Packers retain Wolf, but may lose Gutekunst

Bob McGinn
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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Eliot Wolf (left) and Brian Gutekunst (right) work in the draft room in 2015.

GREEN BAY – The Green Bay Packers retained one front-office executive in personnel Thursday but stand a good chance of losing another next week to the San Francisco 49ers.

Sources said Eliot Wolf, the team’s director of football operations, pulled out of the running for the vacant general manager’s position in San Francisco when it became apparent that he wasn’t going to be hired.

Meanwhile, Brian Gutekunst, the Packers’ director of player personnel, is regarded as a strong candidate if not the frontrunner to replace Trent Baalke entering a second interview next week.

The Packers, according to sources, increased Wolf’s salary and intend to give him another change in titles, which would be his third promotion in five years.

Wolf, 34, the son of former Packers GM Ron Wolf, is regarded as a candidate to succeed Ted Thompson when the 64-year-old GM decides to step down. So is Russ Ball, the Packers’ vice president of football administration.

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Gutekunst, 43, is one of three candidates scheduled for a second interview with 49ers owner Jed York and Paraag Marathe, the team’s chief strategy officer. Others are Terry McDonough, vice president of player personnel for the Arizona Cardinals, and George Paton, assistant general manager for the Minnesota Vikings.

Wolf reportedly was the fourth of the nine candidates interviewed that was asked back for a second interview. Then he pulled out not long after Trent Kirchner, the Seahawks’ co-director of pro personnel, did the same thing.

One source said the second interviews probably would be held Tuesday in Atlanta. Kyle Shanahan, the Falcons’ offensive coordinator, reportedly has agreed to replace Chip Kelly as coach.

Gutekunst, McDonough and Paton figure to meet separately with the 49ers executives and then also with Shanahan. York has said for weeks that the relationship between his new coach and GM is of paramount importance.

If Gutekunst didn’t hit it off with Shanahan, he could pull out or the 49ers could offer the job to McDonough or Paton.

“It’s been Gutekunst for two weeks,” said one source close to the 49ers’ search. “He killed that interview. The owner says he’s Scot McCloughan without the drinking problem.”

McCloughan, a Packers scout under Ron Wolf from 1995-00, helped build the foundation for the 49ers’ success under coach Jim Harbaugh and Baalke. He departed the 49ers in 2009, and later acknowledged issues with alcohol interrupted his career.

After another troubled stint in Seattle that involved abuse of alcohol, McCloughan was out of football for more than a year before being named general manager in Washington.

McCloughan is regarded by Ron Wolf and others in the personnel field as being an extraordinary evaluator of talent.

Gutekunst is the son of John Gutekunst, the head coach at the University of Minnesota from 1985-91.

He played football for two years at Wisconsin-La Crosse before injuries struck and he served as the Eagles’ linebackers coach in 1995.

Gutekunst served as a scouting assistant for the Kansas City Chiefs in 1998 before Ron Wolf hired him as a college scout in ’99.

He scouted the East Coast for two years before being moved to the Southeast from 2001-11. He moved his family from North Carolina to Green Bay in 2012 after being promoted to director of college scouting.

In 2015, the Packers refused to permit Gutekunst to interview for a prominent personnel job in Philadelphia under Kelly. Last year, they blocked an attempt by the Tennessee Titans to interview him for the top personnel post under GM Jon Robinson.

If the Falcons make the Super Bowl, Shanahan couldn’t officially be hired until after the final gun.

If the 49ers offer the GM job to Gutekunst and he accepts, Thompson is expected to let him leave immediately even if the Packers reach the Super Bowl.

In the event of Gutekunst’s departure, the Packers would lean even more heavily on Alonzo Highsmith, their senior personnel executive, and Jon-Eric Sullivan, their director of college scouting.

There also has been speculation that Baalke, who was fired at the end of the season, could join Thompson in Green Bay. They’re close friends, and Baalke grew up in Rosendale, Wis.

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