There is no question the Packers have become the Murphy Show

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Bob McGinn

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By BOB McGINN

The Green Bay Packers’ publicly-owned structure makes them unique among the 32 franchises in the National Football League.

If there is an NFL executive comparable to Mark Murphy, it might be Joe Ellis of the Denver Broncos.

Murphy and Ellis share the same title as president and chief executive officer. They also have the authority to represent their clubs in all league matters.

Murphy was elected by the Packers’ board of directors in December 2007. Ellis, a Bronco executive for almost 30 years, ascended to the top in 2014 when owner Pat Bowlen was struggling with dementia.

Earlier this week, both the Broncos and the Packers introduced first-time head coaches after firing Vance Joseph and Mike McCarthy.

In Denver, Vic Fangio’s introductory press conference on Thursday was held in the team’s auditorium. On the stage was a podium and two chairs set off to the side.
The Broncos’ brass – Ellis, general manager John Elway and Fangio – entered the room. Ellis spoke for about a minute before Elway got up and talked for about 90 seconds.

At that point, Fangio went to the podium as Ellis and Elway were seated and, after his lengthy opening remarks, answered 23 successive questions from reporters. When the event ended, Elway stood off to the side for a few minutes and took some questions.

It was obvious that Ellis and Elway wanted Fangio to be the star of the show.

One day earlier, it couldn’t have been more obvious that Murphy wanted the press conference in Green Bay to be about him, not coach Matt LaFleur and certainly not GM Brian Gutekunst.

Murphy strode first onto the stage for the 3 p.m. session with reporters in the team’s media auditorium followed by LaFleur and Gutekunst. They sat in that order behind a table on a stage, each with a large microphone in front of them.

The event lasted 42 minutes. The first 13 minutes consisted of a soliloquy by Murphy. When Gutekunst finally got a glance from his boss that it was his turn to speak, he offered a summary of the hire. Only then did Murphy introduce LaFleur, who was the person everyone who attends these introductory coaching pressers comes to hear.

When the floor was open to questions, LaFleur responded to 25 compared to 11 for Murphy and five for Gutekunst. Several times, Murphy interjected without being asked directly to respond.

By my calculations, Murphy spoke for 51.1% of the time compared to 40.2% for LaFleur and 8.7% for Gutekunst.

Bob Harlan, Murphy’s predecessor as Packers president, preferred staying out of the limelight. The team conducted four of these introduce-the-new-coach briefings during Harlan’s tenure but he wasn’t present at any of them. In each, it was one of the general managers, Ron Wolf or Ted Thompson, who were seated next to the new man.

They say that if you want to know about the power structure of an NFL organization you should study these type of press conferences.

Twelve months ago, Murphy pushed aside Thompson, hired Gutekunst and assumed the power to hire and fire the coach in a dramatic change of structure that had been in play since 1991. At the time, a source that has observed the inner workings of the Packers for years kept telling me that Murphy planned to run the entire football operation as well as the entire corporation.

I was naïve. I knew Murphy and his background. I didn’t believe him.

The mistake was mine. It truly is the Mark Murphy show now in Green Bay, and everyone could see it Wednesday afternoon.

Within two hours a pair of high-ranking executives from other NFL teams who had watched the proceedings live from Green Bay called out of the blue to discuss what they had seen.

“My goodness,” said one executive. “I felt for LaFleur because that’s tough when you just have to sit there and you think you’re about ready to go but he keeps going and going.

“’Mark, didn’t you just hire a new head coach that’s sitting right next to you? It’s not about you, Mark. This is not your day.’ It was like this was his time to shine. ‘Listen to me.’ It was blatant.”

One former GM watched the whole thing later on the Packers’ website.

“Of the three people up there Murphy was the most intelligent,” he said. “He’s the most confident. He wants to run things. Very, very strong personality. Both those other guys are pawns to Murphy.

“Murphy went up on that dais as the one guy that really stands out. Murphy looked good up there. He is in charge. He has really good eyes. Up on that dais he was the leader.

“The other two are squirming in their seats. They’re not impressive physically. Murphy is. I hate to say it but in this business being impressive physically is important. Take (Bill) Parcells, a big guy. Guys say, ‘Hey, this is my coach. This is who I want to play for.’

