Brian Gutekunst has been a sought-after commodity at least since the Packers named him director of college scouting in 2012. In 2015, the Eagles asked to interview him, but the Packers refused. In early 2016, it was the Titans who eyed him for their director of player personnel. Once again, the Packers nixed the effort. It seems likely that the team made amends to him, however, as they then promoted Gutekunst to be Green Bay’s director of player personnel.
Following the 2016 season, Gutekunst was finally allowed to seek out jobs elsewhere. He interviewed for general manager jobs both with both the Buffalo Bills and the San Francisco 49ers. Afterwards, he removed his name from consideration for the San Francisco job. He received a healthy raise at about this same time.
These events strongly suggest to me that in early 2017 team president Mark Murphy must have confided to Gutekunst that he was at the head of the list to succeed Ted Thompson. I also suspect that Murphy led him to believe that Thompson would be replaced sooner rather than later.
The best evidence we have as to Gutekunst’s talents is that scouting and front office communities around the league – who do know him well – have very high regard for him.
Public Perception of Gutekunst
Packers fans have little to no direct acquaintance with the new GM. I searched high and low, and came up with little other than a couple seven-minute Q&A sessions at the podium following the 2015 and 2016 drafts. And he gave out few if any clues as to his views on player evaluation, draft philosophy, and so on, on those occasions.
As to his personality, it’s laid back and informal – maybe too much so. He displays little ego. He’s known as being savvy, and as being a team player. From what little I’ve seen, Gutekunst doesn’t wish to be in the limelight – but on the other hand, he’s not reluctant – as was Thompson – to speak to the media. Did you hear Murphy’s wisecrack on Tuesday: “Ted enjoys dealing with you (the media) about as much as a root canal?”
McCarthy’s Unseemly Maneuvers
Mark Murphy went on record days before the Gutekunst announcement on two critical items: (1) Mike McCarthy will be the team’s coach in 2018; and (2) the GM will continue to have the final say concerning free agency acquisitions, draft picks, roster decisions, and head coach.
I appreciate the latter declaration. In fact, when Murphy was directly asked if the new GM would retain the authority to hire and fire the coach (going forward), Murphy replied, “Absolutely.”
McCarthy was undoubtedly listening, because when he next addressed the media, Big Mike tried to make it known to all that he was heavily involved in the search for a new GM, and it was essential that the new GM be a “fit” with himself. I’d say those comments go against what the CEO said, and are a rather transparent ploy to gain the upper hand over the new GM. I doubt that Gutekunst was impressed.
Gutekunst is probably too nice a guy to pick a fight with the head coach, especially on his first week on the job, but I’m not. Listen McCarthy, employees don’t pick their bosses. Gutekunst is now your boss, and he’s above you on the corporate tree, not side by side. You serve at his pleasure.
We all know, McCarthy, that you had bullet-proof job security so long as Thompson was GM, but things have changed. You need to get it that there’s a new sheriff in town.
In the days ahead, I’m sure fans will be getting to know Brian Gutekunst better by way of press conferences. They’ll be a lot of reading between the lines as he settles into his new job and introduces himself to Packer Nation.
What I’m going to be looking for is whether the new GM has the strength and leadership to hold Big Mike fully accountable for his job performance during the 2018 season. If he doesn’t, then all these front office and coaching moves are much ado about nothing.