Packer Report publisher Bill Huber spent 20 minutes conducting a wide-ranging interview with team President Mark Murphy on Thursday. In Part 3, we move away from the economy and collective bargaining agreement and to on-the-field issues.
Bill Huber: How is the Nitschke Field project coming along?
Mark Murphy: Good. Believe it or not, they're still doing some work out there today (when it was minus-7). I'm excited about it. I think it's going to be a real positive for our fans. It's going to have about 2,500 seats. Really, it's designed for the fans to have a great venue for watching training camp. I'm excited about it. The big question is … I'm optimistic it will be ready for training camp. It really depends on what kind of growing season we have during the spring.
Bill Huber: Will that field be heated, like Lambeau Field, so it would be safe for outdoor practices in December?
Mark Murphy: We're studying that now. As I look at it, I see some real advantages to heating it. It would allow us to practice outside later in the year. It will be the same surface we play on. We wouldn't heat the entire field, just a portion of it.
Bill Huber: Can you talk about Ted Thompson. I don't know if it's a vocal minority or what the percentages are, but there's a percentage of fans who don't like Ted. Can you give some insight into Ted ...
Mark Murphy: I've really enjoyed working with Ted. I have great confidence in him. I think he's tremendously misunderstood by the fans. He's a tireless worker. He is so dedicated to the Packers. Every waking moment, he's thinking about what he can do to make the Packers better. I just have great confidence in him. I think he's doing an outstanding job. He's in a position where, you're not going to bat 1.000. The reality is you're going to have some mistakes. But I think his entire body of work is outstanding. You look at what he's done with this team, when he inherited it, he had all sorts of roster and salary-cap issues and problems. He straightened that out. We went from four wins to eight wins to 13-3, and obviously this year, it backed off. But still, to me, I see it as a blip rather than a trend. I'm confident he'll do well and get the team back to its winning ways. You know, it was less than a year ago that he was named the NFL Executive of the Year. I'm cognizant of that, too. Things change very quickly in the NFL, but when you have a really good person like Ted, it gives you a chance to do really well.
Bill Huber: It was a tough season on the field, obviously. What are your thoughts on what's transpired this offseason?
Mark Murphy: I fully supported the changes Mike made. I talked to Ted, and I think it was really important at the end of the season for both Ted and Mike to sit down and really make a thorough evaluation of the entire team and the whole season and really put together a plan for what we needed to do to turn things around. I know it was very difficult for Mike in making changes of that magnitude. I think he really thought it through, and I'm hopeful he'll be able to bring in some real strong coaches and really make a difference.
Bill Huber: So, it sounds like you haven't lost a bit of confidence in Ted and Mike …
Mark Murphy: No. I'm in constant touch with them. Those are the kind of decisions you have to make. It's difficult, and Mike knows better than anybody. He's the person who's there working with them on a daily basis. He evaluated it. Took his time after the season and made the changes he felt needed to be made. Now, we're obviously in the process of filling those positions.
Bill Huber: With the economy the way it is, does Ted still have, more or less, a blank check to do whatever he needs to do?
Mark Murphy: Yeah, I told Ted that, yeah, we went to win. I think that's the advantage of the salary-cap system. When you have a budget you work with, we want to manage our cap in a way where we can be successful. We intend to do that.
Bill Huber: So, there is no team-imposed salary cap because of economic or possible labor issues?
Mark Murphy: No.
Bill Huber: How involved are you in the on-the-field decisions? Do you play a role in all decisions? Just the big ones?
Mark Murphy: I'm there really in a support role. Obviously, when you make major changes, there's a financial issue as well as contractual issues. So, I'm involved to that extent. And then, I'm available as a resource and am in constant touch with them. But no, I fully support and have confidence in what Ted and Mike are doing.
Bill Huber: Last question: With the economy and the CBA and the on-the-field, is this exciting? Scary? How do you see it?
Mark Murphy: It is exciting. Obviously, it is disappointing and you don't like to lose, but I'm still optimistic. I think this is a phenomenal organization. We have so many advantages that I'm confident that we'll win and do very well here in the future. Again, our organizational structure and, most importantly, the fan support that we have, it's our biggest advantage. And along with the history and tradition, that's part of what makes our fan base so loyal. They really appreciate the history and tradition that the organization has, and they want to see it to continue.
Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Lambeau Level forum.
Part 3 of Murphy Q&A: Support for coach, GM
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