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Around the NFC North

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Around the NFC North

The Packers have a new general manager and defensive coordinator, though they also may have a ticked off Ron Wolf, since they passed his son over for GM and blocked one opportunity elsewhere.

They weren't the only team adding new faces in the division, so let's catch up with the other two non-playoff contenders, as well as take a look at the one team still kicking in the playoffs (for at least one more week).

Chicago Bears

The Bears jettisoned John Fox after a 14-34 record over three seasons and how did he last that long?

We knew he was in trouble when GM Ryan Pace went around him to draft a quarterback, as it's never a good sign to have your coach dry-gulched at a position like that. In reality, the 9-23 record from the preceding two years should have been clue enough.

Now Pace gets a guy he actually wants in Matt Nagy, former offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs. Nagy not only seemed to super-charge a languishing Chiefs offense, he was high on Mitch Trubisky before last year's draft. Nagy says he is calling his own plays though, and while that might seem like a good idea, we've seen that often it's the quickest way for new coaches to get over their skiis and screw up. You're a head coach and you have to work with both sides of the ball. The biggest trap for rookie head coaches is to focus on one side and YOLO the other.

It does sound like Vic Fangio will stay there, which is a good thing. He's a solid defensive coordinator and should keep that side of the ball improving. 

Will this work? It's hard to say. Nagy seems talented, but a talented offensive coordinator does not always make for a talented head coach. The skillsets are different. On the other hand, not seeing the same retreads in coaching positions is a good thing.

Detroit Lions

The good news first. Ziggy Ansah was named defensive player of the week for Week 17. We forgot to mention that last week, so pretend it just happened. 

Also good news, though your mileage may vary — Jim Caldwell was fired. That we did cover last week, but it's such good news for Lions fans we thought to mention it again.

Bad news? Still no new coach. 

Or is that good news? Why rush into things, right? Of course, everyone seems to be waiting for Bill Belichick to leave New England (he won't) and become their savior. Mind you, there are far more desirable jobs out there, so maybe not sitting on their hands would be an idea. There's really no news on the Lions front. They haven't interviewed anyone new (at least nothing has leaked and it would) and they seem to be on pause.

Which feels very 'Lions' at this point. Just waiting, hoping things work out and they somehow stumble into the playoffs...or into a decent head coach.

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings are not looking for coaches, though they might as both of their coordinators are persons of interest in other jobs. 

Perhaps the most interesting question is whether Pat Shurmur — if he gets a job elsewhere — takes Case Keenum with him. Does that make things easier for the Vikings?

Looking towards this weekend, the Vikings welcome the New Orleans Saints to Minnesota and will have their work cut out for them. The Saints are putting plenty of points up on the board, but do so both on the ground as well as the air now. That's tough, and while the Vikings defense is exceptional, facing an air-attack only Drew Brees would have been simpler. Still, the defense is the fourth against the pass and fifth against the run according to Football Outsiders' DVOA metric, so they should be able to manage.

Offensively, while we are all waiting for Keenum to implode, the reality is that the Saints run defense is the weak point. The Vikings will throw, but if they can get Latavious Murray and Jerrick McKinnon going, that's likely to be the most consistently effective way to go.

This is a game that can go either way. Most of you will pull for the Saints, but be prepared for the Vikings to advance. Defense like theirs can patch over a lot of issues.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (63) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Mojo's picture

Looks like Eliots going to Cleveland.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

I don't get why he did that. He had a lot of leverage to set terms of retainment with BG. Now that leverage is gone and he's in Cleveland. Sounds like a huge risk to me.

stockholder's picture

I can tell you why. Because they have a problem in Green Bay. Dorsey and Reggie already left. Highsmith left. Gunte almost left. And the switch is on from TT. Murphy has his nose in everything. The Fans wanted people fired. The pressure cooker has been turned on. MM and Wolf want to win. A new direction is happening. Wolf's not burning bridges. He's being smart saying," I'm not going to be part of the problem". Wolf was in a new situation; YOU"LL DO AS YOUR TOLD! Dorsey is making some great moves in cleveland. And it's better than working for the speak no evil,hear no evil, see no evil.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

Wow, Dorsey and Reggie left years ago for GM jobs. That doesn't indicate problems. I'm not saying there are not any problems.

dobber's picture

Ummm...just what has Dorsey done since he got to Cleveland?

...aside from hire two asst. GMs?

