Mark Murphy takes ownership of Packers' issues, wants to 'knock down those silos'

Packers president Mark Murphy, right, introduces the team's new general manager, Brian Gutekunst, during an introductory news conference on Monday. AP Photo/Mike Roemer

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Halfway through Monday's news conference to introduce Brian Gutekunst as general manager and discuss a new power structure, Green Bay Packers president Mark Murphy caught himself.

"I realize I'm not an owner," Murphy said.

But he's sure acting like one now.

In an unusual maneuver for the publicly-owned team, Murphy made the bold move of taking away the GM's power over the head coach and assigning it to himself. It means the three top people on the football side -- Gutekunst, salary-cap manager Russ Ball and coach Mike McCarthy -- all will report to Murphy.

In the grand scheme of the NFL, it's more common than one might think. According ESPN's NFL Nation reporters, 15 other teams have things structured so the coach reports to the owner and not the GM (although that includes the Cowboys, whose owner Jerry Jones also is the GM; and the Patriots, who have Bill Belichick as coach and GM).

The Packers became the 16th on Monday, although they're the only team in the NFC North set up that way.

While it looks like a power play on Murphy's part, he insisted both in his news conference and in a side session afterward that he made the decision as a way of combating the breakdowns in communication and collaboration that occurred in the final years of Ted Thompson's tenure as GM.

"What this process showed me, within football, we have silos, and we've had some breakdowns in communication," Murphy said. "One of the things that I really tried to do as I looked at it, what would be the best way to improve communication, improve collaboration among people within our football operations and how do you knock down those silos? So this search process really identified some of those issues for me and was really very helpful."

Murphy wouldn't say where the breakdowns occurred between the reclusive Thompson, the opportunistic Ball and the veteran head coach. Nor would he indict Thompson or Ball -- who have been running the personnel department.

"I thought it would be very helpful for Mike McCarthy, for the head coach, to report directly to me," Murphy said. "So I anticipate, I think it's the best for the organization and Mike, Brian, Russ and I will meet on a regular basis, a weekly basis, and I think it's really going to be helpful that we're always on the same page, that it will improve communication, it will improve collaboration and I'm very, very excited about that."

Since Bob Harlan hired Ron Wolf as GM in 1991, the team president has stayed out of the day-to-day football operation, and it's produced sustained success. It was during the 1970s and 80s when the team's executive committee -- of which the president is the head of -- meddled in football when the Packers struggled the most.

Murphy wouldn't say whether he would have made these changes had he not hired a first-time GM.

"I didn't necessarily go in with the idea that I want to have this structure," Murphy said. "But I have had a sense for a couple of years that I needed to be a little more involved and I think what this process did for me was to make it clear what that exact involvement will be. I'm excited about it. I think this is going to be very positive for us moving forward."

Murphy addressed the kind of problems that can be foreseeable -- such as who's authority it is to sign and draft players (it's Gutekunst's) and who can fire the coach (it's Murphy) -- but such a change in structure can also come with unintended consequences.

When Murphy, during the news conference, rattled off a list of things he'll help McCarthy with, he included game-planning, which seemed like an unusual role for a team president even if he played in the NFL like Murphy did. But later, he clarified.

"I'm not going to be making football decisions; I'm supervising people that make football decisions," he said.

McCarthy was not available for comment on Monday.

Without saying it, however, Murphy's moves suggested that he felt some members of the football operation either overstepped their boundaries or did not stay in their own lanes.

"I'm not exactly sure where that happened or when it happened, it might have been there for a while," Gutekunst said. "I think this new structure actually gives us a little bit more opportunity to tear those down and just communicate more and all be on the same page. We were 7-9, and when you're 7-9 it shines a light on these things more so than when you're 12-4."

In signing a five-year contract that is expected to pay him $2.5 million annually, Gutekunst accepted Murphy's power structure.

"No red flags," Gutekunst said. "I had to think about it when I was trying to process it or whatever, but the biggest thing to me was just the people involved. My relationship with Russ is really strong, and my relationship with Mike is really strong. So I needed to hear how it was going to work but once Mark laid it out, I was all for it."