Tuesday, January 16, 2018

What's Mark Murphy's Deal?

By Guest Contributor @bgilbertson10 
Mark Murphy has just been that guy hanging out in the background for most of his time since he's been at Lambeau Field. I've never really given Murphy much thought. Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy were already in place by the time Murphy arrived near the end of 2007. He's never had to fire anyone. He's never had to hire anyone. He's never had to make any sort of substantial decision that affected the team. He's just kind of been there. He's at the shareholders meeting. He's out there at halftime on Thanksgiving 2015 to introduce Bart Starr during the Favre number retirement ceremony.
The strongest memory of Murphy that’s etched into my brain is him, standing with the team in the 2010 playoff run, just after the Packers beat the Bears and punched their ticket to the Superb Owl (I'll be damned if I’m gonna pay the NFL just to use the correct phrase). FOX is showing the presentation of the George Halas Trophy. A tradition unlike any other. The Trophy makes its way to Murphy and for some reason they decide to put a microphone in his face and he gave the line:

"Ok but we have to win one more, we need to win the Lombardi Trophy."

When I saw it initially it was meaningless to me. He's just a guy excited that his team has earned a chance to win a championship. It’s a great moment for anyone involved in any major sports franchise, but over the passing of time that quote has stewed inside me.
Does he really think the team was content just winning the NFC and getting the Halas trophy? Did he think the team thought the season was over? Did he think they had no idea what the Superb Owl (TM) was? Did he truly believe he was bringing to light some brand new information?
Something about the way he emphasized the second syllable in LomBARdi just bothered me. Like, I hear him say it, and it makes me think that he thinks he invented football and the idea of the trophy all by himself.
But that moment has formed my entire opinion of Murphy. Is he a little socially awkward? Was he trying to be funny? Does he think he's funny? I bet he tells that story at all the neighborhood cookouts: "so then I said, OK guys but now we have to win the LumBARRRRRRDEEEE Trophy." while some guys named Jerry and Doug hang on his every word.
I also get great comfort from that moment. Murphy is the perfect face to put on the Packers ownership group. He's harmless. Acts a little dorky. It’s almost endearing. For some reason I cannot explain, I feel confident Murphy will never have any sort of scandal. He's neutral. He'll smile for photos, cut the ribbon, shake the hands, wave to the fans.
I can’t tell you where he falls on the spectrum between ceremonial puppet and loose cannon, but it’s almost certainly in the middle.
Why does any of this matter? Because for some reason this past week Murphy decided to make a change. A change to the people and a change to the structure. A change to how Green Bay is gonna handle its business from now on. We've watched other teams from afar as they have drama and chaos unfold every offseason. Green Bay has managed to stay pretty quiet.
On paper i can see how the relationship between Thompson and McCarthy may have worn down. When You make the decision to stick with Dom Capers as your DC, then explain to Ted that you would like a defense consisting of veteran players that can handle the complexity of Dom's scheme, only to have Ted not really deliver for you. Then you're the one who has to go in front of the media 5 times a week and answer questions that you really tried to avoid while Ted hides away never speaking to anyone.

"Hey, Ted. some of our DBs got hurt yesterday. we'd like you to bring in some veteran players that we can trust in time for the game on Sunday."

"Sure, Mike. how about Lenzy Pipkins and Jermaine Whitehead?


I don’t doubt that someone from McCarthy's camp had McGinn put the story out that Mike would quit if Russ Ball was made the new GM. Maybe Mike knew that Murphy didn’t want his first real decision as President to be one that the fan base was so against.
But did Murphy also think that Mike was responsible for that story getting out? Is that Why Murphy changed the organizational structure to have Ball-McCarthy-Gutekunst all reporting to him directly? Or is that move also McCarthy kind of pulling the strings behind the scenes. Knowing that because the story about his not wanting Ball to be GM was reported , did Mike think he needed to protect himself with an ally in Murphy to keep from getting fired by Ball.?
I guess my point is this. I used to think Murphy was just a placeholder. Like Bobby Newport running for Mayor of Pawnee. Just smile and say shucks and things like that. Throw out some Sweetums bars and the townsfolk will eat that stuff up.
But Murphy was an AD at two different Universities before coming to Green Bay. He spent 8 years in the NFL and earned a Master’s Degree in 1983 while he was still playing AND MAKING THE PRO BOWL. Dude played arguably the best ball of his career in '82 & '83 while simultaneously earning a Master’s degree.
As someone who took 3-1/2 years to earn what is typically a 2-year Associate's Degree, I view that as being quite impressive.
And oh by the way, Murphy earned a law degree from Georgetown in ‘88 after he was done playing. Also served as his team’s Player’s Union rep and was part of the Collective Bargaining Committee that lead to the player’s strike in 1982, which many suspect is why the Redskins released him after 1983 and why other teams didn’t want to touch him.
So over the last 4 days I've convinced myself that Murphy is an evil (very stable) genius. He plays a character to the public and the rest of the Packers Board members, but the dude has his act together. 
I feel safe with evil Murphy. 

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