Dude, you just make crap up sometimes.

stockholder's picture

Yes, Took wolf and Highsmith. thats nothing to You? Dorsey is doing what he should have done in KC. He's getting good people loyal to him. The comparison of dorsey and Reggie , was that something was wrong at that time. Both left together. And the packers have not won a super-bowl since. The crap is not cut downs. It's not bias or tooting to one's favor. I know the Browns well. Dorsey is making good moves. And he just got Green Bays draft book. Try not reading into the propaganda so much, and you would be a wonderful poster.

WKUPackFan's picture

So the reason Dorsey and McKenzie left wasn't to be GMs in their own right? They would have gladly remained assistants if not for some nefarious forces at play in GB?

The sun reflecting off that tinfoil headgear you're wearing is blinding us.

stockholder's picture

Gladly remained. - That was good. So go to TTs draft years . And see what TT, Dorsey, Mckinzie , and TT took between 2010 and 2013 . All bad marks. If it was the draft record, they would never have gotten the job. Somebody pushed them. Just like Murphy got pushed to Green Bay. I'm sure it was Murphy. Union. maybe a little TT. By the way you do know when Murphy got hired. In this case lets just say all were good union men.

dobber's picture

OHHH YEAHHHHH!!!!

I can read into just about anything...especially circular logic: Wolf made a great move because Dorsey hired him. And hiring Wolf was a great move by Dorsey. Again...Dorsey has done nothing more than make hires. No player moves. Nothing. I can read into that propaganda pretty well. By that logic, the Packers have done more hiring, so it must be awesome in GB.

zeke's picture

"Both left together. And the packers have not won a super-bowl since."

Also true: the Packers have not won a super bowl since Atari Bigby left. I'm sure some internet smart-ass will try to tell me that's a coincidence, but I know better.

fastmoving's picture

you own the wrong stocks, man.
and I rather want not know what you posts supposed to mean......

stockholder's picture

The nfl agreement ends in 2020.

D.D. Driver's picture

I think this was a decision driven by emotions more than logic. The Browns turn-around effort will probably take a few years, and then he will be a hot commodity again. And if he and Dorsey can't right the ship, Wolf might need to prove himself all over again.

If he swallowed his pride and stayed with the Packers he would likely be a top candidate next year.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

Yep. That's what I am saying. Now, the Browns are going to have to execute some 3 year plan before he's in he same spot. Except now he looks like a a possible baby.

HankScorpio's picture

Jimmy Haslem is not really big on 3 year plans. They seem to change direction every 2 years....sometimes after 1 year.

And ultimately, Highsmith and Wolf are both working for Haslem, not Dorsey.

stockholder's picture

The emotional part is leaving. Not Pride. Murphy is getting into everyone Right Now. If anything some people just can't handle change. I believe Cleveland will be in the playoffs in 2 years. They out played the packers. With all those draft picks, Wolf will have a field Day. Dorsey , Wolf and Highsmith, all have something to prove. Inspiration goes a long ,long, way.

HankScorpio's picture

Nice theory....

Nobody wants to work with Meddling Murphy so they run to where Jimmy Haslem signs the pay checks.

rdent's picture

Wolf is gone, hired by Cleveland. Assistant GM position. Perhaps GB wasn't going to offer him what he got in Cleveland. I don't blame him for leaving. He and John Dorsey and AH armed to the teeth in high draft picks can rebuild this team. I wish them all success.

dobber's picture

All the best to him.

The question is, if you're Alonzo Highsmith, did you just get sidestepped to #3 in the pecking order? OR will they have different enough responsibilities that they're 2A and 2B?

croatpackfan's picture

Exactly what I was thinking... He would be 2A in Green Bay. In Cleveland, whatevewr is his title, he will be No 3...

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

I can think of several reasons why Wolf would take the job in Cleveland. Some reasons don't redound well to GB's FO, some don't redound well to Wolf, and some are neutral.

Some neutral notions include: Dorsey is 57 and Gutekunst is 44. It may be that Cleveland chews up GMs and Coaches and GB retains them. It may be that Wolf thought, rightly or wrongly, that he was #3 behind Gutekunst and Ball. It might be that Wolf will be allowed to scout the college draft prospects more in Cleveland, which has to look better on one's resume. Working for a different organization might help over time. Finally, it might be that Cleveland figures to have much higher picks for the next year or two anyway.