“That press conference was not Matt LaFleur’s press conference. It was Mark Murphy’s.

“All that stuff about running out of gas and GPS, the press wasn’t there to hear about all that. He was trying to impress people how hard he worked. It gave attention to Murphy. ‘I am the Green Bay Packers. I know what I’m doing.’”
The media was presented with something of a travelogue during Murphy’s opening monologue. The team’s private jet ferrying Murphy, Gutekunst and Russ Ball, the executive vice president, had an unscheduled stop in Memphis, Tenn., en route from interviews with two Patriots coaches in New England to New Orleans for interviews with two Saints assistants.

“Just so you know … we stopped. We were going to run out of fuel,” said Murphy. “Apparently, there was a pretty strong headwind … I think, at one point, our GPS system went down.”

LaFleur was the last of 10 candidates to be interviewed. Murphy no doubt hacked off some of the first nine when he said “no one really stood out” and suggested some weren’t as excited as he expected to be interviewing with the Green Bay Packers.

Only time will tell, but chances are good that at least one of the nine also-rans will accomplish more in pro football than the coach that ended up getting the job.

Murphy also wanted it known that he and Gutekunst met with approximately 10 players that were members of coach Mike McCarthy’s last leadership council. He jumped in at the end of an answer by LaFleur to say that Aaron Rodgers was involved.

“It was really instrumental in terms of forming my thoughts on what we needed in terms of the next head coach,” said Murphy.

One can imagine that many topics came up during the session. After listing accountability, Murphy decided to mention that players felt complacency “had set in among some players and coaches.”

Several times over the years both McCarthy and Thompson told me that little was more important to them than enacting measures to ward off complacency. As angry as McCarthy must have been about being fired with four games remaining as the NFL’s 25th winningest coach of all time, these words from Murphy could cement a deep freeze between him and the organization that could last for years.

Let’s see. Murphy has been on the job for 11 years, including the last year being around the team more than ever before, and he needed a group of people as fickle as players to make him think the Packers were complacent?

That hearsay stuff from players was partially Murphy’s attempt to validate firing McCarthy. He attempted to justify making McCarthy just the second coach in club history to be canned during the season by going on about how much work the search committee did in December.

Murphy told reporters that Charley Casserly, a member of an NFL’s Career Development Advisory Panel, and him “were roommates and go way back.”

Murphy also alluded to his collegiate playing career at Colgate when he expressed admiration for how LaFleur was a three-year starter at Saginaw Valley State, an NCAA Division II school.

And he spoke of lessons learned “from the searches I’ve run for head coaches and others.” The vast majority of those were for non-revenue sports as athletic director at Colgate and Northwestern and for non-football positions in Green Bay.

“No. 1, you want to make sure they’re a great fit,” Murphy said. “We felt very, very comfortable with that.”

Fit really means hiring someone that’s like me or I can control.

Gutekunst was described as a good fit, too, and in Murphy’s shadow Wednesday what he did mostly was fidget with his water bottle and look uncomfortable under the lights.

It’s hard to say whether the signings of Jimmy Graham and Muhammad Wilkerson, the eight trades and other moves in 2018 were made by Gutekunst or Murphy, the de facto GM.

“He’s not the GM,” one executive said, referring to Gutekunst. “He’s director of player personnel. Watching the body language, he’s their top scout and Murphy is running the show.”

Some friends of Gutekunst, 45, have said they think he would be much more comfortable with a coach near his age such as LaFleur, 39, than veterans such as Mike Munchak and Fangio. Maybe that’s one of the reasons the Packers didn’t interview either of them or pursue a trade for the best available coach, Baltimore’s John Harbaugh.

In the same vein, the threat of bringing in a proven evaluator and decision-maker to remake a franchise left depleted by Thompson might be why Murphy never called John Dorsey in fall 2017. The loyal former Packers director of football operations was out of work for five months and would have leaped at the chance to rejoin his former team in some capacity even if it meant waiting for a short time to become Thompson’s successor.

