Democratic process has its flaws's Matt Tevsh offers an insightful look at how the Green Bay Packers operate and his thoughts on why John Jones was denied an opportunity to be the organization's chief executive officer.

No other NFL team operates quite as democratically as the Green Bay Packers. The only franchise without a wealthy owner, organizational issues are discussed by an executive committee and reported to a board of directors before being decided on by a chief executive officer. This setup, unique to professional sports, has served the Packers well and allowed them to survive as a small fish in a big pond.

Still, the system is not always perfect. In the past week, what was expected to be a smooth transition of top organizational leadership from Bob Harlan to John Jones hit a snag.

Citing "management concerns," the Packers have placed Jones on a leave of absence saying they will re-think the appointment of the team's next president and chief executive officer over the next couple of months to possibly up to a year. In the meantime, Harlan will remain on as the team's principal executive. He is postponing his retirement after a quarterly board meeting at Lambeau Field on Wednesday.

While such profound decisions in NFL circles are usually made by one man, the Packers have the fortune of several of the community's top business minds to determine what is best for the team. This group makes up the seven-member executive committee. Though there are no females on the committee, they are represented diversely by business practice. For example, one is from a top automotive dealership in the area, one from a commercial interior remodeling and building business in town, one a former lawyer, and one a head of a utilities corporation.

All of the team's administrative leaders, of course, ultimately answer to the 111,967 stockholders, many being the average fan. Thus, the Packers are truly designed to be run for the people by the people. There will always be local involvement in every decision. It has always been that way and probably always will be, making for a certain charm untouchable by every other NFL team.

The comfort zone that has been created inside the walls of 1265 Lombardi Ave. was shaken in the past week. Based on reports, at least some Packers officials raised concerns about Jones, though those concerns were not specifically identified. So after going through such a thorough process over the past couple of years to prepare Jones for the job, what happened?

Only those privileged know at this time, but Jones may just be one of those revolutionary thinkers and managers, even if his public appearances do not indicate as much. Outwardly, his disposition has been passionately informative. Inwardly, only team higher-ups have seen him operate on a daily basis. He is most certainly a well-spoken and intelligent man based on his background. His original trade was journalism before working on the NFL's management council and then joining the Packers' front office in 1999. With such a combination of imaginative thinking and a strong business sense then, Jones should have been the dynamic critical thinker to take the Packers into the future. After all, the Packers took a chance on a guy just like that (with a similar work background) back in 1971. His name is Bob Harlan.

Has the Packers' brass lost the ability to think "outside the box" because of the internal security that it has created? It would be quite natural to do so, but passive at the same time.

Such unique thinkers and managers are the ones that can ruffle feathers at the risk of making brilliant decisions. Jones might be just the right man during what has become a transformation period for the team on the field over the past couple of years. It appears that he will not get his chance to lead, though, based on this week's events.

So while Jones' background is impressive and worthy of such a high title with the Packers, something about him does not represent the majority that controls the decision-making of the organization. It may just be a system thing. Otherwise, he would have taken over yesterday.

The Packers are different. There is no doubt about that. Harlan and the executive committee have made many tough decisions, perhaps none tougher than to delay what should have been a relatively innocuous succession to Jones. Give credit to Harlan for realizing a problem, even during his last hours on the job, and trying to correct it. His heart and mind are in the right place when they could have easily been on a beach somewhere in paradise.

Even the most patriotic American, or Packers' fan for that matter, would admit not all democracies are perfect, nor do they choose the best leaders (i.e. George W. Bush). It is the system though, however flawed, where the hope lies. At their own risk, the Packers are counting on it.

Matt Tevsh

Matt Tevsh is a regular contributor to and Packer Report. E-mail him at

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