Sydney Speaks! Tough shoes to fill

The Green Bay Packers earlier this week named Russ Ball as the team's chief player contract negotiator replacing Andrew Brandt.'s Harry Sydney explains why Ball will have big shoes to fill.

Every now and then you run across people that just make a difference. They are special and when they leave, their space is taken but they are never replaced. The Packers just recently lost two of those people - one was Bob Harlan and the other was my friend Andrew Brandt.

Some probably were shocked when the mastermind of the Packers' salary cap walked away from his position without having a destination, but I wasn't. To be honest, I almost expected it. Andrew was the first to congratulate Mark Murphy on him being hired to the job even though he had to feel slighted because he never was considered for that position, even though he was very qualified which speaks volumes.

This past Tuesday we had Andrew on the radio show I co-host with Chris Havel in Green Bay and we talked about why he stepped down. He felt that he had gone as far as he could with the organization, but he also felt proud about the position that he left the Packers in. They are in salary cap heaven because of his ability to make the adjustments. During the show we talked about those adjustments. We talked about when Mike McCarthy came to the Packers he wanted the players to be around Green Bay during the OTA's, so they restructured a bunch of contracts to pay the players some of their contract as an incentive to show up during these times. Not only that, but he also re-worded many contracts to include activation incentives and more playing incentives to create an environment of hunger. Now I understand why this team improved so rapidly. Mike McCarthy knew what he wanted and Andrew Brandt had the knowledge to deliver the right motivation.

As I look back at the different coaches and players that he had to deal with and still have the Packers in salary cap heaven he might have been more of a miracle worker than a capologist. I think about some of the players that ex-GM Mike Sherman agreed to contracts with like Cletidus Hunt, Joe Johnson, Robert Ferguson and I don't know how the Packers stayed afloat. Then consider how they have been able pay their key players like Brett Favre, Donald Driver, and Aaron Kampman without skipping a beat.

Does everyone remember what happened to the 49ers, Cowboys and even the Redskins when they mortgaged the future for the present and what that did to those franchises? Andrew Brandt kept the Packers on the right path and he will be missed.

With the beginning of free agency starting on Feb. 29 Ted Thompson went out and signed Russ Ball from the New Orleans Saints to replace Andrew. I hope he will be able to at least stand in his shoes. I'd imagine the happiest people in the world are Reggie McKenzie and John Schneider because they didn't want to handle the contracts. That's not what they do best. They are talent evaluators, not salary cap wizards.

The Green Bay Packers have been an outstanding organization because not only does every know their roles, but they do them well. I don't know if the Packers could have done anything to keep Andrew in house, so I hope that they took a bunch of notes as they watched one of the best in the business master his craft. I believe if they are going to keep things going smoothly Russ Ball can't miss a beat. Understand I hope he does a good job, but it's like expecting Aaron Rodgers to be Brett Favre. Maybe he will in time, but what will it cost in the process?

In our conversations he said that he didn't have a plan or a direction at this time. He didn't know anything other than that he was going to enjoy being full-time father and husband to his children and wife, but like myself, he is going to live in Green Bay because this is home. He is part of the community; his wife is involved in starting a new alternative school; everything about him makes those that know him respect him.

Since he has left the Packers many players that he negotiated contracts with have contacted him wondering if he's thinking about returning to being an agent like he once was, just like many other teams have called inquiring about some of his methods that he used as he structured contracts.

This man will be missed, make no mistake about it. I just hope that the loss of him won't change the direction of this surging franchise because up to this point everything was in place for the Packers to reign superior in the NFL for a time to come.

Ted Thompson has created a winner by bringing the right players. Mike McCarthy has done his job by coaching them up, and Bob Harlan led the charge and has now passed the torch to Mark Murphy. Now to complete the deal Russ Ball has to step up and replace Andrew Brandt because those will be TOUGH SHOES TO FILL.

Harry Sydney is a former fullback and assistant coach for the Green Bay Packers. E-mail him at

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