GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Twenty-six years ago today, Bob Harlan was elected president of the Green Bay Packers. He took over a team that had made the playoffs just twice since Super Bowl II.
It's safe to say the course of the franchise changed for the better on June 5, 1989.
Two years later, Harlan hired Ron Wolf, who hired Mike Holmgren, who developed quarterback Brett Favre into a three-time NFL MVP and coached the Packers to a win in Super Bowl XXXI. Along the way, Wolf signed free agent Reggie White, who made it cool to come to Green Bay.
Harlan retired on Jan. 28, 2008, but his fingerprints remain all over the organization. His last major hire was current general manager Ted Thompson, a former Wolf scout who built the Super Bowl XLV-winning team.
Even before Harlan did all that, he made one of the most important -- and perhaps most underrated -- moves in franchise history. Before Harlan was elected to replace Judge Robert J. Parins, most of the major decisions, including some football moves, were made by the team's seven-member executive committee made up of local businessmen.
When Harlan took over as president, he knew that had to change.
"I didn't do it right away because the first year I took over was '89 and that was [quarterback Don] Majkowski's big year and we did pretty well," Harlan said in a recent interview. "But then in 1990, we fell back to like we used to be and when we started out poorly in '91, I went to the executive committee and told them I want to make a change, and we have got to get the executive committee and the board of directors to back off from being involved in football decisions. And fortunately they did that."
Wolf would not have taken the GM job in 1991 without such an assurance. He interviewed with Parins for the GM job in 1987 but backed out when he realized he may not have full authority over the football decisions.
"The thing that pleased me is that after 24 years of bad football, thanks to Ron and Mike Holmgren and now Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy, we've had 23 years of very good football," Harlan said recently. "It's been a huge turnaround, but I don't know where we'd be. We had to change the way we were doing business. We had to get everybody on the board and everybody on the executive committee to back off."
For that, Wolf credited Harlan.
"Without the support of Bob and the executive committee -- but more importantly Bob -- I don't know if we would have done what we did," Wolf told ESPNMilwaukee shortly after being elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in January.