How Will Front Office Makeover Play Out?

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Mark Murphy Hall of Fame game

The Green Bay Packers front office has switched over from a vertical (or hierarchical) organizational structure to a lateral, (or horizontal, or team-based) one. Hey, I worked in human resources for a couple of corporations somewhere along the way. So what might we expect from this development?

Before, and for many years, the Packers had a nice straight line: Mike McCarthy (supposedly) reported to Ted Thompson, who reported to CEO Mark Murphy. With that setup, employees are clear on what their responsibilities and limits are. It simplifies things, and it makes individuals solely accountable for the successes and failures of those under their command.

Now, the Packers have four people wielding – or sharing? – the power: the coach, the negotiator/operations man, the general manager, and the CEO/president. It’s a lateral organization, meaning that Big Mike, Russ Ball, and Brian Gutekunst all now report to Murphy. It also means that among themselves the three are equals.

As the term suggests, it is said that in a team-based organization there is an atmosphere of cooperation, of working together to achieve results. In the traditional structure, one takes orders from above, and issues orders to those below.

Team Players?

From the activities of the past two weeks, we can deduce a number of things about president Mark Murphy’s three key people. I foresee problems with the newly-announced structure.

By most accounts, GM Gutekunst is mild-mannered and a team player. I don’t think the same can be said for the other two players in this melodrama.

I’ve always assumed McCarthy has never considered himself to be subservient to Ted Thompson, and that Thompson never attempted to impose his will on Big Mike. McCarthy has had little oversight at Green Bay.

With Thompson out of the picture, Big Mike immediately started maneuvering and lobbying to become independent of Thompson’s replacement. McCarthy got his way, when Murphy announced that the head coach would report to Murphy himself going forward.

The next behind-the-scenes drama concerns Russ Ball. I have to assume that he too used his forcefulness to free himself up from being under the GM’s supervision.

When Brian Gutekunst agreed to become the general manager, I wonder if he knew he’d have no authority over either McCarthy or Ball. Was that decided some time ago, or did Murphy – who strikes me as devious rather than strong-willed – simply cave in to McCarthy and Ball? I think maybe these two bullies steamrolled him.

McCarthy openly used his influence, and even an implied threat to leave if he wasn’t pleased with the GM choice, to gain more power and independence. Ball acted behind the scenes to increase his independence, to take on more responsibility (he was named director of football operations – whatever that entails) and undoubtedly to greatly increase his pay check.

It sure looks like Murphy was steamrolled by these two aggressors. I just can’t envision Murphy trying to order, instruct, or otherwise butt into matters in which McCarthy and Ball are assigned.

Team Repercussions

Draftees are no problem – their contracts and salaries fall right into place according to where they were drafted.

Where I envision matters becoming most contentious among our “team players” is regarding free agent signings. Presumably, Gutekunst is responsible for targeting free agents he’d like to acquire – though who knows, maybe Ball, in his football operations director capacity, will claim that’s his turf too. Either way, once a prospect is targeted, it would seem that Ball then has the task of nailing down how much it will cost the team to get the guy.

Let’s say Gutekunst has a free agent in mind, and thinks he’s worth $10 million a year to acquire. What if Ball thinks he’s worth $6 million, tops – can’t Ball effectively veto Gutekunst’s choice by not making a high offer? Since they are now equals, do we wait until the weaker one gives in? Or do both guys go crying to Murphy, who then sides with one or the other? Or maybe Gutekunst or Murphy, sets the highest price the Packers are willing to pay, and Ball negotiates on that basis?

And who’s to say Big Mike won’t demand a big say in which free agents are pursued? He could easily warn the other two that a certain player doesn’t suit his style or perceived needs, so don’t acquire him because I won’t play him.

Let’s face it, in some cases consensus is not going to be reached among these three or four guys – doesn’t that mean that the guy who’s got the least involvement in football operations – Murphy – breaks the impasse?

Here’s what another site says about the dangers of a lateral organizational structure:

The decentralized structure could lead to a “loose ship,” as the team and project leaders have high levels of responsibility for achieving results but little real authority over their team members. A resulting lack of control can lead to finger-pointing when things go awry… Organizations attempting to convert from a vertical to a horizontal structure can face challenges, as management needs to adjust to a less authoritarian and a more peer-like relationship with subordinates.

I’d say Big Mike and Russ Ball have already indicated they’re fine with peer-like relationships – as long as they get their way.

