8 potential candidates for Packers' general manager job
A list of potential candidates for the Packers' general manager position:
Russ Ball represents a different angle the Packers could use to approach their GM opening. While Ball played small-college football, his expertise lies in the business side of the NFL. The Packers' chief negotiator and salary-cap manager, Ball has been Thompson’s right-hand man as vice president of football/player finance. His tentacles spread to nearly every aspect of the Packers' operation, including supervising athletic training, equipment, video, corporate travel, player development, family programs and public relations. His versatility would be ideal for a top managerial position, though lack of football scouting pedigree would be a departure from the Packers' long-held structure for GM.
The son of Ron Wolf, the former Packers GM who traded for Brett Favre and was selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Eliot Wolf is a born football scout. Wolf wrote his first player scouting report at age 14, and has scouted football players ever since. He has worked in the Packers’ personnel department since before the 2004 draft, and through promotions spent the past couple of seasons as the top personnel executive under Ted Thompson. Wolf has been a popular candidate for GM openings the past couple years, interviewing for several vacancies. Now 35, Wolf would be the NFL’s youngest GM, but his longtime experience in the league might offset his youth.
Another longtime Packers executive, Gutekunst’s specialty is college scouting. He first came to Green Bay as an intern in 1997, and Ron Wolf hired him as a college scout in 1998. Gutekunst remained a college scout during his first 13 years in the organization, most of that time spent in the Southeast, before eventually being promoted to director of college scouting in 2012. Now the director of player personnel, Gutekunst has been a trendy GM candidate in recent years, and was a top contender for the San Francisco 49ers vacancy last offseason.
It’s unclear whether John Schneider would be an available candidate, but the Seattle Seahawks general manager would be the most obvious outside choice if he were. Schneider, a De Pere native, originally joined the Packers in 2002 as a personnel analyst under Thompson. He was promoted in 2008 to director of football operations, and was hired as the Seahawks general manager in 2010. Schneider signed an extension with the Seahawks in 2016, a contract he said at the time does not include an opt-out clause to become the Packers general manager, but coach Pete Carroll holds ultimate roster autonomy in Seattle. If the Packers had their sights set on Schneider, perhaps they could reach an agreement with the Seahawks.
McKenzie stocked the Raiders with talent and seemed to be a rising star in the profession before the team took a tumble this season. He's still in charge of roster decisions, but with Oakland reportedly poised to hire Jon Gruden as the next head coach, perhaps his future could be in doubt. McKenzie was hired as a scout by Ron Wolf in 1994. Eventually, he worked his way up to director of player personnel, and then director of football operations, before the Raiders hired him in 2012.
Here’s a completely outside-the-box idea. The Packers won’t struggle to find quality candidates they’re familiar with, but if they want to completely start anew without relinquishing some of their core philosophies, perhaps they could approach someone like Eric DeCosta. Believed to be locked in as Ozzie Newsome’s eventual replacement in Baltimore, DeCosta has been the Ravens' assistant general manager since 2012. He would come from an organization known for their draft-and-develop foundation, as well as an organization that has regularly scouted top defensive talent.
Can't match them, join them? If the Packers want to adopt the Patriots Way, they could look at New England's vice president of player personnel. With Bill Belichick the NFL's oldest general manager (outside of team owners in that role) at age 65, it could be difficult to pull Caserio away from the Patriots. Perhaps he'll stay in New England, where he would be an ideal replacement whenever Belichick calls it a career. But the allure of having Aaron Rodgers and no owner to report to would be appealing to anyone.
In his news conference Tuesday, Mark Murphy said the Packers "got to catch up with the Vikings" in the NFC North. One way to do that might be hiring George Paton, a popular GM candidate around the league in recent years. Paton has been with the Vikings for 10 seasons, working as the team's assistant general manager under Rick Spielman. With his help, Minnesota has assembled one of the NFL's best collections of defensive talent, something badly needed in Green Bay.