Dorsey has an extremely strong personality honed by 30 years of aggressive, hard-driving personnel work. Given that the Chiefs improved from 2-14 to 11-5 in 2013, Dorsey’s first season in Kansas City, the remarkable rise of the Browns from 0-16 to 7-8-1 this season almost should have been forecast.

One of the personnel men that followed Dorsey to Cleveland said he learned more from him in six months than he had ever learned from Thompson.

NBC’s Peter King rated Dorsey’s work in 2018 as the third best among NFL’s decision-makers. As for Gutekunst, well, he didn’t exactly get off to a rip-roaring start.

With Dorsey, the Packers would have had no need for a wannabe GM like Murphy or a reserved, struggling scout like Gutekunst to be hiring coaches, drafting players, signing free agents or making trades. Dorsey would have made Murphy look good.

But, no, what the president really wanted was to find someone that would be subservient to him, conduct himself much like him and be satisfied as he steered the ship.

An alpha male with a few rough edges, Dorsey might not necessarily fit the Packers button-down image as fostered by Murphy. But Dorsey also knows the league inside and out with a ruthlessness and dedication to duty drilled into him as a young scout by Wolf.

Based on Wednesday, two executives said Gutekunst appears to be just along for the ride as Murphy pulls the strings.

“It was bizarre,” a leading NFC personnel man said. “He looked fine. Just no juice.

“What is the GM doing? Just staying in the background? Let the GM do it.”

What Murphy should have done is follow Ellis’ modest, understated example. Briefly welcome LaFleur and introduce Gutekunst, allow the GM to speak at some length about the new coach and let LaFleur take it from there. When it’s over, Murphy ducks out the door while the coach and the GM mix with reporters, getting to know those that cover the team 12 months a year.

The public relations folks should forget that table setup, too. It’s just too awkward for many people to speak sitting down.

Reserve two spots for Murphy and Gutekunst in the front row. Set up the podium. Then let LaFleur, who might not be 5 feet 10 inches, stand behind the podium as he looms above the media separated from his boss, able to use his hands effectively and in position to command the room as he will soon enough with 90 players and 20-plus coaches watching.

After listening to all 42 minutes, I’m still not sure if we have any idea if LaFleur has the “it” factor that marked the engaging opening press conferences conducted by Mike Holmgren in 1992 and McCarthy in 2006. He looked nervous, and understandably so, and unfortunately just didn’t have enough opportunity to tell everyone about himself.

If it comes to pass that LaFleur isn’t ready for the enormous task of turning around a losing team with a thin roster and a hard-to-handle quarterback amid crazy-wild expectations from fans, it’ll be on Murphy.

If it comes to pass that LaFleur is the exceptional young coach the Packers regard him as, and he goes on to win the Super Bowl ala Holmgren and McCarthy, Murphy will be proven right.

Whatever happens, Mark Murphy probably will be doing it his way until the board of directors decides that their president shouldn’t be functioning in his current capacity.



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The post There is no question the Packers have become the Murphy Show appeared first on Bob McGinn Football.

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TW

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Pretty much sums up what I said in another thread, right after listening to the Mark Murphy Show. ( bh) Murphy speaking)
 

rpiotr01

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Hey what was this great MM presser Bob mentions back in 2006? I must’ve missed that one.
 

TW

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Hey what was this great MM presser Bob mentions back in 2006? I must’ve missed that one.
That would be McCarthy's first press conference after Thompson hired him. January of 2006 I believe?
 

rpiotr01

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That would be McCarthy's first press conference after Thompson hired him. January of 2006 I believe?
Oh I know when McCarthy was hired. What I’m saying is, Bob seems to be retroactively assigning qualities to MM in light of his current take on MLs press conference. I do not recall MM being impressive in the least. In fact, I remember MM being as cringe inducing back then as Murphy is now, trotting out that “Packer People” BS.
 

Mark87

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You have to take Bob with a grain of salt. He's still ticked the Packers yanked his press credentials and won't grant any insider interviews.

Did Murphy talk too much ? Yes Can we glean a whole lot from it ? Maybe a little but it's behind us and we need to move forward.

I posted it because the Gannett stories posted about it were awful ! Some of that stuff isn't fit for a HS newspaper.
 
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