In good hands

Solid leadership means bright future for Titletown, says's Bob Fox

The Green Bay Packers came very close to getting to the Super Bowl this year as they were defeated by the eventual Super Bowl champions, the New York Giants, 23-20 in overtime in the NFC Championship game at Lambeau Field. The Packers also had a 13-3 regular season record and won the NFC North in convincing fashion. The future looks bright for a few more reasons as well.

Mark Murphy formally took over for Bob Harlan as President and CEO of the Packers on Jan. 28. Murphy will have big shoes to fill, as Harlan did a fine job as president and CEO in his tenure. It was Harlan that hired Ron Wolf. Wolf then hired Mike Holmgren and traded for Brett Favre, plus signed Reggie White. The result, a NFL championship and the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Harlan also had the tough task of getting Milwaukee season ticket holders to agree to coming up to Lambeau Field for Packer games starting in 1995. That and getting the $295 million dollar Lambeau Field redevelopment project passed by the Green Bay voters in 2000 and the results have made Lambeau Field a sight for thousands of visitors year round.

People can now visit the Lambeau Field Atrium that has an assortment of restaurants, like Curly's Pub, plus there is room for corporate meetings or events like wedding receptions as well. Lambeau also houses the Packers Pro Shop to get all your Packer gear and the 25,000 -square-foot Packers Hall of Fame. Outside of the crown jewel of the NFL are statues of Vince Lombardi and Curly Lambeau. The Packers locker room and training facilities are second to none. The seating capacity of Lambeau also increased to 72,928 after the rededication in 2003.

But Harlan feels good about Murphy taking his place.

"The Green Bay Packers are very pleased to name Mark Murphy as our President and CEO," Harlan said that day. "He has an excellent background and record of success in the business of athletics, and through his NFL playing career brings a great understanding of our game to his position. He'll be an outstanding leader for our franchise and a great addition to our community. We're delighted to have Mark join us."

Murphy was delighted to join the Packers as well.

"I am honored to have been selected and very appreciative of this tremendous opportunity," Murphy said. "The Packers are one of the great franchises in all of professional sports, with a rich history and incredible fan support. These are successful times for the Packers. On the field they're performing well, and off the field, they're in great shape, too. I look forward to being a part of that continued success."

Murphy, who holds a law degree and an M.B.A in finance, brings a unique and highly qualified background to his role as head of one of the NFL's flagship franchises, first drawing from a deep understanding and appreciation of the game that comes from an eight-year playing career with the Washington Redskins. Later, he served a combined 16 years as director of athletics at Colgate University and Northwestern University, as well as positions as an assistant executive director of the NFL Players Association and a trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice.

In addition to his playing career and work with the NFL Players Association, Murphy has maintained his ties to the NFL through his work on the Commissioner's Player Advisory Committee (1994-2002) as well as the NFL Youth Football Committee (2002-present).

The Packers have solidified their franchise in more ways in 2008. The Packers gave General Manager Ted Thompson a contract extension as well. Thompson was pleased with the five-year deal.

"This is a great organization and I am deeply humbled and appreciative," Thompson said in a statement. "This is truly a team effort. Green Bay is a special place and I am honored to work with such a great group of people."

Thompson's original contract, worth about $1 million annually, was due to expire after the 2009 season. His new deal more than doubles that to about $11 million total, according to a source and runs through 2012.

Before 2007, a lot of fans were not too sure about Thompson's leadership skills as letters and emails to Harlan would suggest. Lots of people thought Thompson was too thrifty about going after free agents for instance.

"I haven't heard a negative word this entire season," Harlan said. "I've actually had some people say they were wrong, they were naysayers, and they've changed their minds."

The Packers also recently gave head coach Mike McCarthy a five-year contract extension. McCarthy was appreciative.

"I thank the Green Bay Packers, especially Ted Thompson and Mark Murphy, for this commitment and the confidence they have shown in me," McCarthy said.

"We have accomplished some of our goals over the past two seasons, but there remains much left to be done. I am excited by the opportunity to meet those challenges and someday return another Lombardi Trophy home to Green Bay."

McCarthy, the franchise's 14th Head Coach, recently completed one of the most successful seasons in club history. The 2007 Green Bay Packers tied a franchise record with 13 regular-season wins on their way to securing the NFC North Division championship and a first-round bye in the playoffs.

McCarthy became the first Packers coach since Vince Lombardi to take his team to a championship game in his second season, guiding the league's youngest club to an appearance in the NFC Championship Game. For his efforts, he was honored by the NFL Alumni and Motorola as the 2007 NFL Coach of the Year.

"We are pleased to be able to make this announcement," Thompson said. "Mike brings tremendous passion, work ethic and structure to his position. These are the traits we saw in him when he was hired and we're very happy for the success we have had under his guidance.

"Mike and I have a very good working relationship and we look forward to continuing to work for such a special organization with such great fans."

So, the organization seems to be in excellent hands. Now the questions will be about Favre, and whether he will return, plus free agency and the draft. We will be covering all of that in some later stories. But the team's success will be driven by the top heads of the organization just as it was not long ago. After all it was Harlan, Wolf and Holmgren that brought a Super Bowl title to Green Bay in 1997. People want the same thing now with Murphy, Thompson and McCarthy. I sure wouldn't bet against them.

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