I'll let the nastier reasons be advanced by others.

cheezit's picture

I think part of the reason why Eliot Wolf left is that he was clearly getting demoted if he stayed in GB, as his job (Director of Football Operations) was eliminated and another guy was given a similar title (Russ Ball -> VP of Football Operations). "Right-hand man" is just a very polite way for Gutekunst to offer him a job as an assistant.

Another part, though, must be that the offer in Cleveland looks great. They have a million picks (#1, #4, #33, #35, a third, two 4ths, two 5ths, etc) and over a hundred million in cap space. The front office has had a favorable makeover. They've gone 1-15 and 0-16 over the past two seasons, so practically anything they do will result in an improvement. If they draft well and sign some FAs then go 4-12 next season, they will have a stacked roster, the opportunity to hire a new coach going into 2019, and a fresh bevy of picks, priming them to explode into a winning team in 2019 or 2020, creating a halo effect for their front office guys. To a young and ambitious guy, that's got to be hard to pass up even without having been slighted by his previous employer.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

How was he slighted? He was at the head of the Packers NFL GM pipeline. Now he's in Cleveland.

cheezit's picture

As I noted, he was not only passed over for a promotion (understandable, Gutekunst was probably a stronger candidate) but also his existing job was given to someone else with a vaguely-defined glorified assistant position offered in its stead.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

I read he was offered an Assistant GM position in Green Bay. Which I think is the same title he just took in Cleveland.

rdent's picture

jeremy, apparently Eliot felt it was time to move on from GB. Plus he also has the opportunity to work with 3 people he knows and obviously feels more comfortable with.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

I understand. But if his goal is to be a GM it's likely he's damaged his chances.

stockholder's picture

Was Dorsey damaged from KC? Remember the Packers are in damage control. (TT Removal) Wolfs Contract may suggest otherwise. And How good was the shot in SF? Even Houston. People keep saying MM is on Notice. Wolf may have been put on notice from Murphy, Tea leaves, etc. It's always better to go and still enjoy your job.

croatpackfan's picture

You can not be serious to compare KC and Browns... And all of that in one sentence only...

Irish_Cheesehead's picture

With Gutekunst's background, I think they were more concerned with retaining Ball and boosting his title. They had to know Wolf was more than likely gone.

dobber's picture

Absolutely. To be able to keep two of the four (Ball, Gutekunst, Highsmith, Wolf) isn't doing too badly given that they all want to be able to run their own show (by all accounts).

I don't think it's rats jumping off a sinking ship. If they viewed it as a sinking ship, why would they want to be Captain?

Ustabeayooper's picture

When hasn't the Brownie brain trust had numerous high draft picks and lots of cap space? The idea that this is great situation for Wolf is folly. This is a long term project. You obviously weren't around for the 70's and 80's when GB had many high draft picks, coaches, and GMs. Just because Wolf has an iconic last name, doesn't insure success. Unless there is another Favre sitting on someone's roster, getting an NFL caliber QB will be more important than hiring a new brain trust. Maybe they will trade for Smith to start the annual rebuilding process.

Irish_Cheesehead's picture

I think it's a great place for Wolf. How many GMs have they gone through in recent years? There's a greater chance in Cleveland than in GB for the GM to get the axe sooner than later. I can easily see more pathetic years in Cleveland's future, Dorsey getting canned, and Wolf stepping into the GM role.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

Sounds like a great plan.

HankScorpio's picture

How many times has Cleveland promoted from within during all those course changes in recent years?

Qoojo's picture

I can very easily see the purple turds' season ending this weekend.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

And I do pray it's done the Vikings way, dramatic and painful...

Finwiz's picture

As dramatic, painful and catastrophic as possible! Yup...can't wait.

rdent's picture

I would enjoy seeing the Queens choke in their first PO game at home.

dobber's picture

That Saints offense is really good. They just lost one of their OGs to an injury and that might be their biggest issue.

Would love to see them blow the Vikes out.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

I would love to see a last second defeat. Preferably due to a massive incompetence by Anthony Bahr.

dobber's picture

What was it...2000? When the Vikings had Culpepper and Cris Carter and Moss, and they had such a strong year but got thumped by the Giants in the NFC Championship game? Those guys standing together on the sideline with Ted Thompson, open-mouthed, what the hell is going on looks on their faces?

Or when the Saints edged them out in their Favre year?

Or the missed FG year before last?

All classics...

