Packers' GM interviews to start with in-house trio

GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers will start the interview process for a new general manager with the in-house candidates going first, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Interviews will start Thursday.

That means Russ Ball, Brian Gutekunst and Eliot Wolf will be among the first candidates interviewed, the source said, with the hope that a new GM is in place by the end of next week.

Packers president Mark Murphy said Tuesday that his search will cast a wide net to include internal candidates that have both scouting backgrounds (Gutekunst and Wolf) and non-scouting backgrounds (Ball). He also will consider outside candidates connected to the Ron Wolf-Ted Thompson scouting tree and with no ties to the Packers’ scouting lineage.

Here’s a look at the internal candidates:

Ball: Many inside and outside the organization believe Ball is the leading candidate because he has worked the closest with Murphy, but it would represent a non-traditional leader of the personnel department. The 58-year-old’s background is in contract negotiations and salary-cap management. He joined the Packers in 2008, replacing Andrew Brandt. During his tenure, he also has added other departments under his purview – public relations, training staff, equipment, video, corporate travel, player development and family programs. Although he has no history as a player scout, he has spent time in recent years studying with Thompson. He also worked for the Saints, Redskins, Vikings and Chiefs in a similar capacity. He broke into the NFL as a strength coach. If Ball doesn’t get the job, it’s possible the Packers would need a new salary cap manger/contract negotiator because he may not want to remain under a new GM. Conversely, if Ball is hired, the Packers could lose both Gutekunst and Wolf.

Gutekunst: The 44-year-old was promoted to director of player personnel in 2016 and has been in the Packers’ scouting department for 19 years, dating to Ron Wolf’s administration. He spent the first 13 years of his career as a college scout, serving as a regional scout in the East for two years and the Southeast for 11 years before he became director of college scouting in 2012. He broke into the NFL as a scouting assistant for the Chiefs. He interviewed for GM jobs last offseason with the Bills and 49ers. His father, John, was the former head coach at the University of Minnesota.

Wolf: The 35-year-old son of Ron Wolf has been around scouting his whole life. He wrote his first report at age 14 – it was on Chad Scott. Wolf gave him a first-round grade, which is where the Steelers ended up picking him. He also interviewed for the 49ers’ job last year. Wolf has been promoted five times since 2004 and is the highest-ranking scout under Thompson as director of football operations. It’s possible Wolf could leave the Packers if he doesn’t get the job. Indications are Browns GM John Dorsey, a former longtime Packers’ scout, would want to hire Wolf. Dorsey already hired Packers senior personnel executive Alonzo Highsmith to be one of his top advisers in Cleveland.