The man behind the Packers. Journal-Sentinel Oline


Fiber deprived old guy.
Dec 10, 2004
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The man behind the Pack - JSOnline

The man behind the Pack Mark Murphy guided the Packers with a steady hand through the Brett Favre trade and has taken the same tack in collective bargaining negotiations

By Lori Nickel and Don Walker of the Journal Sentinel
Posted: Jan. 2, 2010
Packers president and CEO Mark Murphy has earned the respect of the team’s Executive Committee, players and coaches.

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Green Bay — He walks around the locker room in a trench coat, congratulating one player for an interception and asking another about that knee.
Tall and broad-shouldered, he looks like a golfer straight off the links of Ireland and hardly like the onetime safety who led the National Football League in interceptions in 1983.
Mark Murphy, the president and CEO of the Green Bay Packers, is still in the pros, but he has switched from a uniform to a business suit.
Yet while Murphy, 54, has been the leader of the Packers for nearly two years, he remains a complete unknown to almost everyone outside the locker room of Lambeau Field.
He's not from the Midwest. He played for the Washington Redskins. He certainly wasn't a celebrity name coming from the athletics departments of Colgate and Northwestern universities. And all those impressive law and finance degrees didn't mean he knew a thing about the Packers and their worldwide fan base.
That was a concern for members of the team's Executive Committee who were charged with finding a replacement for Bob Harlan, a legend who had guided the franchise to a Super Bowl victory and persuaded Brown County voters to approve a sales tax to refurbish Lambeau Field.
Harlan knew the Packers and Wisconsin better than anyone. Murphy ran the athletics department at Northwestern, a university in Evanston, Ill., that plays in the highly competitive Big Ten Conference.
"It was a critical decision," said Larry L. Weyers, treasurer and member of the Executive Committee. "Bob Harlan had endeared himself to the fans and now we were changing horses.
"Mark has worked out even better than we anticipated."
Inside Lambeau, players like the fact Murphy is as passionate for the game as they are. General manager Ted Thompson believes he's the ideal boss. Members of the Executive Committee think they chose the right man to lead the Packers.
"The relationship we've had with Bob Harlan was very close, I felt," said Peter Platten III, vice president of the Executive Committee. "And that's carried right straight through with Mark. We all really think he's doing a great job. And his talents are perfectly suited for what we are dealing with right now and what we will be dealing with in the next few years."
So perhaps it's time for a reintroduction to Murphy, because with the Packers' postseason season looming, he soon will play a crucial role as an advocate for the team and the NFL in the upcoming negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement.
"The CBA is the biggest issue the league is facing - and the Packers," Murphy said. "I feel fortunate that I am involved in that process as I am.
"One of the things I've tried to do is have good relations with the other teams in the league; it is really beneficial for the Packers. Having influence on league committees, reaching out to different owners and executives from other teams, will be helpful to us in the long run."
Paul Tagliabue, the former NFL commissioner who has been a mentor to Murphy dating to Murphy's days as a former players union lawyer, agrees Murphy is well-suited to help current Commissioner Roger Goodell.
"Mark has lots of experience and attributes that will serve him well on the negotiating team, including his understanding of the competing and conflicting points of view on the two sides of the table, and his ability to reach across the divide and talk with people who also understand both perspectives that can eventually lead to sensible compromises and consensus," Tagliabue said.
NFL free agent

