The NFC North’s near-total makeover continued Monday evening with more offseason reshaping of the Green Bay Packers, now in the front office. The team intends to redefine the responsibilities of several of the executives in its personnel department as part of a reshuffling by which Ted Thompson, the Packers’ longtime general manager, will move into a different role within the organization, according to multiple people familiar with the plan.
Thompson, who turns 65 this month, joined the Packers’ front office in 1992. He spent five years in Seattle between 2000 and 2004, then returned to Green Bay and was named the Packers’ GM in 2005. Thompson hired Mike McCarthy as Green Bay’s coach in 2006, and the duo has led the Packers to nine postseason appearances and a Super Bowl title.
A string of eight straight playoff appearances ended this season, as the Packers were without injured quarterback Aaron Rodgers much of the way and went 7-9. The changes have come quickly, with defensive coordinator Dom Capers being dismissed and now the word of the front office reordering. The Packers declined to comment after the restructuring was reported by NFL Network and ESPN, but the plan was confirmed by several people familiar with it.
It is not immediately clear how Thompson’s duties will be divided and what the titles will be, but it appears likely that someone will be given the GM job. The Packers have strong internal candidates in Eliot Wolf, their director of football operations and the son of former GM Ron Wolf; Brian Gutekunst, their director of player personnel; and Russ Ball, their vice president of football administration.
It’s also possible there could be outside candidates such as Seahawks General Manager John Schneider, a Wisconsin native and a former Packers executive.
Earlier in the day, the division lost half its head coaches when the Detroit Lions fired Jim Caldwell and the Chicago Bears followed by ousting John Fox.
Neither move was surprising. There had been plenty of speculation about the job security of both coaches. But the levels of justification associated with the two moves were far different.
In the Bears’ case, there was little choice but to move on from Fox. It simply wasn’t working. The Bears just finished a 5-11 season and were 14-34 in three seasons under Fox. It was clear that they needed to turn over the development of prized young quarterback Mitchell Trubisky to someone else.
The team didn’t do Fox any favors this season by both signing Mike Glennon to a lucrative contract as a free agent and trading up in the NFL draft to get Trubisky second overall. Doing one or the other would have made sense; doing both left the franchise with a lack of clear direction at quarterback entering the season.
Even so, it’s now clear that Trubisky is the Bears’ present as well as their future at quarterback. He didn’t have a great rookie season, by any means. But there were enough good moments to provide hope that he can be a franchise quarterback.
Maybe Trubisky is sufficiently attractive as a prospect to lure New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to Chicago. More likely, it will be someone from the next tier of offensive-minded coaching candidates, someone such as offensive coordinators Frank Reich of Philadelphia, Matt Nagy of Kansas City or Pat Shurmur of Minnesota, or Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo.
Nagy and DeFilippo don’t turn 40 until April and could benefit from the Sean McVay effect. McVay’s success in his first season with the Los Angeles Rams, after being hired as the youngest head coach in modern NFL history, could boost the job chances of other young coaches.
The Lions’ choice was far less clear-cut. They just finished a 9-7 season. Caldwell was 36-28 in four seasons in Detroit and took the Lions to the playoffs twice. They’d been to the postseason once in 14 years when he arrived. Caldwell is the Lions’ winningest coach of the Super Bowl era.
That was not enough, in the Lions’ view. It is believed by many within the sport that General Manager Bob Quinn, who formerly worked in the Patriots’ front office, will hire someone with New England ties. It is thought that the Lions’ top candidates will include McDaniels, Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and Houston Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel, a former Patriots linebacker. The name of Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks also is being mentioned.
Whoever the Lions choose had better win and win big. That has been established as the new level of expectation in Detroit. It is a level of expectation not justified by the team’s accomplishments to date.