Midweek Musings: Dear Mark Murphy, ‘Don’t be the problem’

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Mark Murphy’s last several months as Green Bay Packers president and CEO have been a series of clumsy contradictions.

For some, “clumsy” is too polite a word. To others, Murphy’s insistence to speak upon the saga with quarterback Aaron Rodgers is unnecessary but ultimately a non-issue.

Let’s look back on what’s been an eventful five months for Murphy.

— Jan. 25: One day after the Packers fell to Tampa Bay in the NFC Championship, and only a couple weeks following Rodgers’ comment that his future in the NFL was a “beautiful mystery,” Murphy told WNFL in Green Bay, “We’re not idiots. Aaron Rodgers will be back. He’s our leader.”

— March 30: Remember when the greatest concern this offseason was which contracts the Packers would restructure? And how a Rodgers restructure could create the most cap relief to add free agents? Murphy was asked about such a possibility following the NFL’s league meeting, but refused to indulge. “I can’t get into specific players,” Murphy said.

— June 5: In the most recent “Murphy Takes 5” on packers.com, in a submission that commended the Packers’ approach (in more vulgar terms) and recommended a new name for the Washington Football Team, Murphy had this response: “The situation we face with Aaron Rodgers has divided our fan base.”

— June 10: At an event at Lambeau Field, Murphy was caught on video calling Rodgers a “complicated fella” while evoking Ted Thompson, the late Packers general manager.

In a vacuum, none of these comments by Murphy are particularly offensive, but they’ve shown a habitual inclination to speak on matters when there’s absolutely no reason to do so. And it’s more damning that, in the aforementioned Murphy Takes 5, that he himself noted “the less both sides say, the better.”

Rodgers has proven a Jedi master in regards to that approach, frustratingly so at times. Murphy? He’s been Jar-Jar Binks.

Murphy has done a lot of good during his tenure as Packers president. He oversaw the franchise’s most recent stock sale in 2011, which allowed $146 million in renovations to Lambeau Field.

He also deserves credit for the development of Titletown, and his continued efforts to ensure the Packers remain a successful business in a professional league full of financial giants.

Green Bay Packers’ President and CEO Mark Murphy signs autographs during an NFL football intrasquad scrimmage Saturday, Aug. 7, 2010, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)

The Packers’ corporate evolution has robbed the team of some of that personal touch uncommon in other cities — did the training camp bicycle rides really need a sponsor? — but there’s no denying that Murphy has played a major role in securing the long-term viability of the franchise.

But Murphy’s inconsistent commentary about Rodgers doesn’t paint the rosiest picture of the leader of the organization. There’s been much ado about general manager Brian Gutekunst’s ability, or lack thereof, to manage people, but maybe it’s Murphy whose people skills should be more greatly examined.

Don’t forget that it was Murphy, immediately following a Week 13 loss to the lowly Arizona Cardinals in 2018, that called Mike McCarthy into his office and fired the longtime Packers coach in sudden and disrespectful fashion.

It was the first time in 60 years the Packers had fired a coach in the middle of a season. Murphy couldn’t even give McCarthy the benefit of a night’s sleep.

Was it a necessary move? Yes. But the issue wasn’t why McCarthy was let go, it was how. 

McCarthy later said in a 2019 interview with ESPN’s Rob Demovsky that his firing “couldn’t have been handled any worse.” And he’s right. For a Super Bowl-winning coach that led the Packers to eight-straight playoff appearances and was the steward of the franchise for over 13 years, greater care should’ve been taken.

That’s just one example, but a major one.

Green Bay Packers
Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur and president Mark Murphy talk during NFL football training camp Thursday, July 25, 2019, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

How about when hiring McCarthy’s replacement, Matt LaFleur, how Murphy undercut his general manager’s interview process prior to the hire (and then shared it to the world during LaFleur’s introductory press conference)? Again, it’s not the decision itself — hiring LaFleur was a brilliant choice — but Murphy’s process that deserves scrutiny.

During LaFleur’s first meeting with the media, Murphy said of the nine other candidates, “no one really stood out,” a comment that apparently wasn’t appreciated by the other interviewees.

Murphy clearly skipped Public Relations 101.

Remember when Murphy reorganized the Packers’ front office power structure in 2018, in an effort to “knock down the silos” that plagued the team’s football operations, ultimately making himself the final decision-maker in all football-related discussions?

Well, two-thirds of those silos — McCarthy and Thompson — are gone, yet the same issues apparently still remain. Which lends belief to the thought that Murphy deserves more blame for the Packers’ current issues with Rodgers.

We shouldn’t be surprised. This is the same Mark Murphy that bribed Brett Favre with $20 million in the infamous summer of 2008 to stay retired. That summer of 2008 should’ve been instructive for Murphy. It was his first year on the job, and there couldn’t have been a greater challenge for a rookie president than massaging the divorce with Favre.

Thirteen years on the job, we’re back in the twilight zone and Murphy is making some of the same mistakes, and even some new ones.

Only months following the hiring of LaFleur, then-Bleacher Report reporter Ty Dunne released a story documenting the ending of the McCarthy-Rodgers partnership. 

In that story, Dunne reported a conversation between Murphy and Rodgers as the Packers prepared to hire LaFleur.

“Don’t be the problem,” Murphy allegedly told Rodgers.

It’s time Murphy listen to his own advice.

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[…] to determine who coaches the Packers is Murphy, who was patient with the last head coach (until he wasn’t), and there’s no reason to think he’d have a quick trigger with LaFleur. So no, […]

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