What a start to 2018. The very first day of 2018 brought us three coaches, all on the defensive side, getting their pink slips. Now the Green Bay Packers are looking for a new General Manager for the first time since 2005. Ted Thompson, the successor to longtime GM Ron Wolf, will stay in the Packers organization, just not as the GM. It was a shocking move, to say the least, but it was a move many Cheeseheads are happy about. Now the search for a new GM will begin. Many speculate the Packers will promote within, as there are many qualified candidates in the Packers front office already, but there are many options around the league that could garner some interest as well.
Eliot Wolf – Director of Football Operations for the Green Bay Packers
Maybe the most likely to acquire the position of GM for the Packers, Wolf is the son of the aforementioned Ron Wolf. The preceding Wolf was the one who made the gutsy trade for Brett Favre after the 1991 season. He also helped bring in several key members of great Packers teams in the 1990’s like Reggie White, Desmond Howard, and Gilbert Brown. Eliot decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a member of the Packers Front Office, and since 2004, he has contributed to many numerous roles throughout the organization. From a Pro Personnel Assistant to the Director of Football Operations, Eliot Wolf is the epitome of a company man. Close to 15 years of dedication to a single organization is a great quality to possess.
Brian Gutenkunst – Director of Player Personnel and College Scouting for the Green Bay Packers
Another “In-House” candidate for the Packers, Gutenkunst just finished his 19th season in the Packers front office. He surpasses Wolf in the experience department, which makes him a great candidate for GM as well. Other teams such as the Buffalo Bills and San Francisco 49ers have had known interest in Gutenkunst, but ultimately decided to go with other options. He has done a little bit of everything in Green Bay which is nice if you want to be the GM of a football team.
Russ Ball – Vice President of Football Administration/Player Finance
You don’t hear about Ball too much because he does not talk to the media at all. However, he is another fine candidate for the GM position due to his vast experience with the Packers. Since 2008, Ball has been employed by the Packers and has kept his same position for the past 10 seasons. He, along with Ted Thompson, makes many decisions that impact the Packers in a variety of ways, on and off the field. He is the man who negotiates player contracts, maintains the salary cap, and supervises many different day-to-day operations throughout the year. Many players, past and present, have only good things to say about Ball. While he won’t be the first option to come up in discussions for future Packers GM, he is definitely qualified and has a good chance of becoming the GM.
There aren’t many options outside the organization at the moment, as it is very hard to even gain access to talk to other GM’s and other front office personnel for management spots on other teams, but anything can happen in the NFL. In my opinion, the front-runner for the GM spot from outside the Packers organization is the current Seahawks General Manager, John Schneider.
Schneider, a nearby De Pere, Wisconsin native, has been with the Packers on numerous occasions over the past 25 or so years. He was a scout for the Packers in the mid-90s, then returned in 2002 to be the Personnel Analyst to the General Manager, then became the Director of Football Operations before leaving for Seattle in 2010. If the Packers want to pursue Schneider, it will be very difficult. Schneider has a “no leave” clause in his contract, which means he can’t take another job while in his current contract, which goes through 2021. Schneider could leave Seattle and come back to Green Bay if the Packers traded away some assets, but the likelihood of that is slim to none. It will be difficult to make a move for Schneider.
There are other options out there too. The Packers GM job may be one of the most sought out in the league because you don’t have to report to an owner, as the Packers are publicly owned. The amount of power you have is much greater than other GM jobs in the world of sports. The Packers tend to surprise fans, so someone on my list may not even be hired. One of those men is Senior Personnel Executive Alonzo Highsmith, but he was recently hired by the Cleveland Browns, and won’t return to Green Bay next season. The opportunity for a surprise candidate is not out of the question, but if that were to happen, the following candidates may decide to leave Titletown, which would be a shame.