Murphy grew up in Buffalo, Houston and New Jersey and played football all the way up through college at Colgate. Much like Thompson, he came into the NFL unheralded - a non-drafted free agent.
But in his eight years with the Redskins from 1977-'84, he won two Super Bowls, made the Pro Bowl and led the NFL in interceptions in 1983.
"Mark struggled to break 5 (seconds) flat (in the 40-yard dash). But he wasn't smart - he was brilliant," former Redskins assistant Larry Peccatiello said in "The Ultimate Super Bowl Book."
Murphy earned his MBA in finance from American University while he played for the Redskins. He also served on the players' bargaining committee during the 1982 players' strike.
When he was cut from the Redskins on his 30th birthday, he joined the NFL Players Association as assistant executive director. While there, he worked on a law degree from Georgetown University. He was a trial attorney for four years in the U.S. Department of Justice, working on some big cases that included the State of Montana suing the U.S. Census Bureau, challenging the apportionment formula.
After that, he served as athletic director at Colgate and Northwestern for a total of 16 years.
Goodell appointed Murphy to the 10-member Management Council Executive Committee, the bargaining team that represents the owners in the league's negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement. The current agreement expires after the 2010 season, but that season will operate without a salary cap unless the sides extend the agreement by March.
"I can see things from both sides," Murphy said. "I think it's been helpful in some of the sessions. I can certainly relate to what the players' concerns are. But I also have seen it from an owner's perspective as well, or a management perspective."
It doesn't hurt that the art of compromise runs in the Murphy family bloodlines.
Mark's father, Hugh Murphy, could iron out differences with anyone. As the director of labor relations for Roblin Steel in Buffalo, he made a living making compromises in the never-ending battle of collective bargaining and labor relations. If Hugh Murphy wasn't commuting between the two steel plants 60 miles apart, he was pulling an all-nighter at the negotiation table.
Years later, "Big Murph" served for 15 years as a court-appointed mediator in Florida.
"He just loved it. And the judges loved him," Mark Murphy said. "He would settle cases. The judges would refer most of their cases to him because they knew he could settle."
To this day, Murphy draws on his background as a former player and union representative, and his days as a trial attorney, to help him as Packers president.
"Being an advocate for a position really helped me in terms of my speaking," Murphy said. "The other thing I think my current position, especially in bargaining, you deal with lawyers all of the time. That's pretty invaluable."
Murphy has relied on friendships with Jerry Richardson, the co-chair of the bargaining committee; New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft; New York Giants owner John Mara; the front office of the Chicago Bears; as well as Tagliabue to navigate his way through his first two years of presidency.
When Murphy was chosen by the Packers in December 2007 after a lengthy search, it came as a bit of a surprise. While Murphy's educational credentials were not in question, many wondered how a college athletics director could handle running a professional sports franchise. And not just any franchise. This one was publicly owned by fans who feel they have a special bond with the team.
"He came with a lot of credibility," Weyers said. "He was a player and a representative of the players. He also had a good understanding of the industry."
Platten said Murphy has developed strong relationships with the Executive Committee and key members of the organization.
"The business side of the pros is very big these days because it ultimately drives the performance on the field," Platten said. "He has done a great job with that."
Murphy also talks to Harlan, the Packers president from 1989 to 2008, about issues of importance to the Packers and the NFL.
"We went out to dinner a couple of times when he first got to town," Harlan said. "He asked how we had done things and so forth. He will call me at home and we'll talk. We talk maybe a couple of times a month."
Harlan is quick to say, however, that he never calls Murphy. If Murphy wants to talk, it's his call, not Harlan's.
"If I have issues that I am dealing with, I will contact him," Murphy said. "The way I look at it, it's such a unique position. There's nothing like it in the NFL. You are not an owner; you are not like the other presidents. But Bob, having been in the in position as long as he was, has really been willing and gracious in terms of providing advice."
When numerous players returned to Green Bay after a couple of fan tours with Murphy, they reported back to teammates that he was a likable guy, that they had passed around his playing cards and studied his 1982 Super Bowl ring.
"A guy who is extremely excited about being with the Packers, you can tell that anytime you're with him at an event," guard Daryn Colledge said. "Certain people have a certain energy about their job. Some people just come to work and they're excited about what they're doing. He just has that."
Many players don't know where he's from or how good he was in the NFL, but they like the effort he makes to get to know them and represent them as the leader of the organization.
"Great guy," cornerback Al Harris said. "When I hurt my spleen (in 200-, he was the only person that called me and said, 'Hey Al, sorry that that happened' and 'everything will be all right.'
"I like Mark Murphy. That really, really meant a lot to me that he took the time out to call me and show his concern."
Can he pull plug?

The one unknown about Murphy that matters so much to Packers fans is this: Could he pull the plug if the Packers were losing and how long would he wait until he acts?
Murphy is Thompson's boss. After the disappointing and wrenching loss to lowly Tampa Bay on Nov. 8, the team fell to 4-4. Throw in two losses to former Packers quarterback Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings, and fans were calling for a change at the top.
Since then, the Packers have gone 6-1 and qualified for the playoffs - and fans are back onboard. But questions remain about whether Murphy will have to act decisively someday and how he will do it.
Murphy said he has fired unsuccessful coaches before - in his time at Colgate: Michael Foley and Ed Sweeney, both football coaches. At Northwestern, his biggest test was the sudden death of football coach Randy Walker in June 2006.
"Not only did we lose Randy, but Mark had to decide what direction to go," said Patrick Ryan, then chairman of Northwestern's Board of Trustees and an influential backer of the program. "He saw something in Pat Fitzgerald. He felt that Pat had attributes other than experience that Mark felt we should take the risk. Mark was right. It was a courageous decision."
Fitzgerald has a 27-22 record and nearly led the Wildcats to their first bowl victory in 61 years on New Year's Day.
For his part, Murphy said he has tried to learn something at every stage of his business life.
"My philosophy of management is that you don't micromanage; you hire good people and allow them to do their jobs," Murphy said. "You also hold them accountable to success. If we're not having success, then it's my job to look at a situation and determine what changes are needed to allow us to be successful."
Though collegiate athletics departments don't come close to the standards and level of scrutiny Murphy faces in leading a team with the tradition and fan base of the Packers, he believes he has been adequately prepared to use his authority to dismiss underperforming members of his staff, including the general manager.
"That's the reality of the position I've been in," Murphy said.
"Those are always hard. What I always felt, especially when you hire people, you want to give them a chance to be successful and you support them. But at the end of the day, you also have to look out for - whether it's the organization or the university - you have to make the decision that is the best interest of the organization for the long term.
"The concept is you are managing people, working with them, trying to help them improve. And at the end of the day, if you feel change is needed, you have to act. What I have learned, sometimes you do need to make changes. That's necessary to move forward."
'Big picture'

