Dougherty: John Schneider likely out of Packers' reach

Pete Dougherty
Packers News
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Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider could be a candidate for the Packers' opening.

As intriguing as John Schneider to the Green Bay Packers sounds, it’s a long shot, if that.

The Seattle Seahawks have denied Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy permission to talk to Schneider about the team's opening at general manager. Based on the wording of the NFL’s anti-tampering policy, it looks like they have that right.

That means the only avenue for the Packers to get Schneider is if the Seahawks would part with him for compensation.

Money won’t do the trick. It would take a draft pick, very likely a first- or second-rounder. The Packers can't afford to give up that valuable of a resource, which their next GM badly is going to need for a quick build-up of their roster.

I’m also not convinced coach Pete Carroll would let Schneider go anyway. Maybe. But the Seahawks are built on the Carroll-Schneider partnership, and Carroll very well might be unwilling to end it. There’s a reason the Seahawks made sure to remove his out clause for the Packers when they extended Schneider’s contract in July 2016 at a reported $4 million a year.

“Pete and (Schneider) have a superior relationship,” said an NFL source who knows both well. “I don’t ever see that being broken away, but you never know.”

One big question is whether Murphy’s pursuit of Schneider, Oakland’s Reggie McKenzie (turned down the interview), Minnesota’s George Paton (interview denied by the Vikings while they’re still in the playoffs) and Baltimore’s Eric DeCosta (no reports that he accepted the interview) is part of a real search, or a formality with Murphy knowing all along whom he’s going to hire.

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I think back to March 2016, when the Packers promoted Eliot Wolf to director-football operations and Brian Gutekunst to director of player personnel. At the time, Murphy said he and Ted Thompson had a succession plan at GM.

I and some people who follow the Packers closely, including Bob Harlan, the Packers’ chairman emeritus, interpreted Wolf’s new title as Murphy’s signal to the rest of the NFL that Wolf would be the Packers’ next GM.

Then in February 2017, Murphy changed his answer and said he had “a plan in place for the process to find (Thompson’s) successor.” That sounded like he’d hire a search firm to help with the process, as he’d done to fill other positions in the organization, and as the team did to find him. Murphy did just that when he hired Jed Hughes of Korn Ferry as a consultant on this search.

But it might be only Murphy’s public answer that changed in ’17, not his actual plan for succession. Though Thompson has worked closely with all the Packers’ in-house GM candidates, sources say he has worked most closely with Russ Ball, who still appears to be the front runner for the job.

So as far back as 2016, Murphy and Thompson might have been planning for Ball to be the next GM. We’ll know when Murphy announces his choice.

I can see why coach Mike McCarthy would have concerns about Ball as GM, as has been widely reported in the last couple days. One NFL source told me that Thompson and Ball have been in lockstep on the team’s approach to acquiring players, which is the most draft-oriented approach in the NFL.

Without saying it outright, McCarthy in his season-ending news conference made clear he didn’t think Thompson had done enough in the last few years to upgrade the Packers’ roster. At one point McCarthy asked rhetorically if the Packers were doing enough to win the Super Bowl.

“That question … needs to be answered throughout football operations,” he said.

As Thompson’s salary-cap adviser, Ball was involved directly in all the Packers’ re-signings and general lack of interest in free agency. What we won’t know unless and until he sits in the GM seat is whether he would maintain that approach while in charge.

Murphy will know, though, from his interview with Ball, which presumably took place sometime this weekend.

Murphy’s search has had a chaotic feel to it late this week, in part because his choice could create a ripple throughout the team’s scouting department. Three of the candidates are in-house, which raises all sorts of questions about what happens with the others if one is chosen for the job.

Having a longtime coach in place adds another layer to the intrigue.

What jumped out at me from McCarthy’s news conference was his bold stance on the GM-coach fit being a two-way street. He clearly was trying to influence Murphy and almost surely in private has had a chance to make his preferences known.

But in the end, the new GM will be McCarthy’s boss. Murphy was explicit on that at his own news conference. Would McCarthy really try to get out of the final two years of a contract that pays about $8 million a year, and away from a team that has Aaron Rodgers at quarterback? I seriously doubt it.

Still, the ripple could be real. If Murphy’s choice in fact is Ball, what happens with Wolf and Gutekunst?

As Thompson’s No. 2 in personnel, at least by title, Wolf would feel spurned. You can bet John Dorsey wants him in Cleveland if the Packers would let Wolf out of his contract.

Gutekunst reportedly is interviewing for the Houston Texans' GM job Sunday. He could end up going there.

Ball probably could persuade at least one of the two to stay as his top personnel man. That job would have a lot of influence, because Ball’s background is mostly in the cap and administration, not personnel. And it would carry a big raise.

But could he retain both? That could be tougher.

We should know in a few days.



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