About The Author

Rob is currently twiddling his thumbs on Whidbey Island in Washington. He likes to do research, although he has no shortage of opinions. He saw his first live Packers game in 1958, the only win of the year.

7 Comments on "How Will Front Office Makeover Play Out?"

  1. Cheese

    I listened to an interview with Mark Murphy on 107.5 the fan GB. Holy fuck, if I have to hear him say “you know” one more time… He even said it multiple times in a row. It was seriously 25% of his overall response. Maybe he should take some of the money Ted saved from not signing TJ Lang and enroll in a public speaking class.

    Other than that it was the same status quo BS. He said he divided the GM position between Gutekunst and Ball because there were too many responsibilities. He said Ted had three different roles and it was too much for one person to handle- player acquisition, director of football operations, and vice president. I say nonsense. Eliot Wolf was director of football operations before so that is nothing new and has nothing to do with reorganizing the power restructure. Now BG is just player acquisition and Ball takes the remaining two roles. Hmm..

    Murphy also said that Capers stayed in GB longer than any of his other coaching position. Oh you don’t say? Could that be because you don’t hold anyone accountable and let them linger on for years, much longer than you should?

    We shall see how this all turns out. There’s nothing I can do about it. At least it will be entertaining.

    • PF4L

      Yea…i heard that three different roles bullshit also. For someone in such a powerful position, he’s a train wreck in front of the media. Maybe not TT level, but running a close second.

      I took 3 things away from this ordeal, and a bunch of smaller things, but i’ll talk about the 3.

      First off, Rob described the situation perfectly in saying they went vertical to horizontal. I couldn’t describe that any better and i’m jealous i didn’t think of it. So here’s how i view that in a condensed version. The structure of power, wasn’t the problem. The people inside that power structure were the problem. Changing the structure was A) Overkill. B) Completely unnecessary. C) An action taken to lessen the responsibility of failure for those who deserved it, and they all deserved blame. Example of overkill…Just because there is a rat in the house, you don’t solve the problem by burning down the house do you?. Just get rid of the rat.

      Secondly….Murphy said during the search process, he discovered problems, mainly with lack of communication. We all know what that means, these fucks didn’t work together, and it sounds to me like the top 3 barely talked much at all (based on Murphy’s own words and actions). Here’s the problem i have with all that. This didn’t just happen all of a sudden 1 or 2 months ago, this has been going on for years. Some of us even questioned whether or not these guys even talk to each other, because everyone seemed to be on a different page. Don’t tell me, that Murphy had no clue about this for years, that would be complete bullshit. Whether he knew or not, he should be terminated because of it and here’s why…..It explains the complete lack of accountability, from the top down. It was clearly a detriment to the good, and not in the best interest of the Green Bay Packers. Bottom line….TT and Murphy let it go on for years. Both should have been terminated, Not one, “reassigning” the other.

      Lastly….McCarthy mentioned and hinted about a power struggle, for which i have no doubt. McCarthy then proceeded to explain, it’s not about power, it’s about what’s good for the Green Bay Packers. So then what does McCarthy do? Demand that he has more power, and gets it. The General Manager can’t fire him…lol. Which was probably the beginning of the new power restructuring process.

      One closing thought on McCarthy. He preached about winning Championships, demanded the need of having a stronger defense, etc, like he was pissed off……Well Fuck……Where the fuck have you been? You are ultimately in charge of the team, defense included. You had the power to make changes you are DEMANDING now. You want to sit on your high horse and talk tough about what you now demand? You did fucking nothing for years, but now you demand results? ……Fuck you.

      Sorry for the novel, thanks for reading.

      • Cheese

        Well said. It sounds like they’re all rats. The one they claim to have gotten rid of, Ted, is being kept around as a family pet.

        Funny how doing your job poorly in GB just gets you reassigned to a different job, and it’s not only if you’re a player.

        Right? McCarthy had the power to hire a new defensive coaching staff the entire time. What a buffoon.

  2. rebelgb

    Mike Mccarthy is a bully. You only have to listen to his press conference to know that. He is an arrogant piece of shit. The fact that the GM has no power over him is fucking ridiculous.

    Im not sure we are ever getting rid of that piece of shit.

  3. Truth

    McCarthy had no problems getting the blue collar maintenance worker fired. Why was it so hard to remove Capers.

    • Cheese

      I forgot about that. Probably because Capers didn’t question him. Much like no one questions anything in the front office, which is why there is no accountability.

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