Packers prepared for post-Ted Thompson era, whenever it happens

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Mark Murphy knows how much longer Ted Thompson plans to work as the Green Bay Packers general manager. He also has a succession plan in mind.

The Packers president/CEO isn’t ready to reveal either one.

However, this much is clear: Murphy won’t be caught off guard when Thompson decides to step down.

During an interview last week at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, Murphy seemed confident in both the direction Thompson is taking the Packers in and what the future holds whenever his long-time general manager decides to walk away.

Thompson turned 63 on Jan. 17, the day after the Packers lost to the Arizona Cardinals in the playoffs. He’s under contract through the 2018 season.

When asked if he has an idea how long Thompson will continue, Murphy said, “Yeah, I do.” However, he wouldn’t say whether Thompson would fulfill his contract.

His answers were the same when asked whether he has a plan in mind to replace Thompson -- “I do,” he said -- and whether that means Packers director of player personnel Eliot Wolf will be Thompson’s successor -- “I won’t get into that,” he said.

Wolf would have to be at -- or near -- the top of Murphy’s list even though he’s only 33 years old. He’s older in football years thanks to his Hall of Fame father, Ron, the former Packers general manager. The younger Wolf wrote his first scouting report at age 14; it was on Chad Scott, who received a first-round grade from Wolf. Sure enough, Scott went in the first round to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

But he’s just one part of a strong scouting department that also includes senior personnel executive Alonzo Highsmith and college scouting director Brian Gutekunst.

It would be wrong to discount vice president of football administration/player finance Russ Ball, but it would be an unusual move for Murphy to put a salary-cap manager/contract negotiator in charge of the personnel department.

Plenty of external candidates exist too. The most obvious is Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider, a former Packers scout and a Green Bay-area native. Schneider is believed to have a clause in his contract with Seattle that would allow him to leave for the same job with the Packers.

Whatever the plan is, it may not take shape until 2019, when Thompson will be 66. He looked spry at the combine, especially when compared to two years ago when he underwent hip surgery. Back then, he had trouble just getting around at the combine, then had to miss the annual league meetings in March 2014.

Last week, however, he seemed energized and in good spirits.

“He’s a scout at heart,” said Schneider, who worked for both Thompson and Ron Wolf. “He loves scouting. That’s what I’ve known him as, just a total grinder. He loves getting into the room and just trying to figure players out.”