The Green Bay Packers continue to interview candidates in their search for Ted Thompson’s replacement, but Russ Ball’s apparent status as the front-runner has only strengthened. According to Bob McGinn, Ball could become the team’s general manager as early as Monday with Brian Gutekunst becoming his top deputy in the front office.
From the early stages of the process, the Packers have seemed to favor Ball as their next general manager. Though the team has interviewed multiple in-house candidates and hopes to look at some outside the organization as well, Ball’s relationship with president Mark Murphy and his experience in Green Bay’s front office have made him the man to beat.
While the situation remains open to change as the Packers continue to review candidates, it appears that Gutekunst, who interviews for the GM position Friday, would jump Eliot Wolf as the top personnel man underneath Ball should the team ultimately decide to head in that direction. Gutekunst would provide the scouting experience that Ball, a contract negotiator and salary-cap expert with a background in finance, lacks. At least in theory, the front office would still have a scout assisting in major free-agent and draft decisions. Wolf could remain in the front office in a prominent position beneath Ball and Gutekunst. Still, McGinn reports that Wolf will immediately begin looking for another job if passed over in the GM search.
McGinn also suggests that Ball’s hiring could create friction with Packers head coach Mike McCarthy. McCarthy, who signed a one-year extension late in the 2017 season, has known Ball since their time with the Kansas City Chiefs. However, McGinn says McCarthy directed his anger about Green Bay’s conservative approach to player acquisition at Ball in the recent past. “Russ and Mike were really tight, but they’ve not seen eye-to-eye in a couple of years,” a source told McGinn. Another source also told McGinn that McCarthy told his staff Thursday that he “planned to leave Green Bay for another job” should Ball ascend to the GM seat.
All of this remains speculative for the time being. The Packers could still pivot towards another GM candidate or McCarthy could warm to the idea of working for Ball, with whom he previously had a strong relationship. Still, it seems the uncertainty surrounding Green Bay will continue for the foreseeable future.