Qoojo's picture

Are you thinking of their 15-1 season and losing at home to Atlanta in OT? Great game. One of the all time great vikings choke jobs, but so many to chose from in their history of irrelevance.

Razer's picture

I too would like to see the Vikes get kicked. If New Orleans can run against them there is a good chance for victory. Otherwise, i think the Viking defense is too good and the Saints defense a little suspect. Unfortunately, I think Minnesota advances.

Big Moe's picture

Now that's a great way for the New Year to start, a Viqueen home playoff loss, go Saints!

Irish_Cheesehead's picture

"The Packers have a new general manager and defensive coordinator, though they also may have a ticked off Ron Wolff, since they passed him over for GM and blocked one opportunity elsewhere."

Thank goodness we DIDN'T pass over Ron Wolf for GM!!

rdent's picture

Lol, 2 boo boo's there, first name is Eliot, last name is spelled Wolf not Wolff.

andrewgarda's picture

Yeah was trying to make a joke but deleted half a sentence (also have a friend whose last name is Wolff and I always misspell anyone else's Wolf name) Sorry!

rdent's picture

Lol, I understand.

andrewgarda's picture

LOl yeah I was trying to make a joke and botched it. I fixed it.

Coldworld's picture

I am not sure whether Wolf just felt he needed a new environment or he thinks he will have more power in Cleveland.

Without based on knowledge of the man it could also indicate a lack of experience in such situations. Allowing his feelings to cloud his assessment of the best long term platform. Could that be a factor in his not getting the GB job?

Speculation aside, I really don’t care much. Whichever personnel person we picked would have likely led to the others leaving. I’d rather clear the decks now and get some hungry folk rather than people waiting for a chance to move on. Only time will tell if we kept the right one, but early impressions are positive.

Good luck to Wolf, I hope you made a good decision for your future. Now on to the future and what matters, which is improving the Packers

Houndog's picture

I fully expected Wolf to leave after seeing how Murphy had restructured the organization to keep Ball and McPuffy happy.
His father turned down the Packers when they had this same structure in 1987 only to accept the job in 1991 when they changed that structure to give him full power. I'd be surprised if he didn't advise the kid to move on and away from Murphy's power play, or his 'hitting the panic button'?

Here's an excerpt from an NBCSports article some of you may have already seen, but I find it convenient that Murphy's daughter works for the head-hunting firm the Packers hired for their "search", if indeed that's what it was ;

"The back-door politicking recently reached new heights in Green Bay, where Jed Hughes served as a consultant to the Packers’ search for a G.M. and is running the Texans’ search for a G.M. Coincidentally, Packers CEO Mark Murphy (whose daughter works for the Korn Ferry firm) somehow knew on Saturday night that he’d better move quickly to promote Brian Gutekunst to G.M. before the Texans officially interviewed him. Did Murphy know, via Hughes, how serious the Texans were about trying to hire Gutekunst?"

Hmmmm! Did Murphy panic? Did he question Gutekunst's qualifications? Just days earlier he had said the new GM would have full power, and then..................

Razer's picture

Throughout this whole process my lasting feeling is one of mistrust of Mark Murphy. He stated that the GM would have the authority to hire and fire the HC and within a week he changes this citing communications problems due to organizational structure. Involving McCarthy in the GM search is also very strange. Hiring his daughter's firm to consult during the process is also not right. My gut is telling me sleazy.

As for Elliot Wolf, I think it was a good move to get away from Green Bay. He gets to round out his education and have a real shot at a future GM opening.

Houndog's picture

Thanks Razr,
I firmly believe it's part of Murphy's attempt to get himself out from behind the shadows of Bob Harlan and Ron Wolf. I doubt (and cannot believe) either of them would have sat back for the past 5 years and let this organization crumble the way he did.
***Edit***
And oh yeah Razr, Wolf's opportunity might still come in GB when Murphy and his buddies Thompson, Ball, and McPuffy get canned in a couple years!

Razer's picture

I agree. Depending on if he gets his gig in the next couple of years, I can see him coming back to Green Bay after Rodgers, McCarthy and the rest of the gang has left.

WKUPackFan's picture

"His father turned down the Packers when they had this same structure in 1987 only to accept the job in 1991 when they changed that structure to give him full power".

Regarding your continuing inaccurate 1987 claim, you obviously subscribe to the Trump philosophy: Repeat a myth often enough and people will eventually believe it.

