Stable Packers embark on offseason of change with GM search
By GENARO C. ARMAS
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) One of the NFL's model franchises for stability and success, the Green Bay Packers have embarked on an offseason of change after missing the playoffs and finishing with a losing record for the first time since 2008.
Ted Thompson is out after 13 years as general manager but will remain as senior adviser of football operations. President/CEO Mark Murphy said a search for a replacement has started.
This should be an attractive opening since the Packers aren't far off from returning to contender status. Two-time NFL MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers is expected to return to full health next season following a collarbone injury.
"I think with our organization, the success we've had in the past, I think very realistically we can win Super Bowls in the near future," Murphy said Tuesday at Lambeau Field. "And it's now on us to get the right people in place and move forward."
The Packers have several in-house candidates. But whoever replaces Thompson will have Mike McCarthy under contract through 2019, after Murphy said the coach was given a one-year extension during the season. The extension prevents McCarthy from having lame-duck status with a new GM.
"Kind of like Ted, the two of them together have had a great run. We have all the confidence in the world in Mike," Murphy said.
The Packers' Super Bowl victory in 2010 was the highlight of Thompson's 13-year tenure, which also included four NFC championship game appearances. The Packers abided by a "draft-and-develop" philosophy on Thompson's watch.
"The organization, our fans and our community were fortunate to have had one of the NFL's all-time great general managers leading our football operations," Murphy said.
But Green Bay lost its season finale 35-11 on Sunday to the Detroit Lions, slipping below .500 in a season in which Rodgers missed nine games with the collarbone injury.
The offense struggled with backup Brett Hundley, and a defense stocked with high draft picks failed to improve again.
Murphy said the subject of a transition was broached with Thompson after the season finale. Thompson, who has often spoken about his love of scouting, was given options. But Murphy said he wasn't forced out.
"It was a decision we made jointly," Murphy said. "It was something in my mind I think it's going to be good for the organization and Ted."
Thompson, notoriously media shy, did not attend the news conference.
"This is a special place and we've had some success along the way, but it's the relationships that I value most," he said in a statement. "I look forward to supporting this team in my new role as we strive to win another championship."
Several players spoke about the transition as they cleaned out their lockers on Tuesday after a team meeting.
"It is a little uncharted territory for us. It's going to be different, we're going to have some different voices, some different faces in here," said kicker Mason Crosby, one of the team's longest tenured players. "Ted Thompson with his transition through my 11 years here, it's always hard to see people leave."
Thompson took over on Jan. 14, 2005, and selected Rodgers in the first round of the draft that year. He hired McCarthy as head coach the following year, and the Packers won six NFC North titles under his watch.
"It's tough to see him step down. I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for him, taking a shot on me coming out as a free agent meant a little more," said guard Lane Taylor, a fifth-year player who rose from undrafted free agent to starter.
But standards are high in a city nicknamed "Titletown." The Packers are the only publicly owned team in the NFL and play in the league's smallest market, about a two-hour drive north of Milwaukee.
Thompson has long been a target for some restless fans eager for the club to take a more aggressive approach in free agency.
A defense plagued by injuries at cornerback had some moments trying to adjust to the loss of Rodgers on the other side of the ball. But production slacked off toward the end of the season. Green Bay lacked a consistent pass rush and didn't force a turnover over the season's final three weeks.
While the team has not made a formal announcement about the departure of veteran defensive coordinator Dom Capers, Murphy said McCarthy has the go-ahead to search for a replacement without waiting for a new GM.
"Mike has that authority," Murphy said when asked about the coordinator search. "This is the time of year when things move pretty quickly, and I think on the coaching side, you don't want to put yourself at a disadvantage."
Green Bay, which finished 22nd in total defense for a second consecutive year, used its top draft pick in each of the past six seasons on defensive players. The Packers were 15th in defense in both 2014 and 2015.
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Updated January 2, 2018