‘Our loss is the Packers' gain'

Despite being only 31 when hired as Northwestern's coach, Pat Fitzgerald said Mark Murphy never meddled with the football program. That's a good sign the Harlan Way of doing things will remain intact at 1265 Lombardi Ave.

What do Aaron Rodgers and Mark Murphy have in common?

They'll have some big shoes to fill.

For Rodgers, the time to replace the legendary Brett Favre is at least several months away. Maybe a couple years away, the way Favre is playing this season.

For Murphy, the time to replace the legendary Bob Harlan atop the Green Bay Packers' organization likely will start sooner, at the end of this season.

With a few exceptions, most anything Harlan touched turned to gold during his illustrious 19-year tenure as president. What he didn't touch — or touched only sparingly — was the football side of the operation.

Gauging the reaction to the hiring by Packers fans, that's what most concerns them about Murphy's hiring. If ain't broke, don't fix it, is the sentiment, and with Harlan leaving the football side of the franchise to the likes of Ron Wolf and, now, Ted Thompson, Harlan's separation-of-powers management style certainly ain't broke.

No doubt, Murphy had to make assurances that the Harlan Doctrine, if you will, will remain in place.

 You can judge a man by his words, or you can judge a man by his deeds.

By words, Murphy — a former Pro Bowl safety for the Washington Redskins — says he'll leave football to Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy.

"Just because I have a football background, I'm not going to call coverages for the secondary or call plays," Murphy said at his introductory news conference. "My philosophy really is, hire good people and let them do their job. That will be the same."

The deeds, though, speak volumes. Take it from the man Murphy hired to be Northwestern's football coach.

Pat Fitzgerald was only 31 when Murphy picked him to replace Randy Walker, who shockingly died in June 2006.

"In no way, shape or form did he try to micromanage things," Fitzgerald said Tuesday while recruiting in Houston.

Not that Fitzgerald and Murphy didn't talk about football. The conversations, however, were broached by Fitzgerald, not Murphy, and they showed that Walker can be a great sounding board.

"When I was named head football coach, I asked him if we can have weekly meetings during the season and monthly meetings out of the season. I wanted that communication," Fitzgerald said. "Sometimes, we'd talk about the game, sometimes we didn't. Typically, that was the least amount of our conversation. It was more about my impressions about how we were doing than his opinion, but he had great opinions."

Fitzgerald cited all the attributes Murphy is bringing to Green Bay, from his NFL playing experience, to his role with the NFL Players Association during the 1982 players strike to his roles as athletic director at Colgate and Northwestern.

"But more importantly, it was how he dealt with people," Fitzgerald said. "That's what I felt most fortunate for."

Fitzgerald called Murphy a good listener. Harlan called him a steadying influence. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell called him a talented administrator.

Those are all necessary skills for the job he's about to assume. So is the power of persuasion, which Murphy evidently has, as well. One report over the weekend said about one-third of the executive committee was set to vote against him, but Murphy received a unanimous vote. That persuasiveness will be critical when representing tiny Green Bay in front of a group of big-market owners looking out mainly for themselves.

"Our loss is the Packers' gain," Fitzgerald said. "His unique combination of playing experience and being part of the NFL and being part of intercollegiate athletics is going to be great for the Packers. He's familiar with all aspects of running an organization. From top to bottom, our athletic department has never been stronger than it is now. The Packers are getting a great leader and a great family man."

Steve Lawrence is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com. E-mail him at steve_lawrence_packers@yahoo.com

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