Lombardi blog: May edition

Thoughts on John Jones, Brett Favre, how NFL coaching staffs have swelled over the years

May 31, 2007
More Rumors on John Jones
Word is slowly leaking out of 1265 Lombardi Avenue that John Jones was terminated because of his style and perceived capacity to lead the Packers organization. Apparently four staff members went to Bob Harlan and complained. Harlan addressed the issues with Jones, but apparently, there was no improvement and he was dismissed. All of these points are readily available in local media reports. Someone within the Packers organization has to be feeding this to the media on the side.

Details are hard to come by though and without more information, it leads to wild speculation. I have reported some of that myself. The latest rumor I heard is that Jones made it known that he was going to fire Ted Thompson once he got the power to do so and that was his undoing.

I have no idea which of these rumors, if any are accurate, only that in the absence of a better explanation, these ideas will perpetuate and give the Packers the look of an organization in disarray. I understand there are legal issues and privacy issues related to employee termination, so it is possible we may never know the details. That will only hurt the Packers. The whole situation may have been a good thing for them, but on the outside, they look ridiculous. At least to me they do. How do you work with a guy for eight years and then find out he cannot do the job he is designated to do? Without details or a better clarification, it will always hang out their begging for explanation.

One explanation that makes sense to me is the Peter Principal. I have mentioned this before, but will do so again.

The Peter Principal states that people are promoted one level above their competence. Another way to look at it is that people are promoted to their level of incompetence.

Maybe John Jones was good at what he did for the better part of the decade, but the duties of the Packer President are different than his expectations previously and he was not up to the task. There is a whisper campaign to that effect, but without confirmation or examples, the rumors will always fly and in the face of poor personnel decisions by the Packers since Mike Holmgren left, they had better hit a home run on this search.

May 30, 2007
More John Jones
I suppose anyone could have predicted it, but due to the Packers being less than forthcoming on the reasons behind John Jones' leave of absence, rumors are flying around.

Here are some of them:

1. He wanted to trade Brett Favre

2. He submarined the Randy Moss trade on his own initiative outside of the normal channels.

3. His vision of the Packers organization threatened to many people with a stake in the game and they rose up in rebellion.

4. He was not up to the challenge of doing the job.

5. His health was not up to it.

6. Bob Harlan was unable to ride off into the sunset, so he stabbed Jones in the back.

Not sure which, if any are true, but absent any contrary information coming out of 1265 Lombardi Avenue, what do we expect?

May 29, 2007
John Jones
I have waited to comment on the events of Memorial Day weekend. As most of you know, John Jones will take a leave of absence. Bob Harlan will postpone retirement as the Packer Board evaluates the situation for as long as a year. I will admit that I do not know what is up or what to say. The Packers are being very secretive and closemouthed about the situation. Jones produced a statement that reveals nothing.

I wish I knew the whole story, because that would make the analysis much easier and more accurate. I am assuming there is more to the story and will adjust my comments as information comes out.

From what we do know, Harlan reported some "management concerns" to the board approximately three weeks ago. From those concerns, the board and Jones mutually decided that he take a paid leave while things are figured out. Jones had some major heart problems last summer, but reports indicate that it is not health related. I had heard rumors that Jones' "heart issues" were serious enough that he would never be healthy to take over, but almost a year has gone by without any indication that his health would keep him off the job. The Packers said as much.

None of this makes sense. If it is not health related, what is it? Are they saying that his health is not the issue because they are afraid of litigation or charges of discrimination?

As for these ambiguous "management concerns"? What does that mean? Was he a jerk to people? Was he a bad boss? Was he abusing the help? Was he not up to the task at hand? Where did the breach occur? I do not know. He was hired in 1999 and was less than a week away from taking over the whole enchilada. What had come up in the last three weeks that had not manifested itself in the previous eight years? Had people who hid their dissatisfaction for years, developed the "courage" to go to Harlan on the eve of Jones' ascension? Or did Jones just lose out on an internal power play?

I think that it ultimately comes down to competence. It was determined that Jones was not up to it. Whether the determination is accurate or not, the higher ups figured that JJ was not capable of running the organization. They might be wrong about it, but that is what they figured. If that is the case, where was Harlan all these years? Were these problems overlooked or missed by him and others in a position to act? How and why did it take so long to figure it out?

I do not know John Jones really well, but have had the fortune of meeting him numerous times, mostly professionally. But one night, I ate dinner with him. My parents were in town and there was a mini reunion of the NFL Management Council. Jack Donlan, who had been head of the MC was in town and a handful of former members of the MC staff went out. My dad worked for Donlan in the early '80's, Jones in the late '80's and '90's. I was invited along. I sat across the table from Jones. He was one of the nicest guys I have ever met in all my years of following professional football.

Cordiality does not indicate success, but it is a sad day that he was dismissed, especially in such a public and strange manner. He may have deserved his fate, but it is pretty clear to me that he was done a disservice by the way it was revealed.

They say that Jones may be back, but I doubt it. That being the case, who will succeed Bob Harlan? Will it be Andrew Brandt, Packers Vice President and chief salary cap guru, or Jason Weid, recently promoted Vice President? Will it be Mike Reinfeldt, former Packer staffer and new GM of the Titans?