However, it might take a lot for Murphy to cut ties with Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy, which might be why he pointed out his "big picture" approach.
"You do need to keep things in perspective," Murphy said. "Having been in the NFL and around it, you know there are a lot of ups and downs in a season. You have to have a longer-range perspective, especially in my position.
"My attitude in everything I've done - playing for the Redskins, as a trial attorney - is I'm going to be prepared, do the best job I can, and at the end of the day, as long as you've done everything you can to be successful, that's all you can ask of yourself."
Murphy, Thompson and McCarthy were thrown together in one of the toughest crises in franchise history: the Favre trade.
Harlan stayed on a month in January 2008 to groom Murphy for his new role, but nothing could have prepared him for what was to come.
First, after off-seasons full of uncertainty about his future, Favre finally announced his retirement in March 2008.
Then, after Thompson had committed to Aaron Rodgers and what he felt was best for the team, Favre un-retired in July, and the chasm between the two men grew with every passing day. Murphy's attempt to offer an endorsement deal to Favre in the range of $20 million was a complete public relations disaster.
Complicating emotions for Murphy, his father died on July 20, 2008, while the Favre and Thompson fiasco was reaching its high point.
But as Murphy's outside world crumbled over the incredible day-to-day saga, he, Thompson and McCarthy huddled close and worked together on what to do with Favre.
"As difficult as it was for the organization, the whole situation with Brett Favre, and to have it early in my tenure - I'm trying to find the one positive," Murphy said. "It really allowed me to work very closely with both Ted and Mike. The result was that it probably sped up the process in terms of establishing good working relationships with both of them."
Murphy ultimately threw his support behind Thompson and McCarthy and consented to cutting ties with the face of the franchise. Without that support, Thompson might never have been able to trade Favre to the New York Jets.
"It was very rewarding obviously for me to have that support," Thompson said. "As an organization, it kind of shows you how we go about doing business - we don't interact all the time, but when there are items that important to the organization, there was obviously a lot of meeting time.
"We had extensive conversations about that and a lot of other people within the organization were involved in some of those talks. None of that was done in the back room. We all kind of worked our way through it."
In the background, of course, is the team's Executive Committee. The Packers' business culture, at least publicly, calls for Murphy to keep committee members informed of major decisions and developments. Both Platten and Weyers said Murphy stays in touch with the committee about as much as Harlan did. The committee is supposed to provide oversight, but Murphy makes the calls.
"Mark is the CEO," Platten said. "So he has ultimate responsibility for what happens with the Packers."
Dealings with GM, coach

Even though the Favre situation warranted extensive meetings, that's not how Murphy manages Thompson and McCarthy now in day-to-day operations. Murphy and Thompson often discuss how labor talks are progressing after Murphy returns from frequent meetings in New York and Washington. He also keeps in contact with McCarthy, though it is usually through Thompson.
"What I am trying to do is give them the support they need and the resources they need to be successful," Murphy said.
But Murphy never tells Thompson which free agents he should re-sign or dictates any personnel moves.
"I get a lot more suggestions and advice at the airport than I do here at the office," Thompson said. "I think he likes the structure and has an appreciation for the way the organization works in that regard. Each of us, the three of us - Mark, myself and Mike - all have jobs that demand our time and a lot of focus and attention.
"I don't really have the time or the inclination to involve myself in their particular stuff, and I think it's the same way with Mark. I mean, I'm not going to go down and work on the red zone something with Coach McCarthy because that's what he's focusing on. That's not what I am focusing on.
"I am focusing on other things. And Mark is going to be very busy with his stuff."
Murphy gives a lot of credit to his wife, Laurie, for raising their four children - Kate, Emily, Brian and Anna - with the youngest just starting college. Even as empty-nesters, there isn't a lot of down time. He likes to jog, bike or golf, especially when faced with stress.
"I try to work out regularly. I talk to some current players - the workout hung over your head," Murphy said. "Then when you get into a position like I'm in now, it's a highlight of my day, a way to think things through and relieve some of the stress.
"It's very good at taking your mind off of a lot of different things that you might be struggling with."
Besides ensuring the Packers remain successful on the football field, Murphy will need to chart the course of the franchise. There is talk of expanding the Packers' footprint in the Lambeau Field neighborhood. The Packers own land west of the stadium, and Murphy and the franchise are talking about a master plan for the community to consider.
Ryan, who worked with Murphy at Northwestern and was the chairman of the City of Chicago's unsuccessful bid to land the 2016 Olympics, said he has no doubt Murphy will succeed in Green Bay.
"I like leaders who are under control," Ryan said. "His calmness blends with his skills."


Fiber deprived old guy.
Dec 10, 2004
Reaction score
Oshkosh, WI
Someone posted a thread asking which job I'd like to have if I could work for the Packers (and I assume, if I had the brainpower and talent ;) ) ... well, this is the one I'd like...Murphy's job.