I can’t recommend this article from Rob Demovsky and Pete Dougherty enough. They have taken a look at an aspect of the Packers that doesn’t get talked about much, yet one that is extremely important – namely, the shift that has occurred away from the family feel that predominated Bob Harlan’s tenure as President and CEO of the Packers to the much more corporate feel under current CEO Mark Murphy.
Demovsky and Dougherty pay particular attention to the departure of Jason Wied, for good reason in my opinion. His departure is a major flashpoint in the transformation:
With Wied, the Packers had a key administrator with strong local ties, and some thought him to be the ideal candidate to succeed Murphy.
For one, Wied was well versed in NFL matters and regularly attended league meetings with Harlan. He also is a graduate of the former Green Bay Premontre High School, the University of Wisconsin and Marquette University Law School, and in his 11 years with the Packers had developed strong relations within the team’s offices and in the community at large.
Whatever his weaknesses — sources said he tended to be unorganized — Wied exuded a genuineness that played well in the community. That perhaps was best exemplified in his folksy speeches on the team’s capital projects that went over well at Packers shareholders meetings.
“Jason was the guy who used to have all the rapport with the city council, the mayor, the county executive,” said a source with ties to the Packers and community. “I was always impressed in our meetings when Jason would outline a strategy, he had it very well in hand.”
With Wied’s resignation in January, a key member of Murphy’s administration is Tim Connolly, who has been the team’s vice president of sales and marketing since May 2010. Connolly was an executive with IBM and in the telephone industry and also an administrative vice president for the Kansas City Chiefs, Minnesota Vikings and Jacksonville Jaguars.
Murphy hired Connolly with the help of an executive search firm — another nod to the Packers’ changing culture — to grow local revenue, which consists of regular and premium seating, concession and retail sales, Internet initiatives and local media.Several sources said Wied and Tim Connolly clashed regularly on matters that fell into gray areas of responsibility, such as the new scoreboard that was scheduled to be in place last season but won’t be ready until this fall; the decision on whether to sell stock this winter; and the building of more premium seating in the south end zone at Lambeau.Connolly also was involved in helping fill the Packers’ vacancy at public-relations director last summer even though the PR department, at least at that time, was among Wied’s responsibilities.Connolly became involved in the design of the Packers’ Super Bowl rings last year, duties that usually go to the football side of the operation. After the Packers’ win in Super Bowl XXXI in the 1996 season, former General Manager Ron Wolf and former coach Mike Holmgren handled those duties.
One source said Wied resigned because of the grind of daily office politics and the feeling he’d lost Murphy’s confidence, not the addiction issues. Wied would not comment on his departure because of a confidentiality agreement he signed with the Packers. Murphy also would not comment on whether he had wanted Wied to return, citing health privacy.
I have to be honest – I loathe the idea of local guy Wied being forced out in favor of corporate-search-produced Connolly. And I’d love to hear from the “sources” that said Wied tended to be “unorganized” – that was certainly never the impression I got when dealing with him and certainly not from those people I’ve spoken to both inside and outside the organization that dealt with him on a regular basis.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of those romantics who thinks the Packers can be run the way they were back in the 90s and that the movement forward in this regard is some great travesty. The current demands of staying competitive in the NFL demand that the Packers evolve.
Nowhere does that idea manifest itself more than in this line from Demovsky and Dougherty:
In the late 1990s, the Packers had about 150 full- and part-time administrative employees; that number now is 600. In 1998, they generated $82 million in revenue; last year, $282 million.
Where I do get concerned is in regards to the balancing act that remains necessary when it comes to the Packers and their relationship with the community. More than any NFL team, the Packers must remain cognizant of their unique position in the NFL. Things that have worked in other NFL cities are not always great ideas in Green Bay. And more than any one action, Murphy and company need to remember that the people of Green Bay, and fans of the team from all over the world, identify with this team as though it is a family member.
Murphy was put in some tough spots at the start of his tenure and came out looking smarter and stronger. The Brett Favre situation would have driven out a lesser man. But he has also overseen some questionable moves, the most recent example being the decision to raise ticket prices for the third year in a row, hot on the heels of a stock sale that brought in millions of dollars.
Yes, in today’s NFL, the Packers must constantly dig up new revenue streams. However, they must must always balance that need with the relationship they have with their unique fan base. What the Packers have done is “gone corporate” just enough…but any more might push the balance too far.