Packers President Has No Regrets After Favre Saga
Sunday, September 7, 2008
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- If there was a moment when Mark Murphy wanted to yank out his hair or run from the Green Bay Packers and pretend he'd never heard of them, he doesn't admit to it. He remained unfailingly polite and pleasant even though the dream job he took last December as president and chief executive of the Packers had left him presiding over one of the ugliest and most painstakingly chronicled spats in the history of professional sports, the clash of wills that resulted in the usually beloved franchise in this tiny town trading its legendary quarterback, Brett Favre, to the New York Jets.
As he drove to meet the team charter to a Packers preseason road game, Murphy did his best to see the bright side of things. "Sometimes when you go through situations like that," he said, "it can make your organization stronger. It can make everyone more unified. In a lot of ways, it was beneficial to me."
But when he was asked if he ever wanted to endure another stretch like the one that led to the Favre trade, Murphy didn't hesitate and didn't elaborate.
"No," he said simply.
A unique and twisting path led Murphy, 53, to the eye of the Favre storm. After his eight-year playing career as a safety for the Washington Redskins ended in 1985, Murphy worked for the NFL Players Association and got his law degree from Georgetown University. He became a labor attorney at a D.C. firm and had a four-year stint at the U.S. Department of Justice before returning to sports as the athletic director at Colgate, his alma mater. Eleven years at Colgate and another 4 1/2 as the AD at Northwestern put him in the Packers' sights when they needed a replacement for retiring president Bob Harlan. Murphy was approved as Harlan's successor by the team's board of directors on Dec. 3.
Little did Murphy know that the most turbulent episode in franchise history was around the corner.
But in a series of recent interviews, first in a conference room at the Packers' offices at Lambeau Field during training camp and then by phone as he drove to the team flight the week after the Aug. 6 trade, Murphy expressed no regrets about the club's handling of the matter.
"I was proud of the way the organization handled it," he said. "It was very difficult. This was such a revered, iconic player. We had to be fair to him. But we also had to do what was right for the franchise. It wasn't a perfect solution. But I think it was good for him and good for the franchise. It had to end at some point. It couldn't keep going on forever."
Public opinion in Green Bay and elsewhere has been sharply divided.
"I think in time, this will be forgotten," Murphy said. "It's hard to believe right now because it's so fresh in everyone's mind. The key for us will be continuing to build for the future. We have a strong brand, and that will continue. In the long term, he'll be remembered as a Green Bay Packer. He'll be remembered for what he did with the Packers. This will not tarnish that. Joe Montana, how many people even remember he played for the Chiefs?"
That might be wishful thinking. Carl Peterson, the president and general manager of the Kansas City Chiefs who completed the trade that brought Montana from the San Francisco 49ers in 1993, said that he and many others remember Montana's time in Kansas City fondly. Peterson also recalled an occasion after the trade when he went to California for a public appearance.
"I went out there to speak once and there were all these boos for the guy who stole Joe Montana," Peterson said. "I said, 'Carmen [Policy, the former 49ers executive who made the trade] just loaned us San Francisco's number one export.' They loved that."