By the way, Ron Wolf always served at the pleasure of the President/CEO. He never had "full power".

Coldworld's picture

Never judge a son by his father. Seldom does that act as a good guide. I see no earthly evidence why Wolf would have been as deserved a choice as Gutekunst. I think all this Murphy panicked claptrap is just rubbish. The external candidates had gone, he went with one of two internal candidates. Maybe right one maybe the wrong one, but hardly an obvious discrepancy for us outsiders.

I think Murphy conducted a power grab. I think he realized he could because the BoD Executive Committee has been disused on football matters so long they have forgotten how to fulfil their former supervisory role.

Murphy just felt it would be better if everyone ran things by him. In the short term it is, although it could come back to haunt him. Either way, he wasn’t panicked into this by his daughter. That might be a convenient smoke screen though.

dobber's picture

I want to see if it (meaning the front office restructuring) works before I pass judgement on the restructuring.

We can look at conspiracy theories if we want, but I think the most logical explanation is that, when the Packers completed their Rooney Rule interview of Doug Whaley on Saturday, they got Gutekunst's agent on the line and made an offer. Gutekunst had only had dinner with Bill O'Brien at that point...the start of the Houston interview process. He withdrew from their process on Saturday evening.

I subscribe to Occam's Razor whenever possible...and it makes far more sense here than most of the conspiracy theories. If anything, the most complex theory would be that they did courtesy interviews of Ball and Wolf, wanted Gutekunst all along, and interviewed Whaley because Highsmith wasn't around to satisfy the Rooney Rule.

Now, whether Murphy wanted Gutekunst because he felt that he was the best candidate or felt that he would be most amenable to working in the new Packer paradigm is a different matter...

Coldworld's picture

I do get the impression that Wolf was not seen as a strong candidate. It is odd that he seems to have lost some of his boy wonder glitter in the last couple of years. Of course I have no idea why because we know nothing of their individual achievements or lack thereof. I will defer to Occam and his razor to pare that down to its core.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

It is technically true that Ron Wolf did not have "full power" but IIRC he had a stranglehold on it up to the moment he left. I think PM Gutekunst has some power, but Murphy has most of the scope of authority. Even that is somewhat tenuous now that Murphy has exposed himself to scrutiny. After all, the executive committee and/or the full 45 member board can remove Murphy, right?

cheezit's picture

We can never really tell what (if anything) from the stream of leaks and on-the-record statements during the process was true, but to me the simplest explanation that accords with the most noise that came out of 1265 Lombardi is

1) Ball was the early favorite
2) Wolf had an excellent interview, shaking up the Ball shoe-in scenario
3) Gutekunst really knocked his interview out of the park, so they picked him as the GM
4) They made a business decision to placate Ball by giving him Wolf's job as head of Football Operations in addition to some former GM responsibilities as part of the restructuring
5) Wolf decided to leave because he felt like he had lost his upward momentum in the organization, picking between offers from the Raiders and the Browns, probably choosing the latter because they have nowhere to go but up and a huge budget to buy the groceries with, so to speak.

After a day to cool off, I still find the reorg itself to be really suspect and it stinks to lose Wolf, but we're in a good position to get better as a team going forward. Especially excited about the possibilities for the defense to improve. Still worried the WR corps is kind of weak (Adams is about an average #1, Nelson and Cobb are physically on the downside and rely on telepathic connections with Rodgers to make plays, and after that there's a whole lot of nobody) and that the passing scheme relies way too much on isolation routes, but we have an embarrassment of riches at RB, and it's not like it's hard to find good WRs in the draft. A legit TE would be nice too if we could swing it, but I'm not greedy.

bodei1newbie1's picture

well i say this they should have giving wolf the job look at baseball and how many young GM's here are.But anyway i wish him well and think about this if the packer GM wants to leave and go some place else in the next few years i wouldn't ask to interview wolf he might just tell them to kiss his a** i would

Houndog's picture

bodei1newbie1,
Not sure I agree with you on the "kiss my ass" part of it.
If Murphy has screwed this thing up as bad as I believe he has the whole crew, Murphy, TT, Ball, and McPuffy could all get canned in a couple years.
That would be the perfect time for a more experienced but still young Wolf to come back and turn things around. Not unlike his father did.
Green Bay is one of the most desirable NFL jobs in the league, and he knows that, but with Murphy's power play going on it was time to bolt.

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