If the Packers are smart, they will go outside the organization and find a powerhouse guy. Go get a younger guy, someone who can bring some stability to the team. I am sure they will get Ron Wolf's recommendation, but the search needs to be thorough and they need to get the best man. The Packers need that.

May 16, 2007
Brett Favre tells a Mississippi paper that he is skipping this weekend's minicamp because he has a bad ankle and his daughter is graduating from High School. Then the Packers trot out their PR guy, Jeff Blumb, to tell the breathless horde that as far as the Packers are concerned, the camp is "Mandatory."

Where is this game of Chicken going? Who will blink first? Will Favre show? If he does not, will the Packers fine him? If they do not fine him, what happens the next time a player skips a "Mandatory" anything? If fined, will it piss Favre off even more? Will the Packers call his bluff? They already got him to back off a little, but will it last?

Also, why is the PR guy the mouthpiece for this? So Coach McCarthy and Ted Thompson have deniability if things get worse? If Coach McCarthy thinks Favre should be there and wants it publicized, then have him say so. If he is unavailable, have Thompson say it. If he is unavailable, then say nothing until one of them is available.

If this drama continues, where are the players going to line up? With the QB or with management? Do they even care?

May 14, 2007
The Packers' quiet off-season exploded over the weekend. While at his golf tourney down south, Brett Favre let it be known that he is not happy with the makeup of the Packers offensive roster. Who can blame him? Only Donald Driver is a proven weapon and he is getting older. Favre was upset that the Packers did not do enough to get Randy Moss and there are rumors circulating that he was so mad that he asked to be traded.

The odds of that happening are pretty slim. His large contract is one reason that it will probably not happen. And who needs him badly enough to make a play for him? The Packers will probably not do it out of fear of the fan base storming the walls. Ted Thompson would probably have to get bodyguards if he pulled the trigger on a Favre trade. I am not advocating that kind of reaction, only predicting the outrage of some folks if their beloved Brett Favre were to don another team's jersey.

I have followed this team closely now for five years and I have realized that Favre is a raw nerve. He says whatever is on his mind and we need to remember that he has made outlandish statements before. But more often then not, if you read between the lines, what he says carries revelations that speak volumes.

It was obvious to me that he and former coach Mike Sherman did not communicate very much. And now that Sherman is gone, the stories of his unapproachable manner and tunnel vision are spilling out. He never came out and said such things, but if you watched and listened, the evidence was there. And from the perspective of 20-20 hindsight, it should have been clear to all of us.

This is the most obvious I have seen him be, but the substance, that he wanted Moss and was prepared to do what was needed is not the true message. The true message is that Favre is going to a gunfight with an unloaded gun and he feels that the organization failed to give him any bullets, even though it would have been reasonable to do so by his estimation. Thompson does not have the urgency that Favre feels is needed. But is that news to anyone? Thompson has not made any bold moves to make the team and, specifically, the offense better since he got here. He has made his picks on draft day and signed a couple of mildly impactful free agents, mostly on defense, but he has not gone out and signed a guaranteed playmaker on offense.

I have said this before, but part of me thinks the organization wanted him to retire so it could get on with the rebuilding. With him, fans feel that they have a chance in any game. Last year's four-game win streak to end the season is a perfect example of this thought process. There is hope in Packerland. Without him, the expectations would be legitimately lower and the pressure would be relieved for a short period. With Favre, 4-12 is unacceptable, but without him, it would be expected. Ultimately, the roster is the same, with one exception and when he actually does retire, the grace period will have ended.

Think about it. Thompson has been at this for three drafts now. Let's say Favre retires after this season. Does anyone think this team will be better without him? So after three seasons they take the field with an unproven QB who has no weapons. Aaron Rodgers may be the next coming, and if he is, they will look like geniuses. If he struggles, like most young QB's do, then who knows if Thompson (and McCarthy) survive for year four. Would you not rather do that early in your career? You get the benefit of the doubt early.

I get accused of being negative about a lot of things, but when I have Brett Favre saying essentially the same things, maybe there is something to it.

May 10, 2007
23 coaches
I saw in the paper where the Minnesota Vikings have 23 coaches on their staff. I was talking to Chuck Lane, former PR guy for the Packers. Chuck was hired by my grandfather in 1965 when he was 23 years old and was on the staff until the early 1980s. His quote about the Vikes is very insightful:

"Coach Lombardi was one of seven coaches, plus the GM. We had an assistant GM, one PR guy, two ticket guys (since we operated out of two stadiums), one personnel guy, one part-time scout, one-and-a-half equipment guys, and one-and-a-half trainers, plus, as I recall five ladies who supported everyone. By my math that is 20.5 people."

The Packers currently have 18 field coaches and three strength coaches for a total of 21.

Apparently, quantity does not breed quality.

John Lombardi

Editor's note: John Lombardi is the grandson of legendary coach Vince Lombardi. His football experience includes stints with two teams in the World League (now NFL Europe); in the scouting departments of the Cleveland Browns and Tennessee Titans; and graduate assistant coach and director of football operations at Vanderbilt. E-mail him at johnlombardi22@yahoo.com.

Lombardi blog archives:
April 2007 edition
March 2007 edition

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