and safeties coaches respectively, have not been ruled out as the Packers’ next DC, but they are some of the lone coaching survivors on the defensive side of the ball. The Packers parted ways with defensive line coach Mike Trgovac and inside linebackers coach Scott McCurley earlier this week, while linebackers and assistant head coach Winston Moss has been tied to the Detroit Lions’ head coaching vacancy.
Whether McCarthy chooses a coordinator that will continue a base 3-4 defense or switch to another scheme, Green Bay’s offseason figures to be spent adding pieces to match the scheme.
That’s where the 14th pick in the draft and a new GM come into play.
It’s hard to see the Packers venturing outside their internal circles or the Ron Wolf tree to find a replacement, but the philosophy may not be the same as Thompson’s. For years, it’s been draft-and-develop in Green Bay, but the lack of veteran support has shown up on the field frequently and has been a subject of criticism from media and players alike at the end of this season.
The defensive unit has especially been decimated by injuries and forced to adjust with undrafted free agents. While some players like Tramon Williams and Sam Shields have elevated themselves into playmakers over the years, many others have left Green Bay vulnerable. Re-stocking the defense with impact players in the secondary and pass rush should be an immediate priority for a team that has suffered at those positions the past two seasons outside of Nick Perry. A free agent at cornerback would be a welcome addition to a team that may let Davon House walk but that has a blossoming boundary corner in Kevin King. Green Bay has invested heavily in cornerbacks the past several drafts, but the patience for teaching rookies — both drafted and undrafted — must be growing thin.
One thing is for sure: the faces of the Green Bay defense will look dramatically different than the ones largely in place since 2009.
There is a lot to ponder in Green Bay over the next few months. The organizational hierarchy may be in an even larger shuffling state. The defense is in a state of disarray and could have an entirely different coaching staff next season. The wide receiving corps needs impact players with help from the tight ends. The right side of the offensive line has question marks.
Gear up for a crazy offseason. It’s going to decide the Packers’ success over the long haul and, even more, the next two years with or without Mike McCarthy at the helm.