Green Bay Packers: Who emerges from front office shakeup?

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 19: Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson speaks to the media during the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 19, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 19: Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson speaks to the media during the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 19, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

A look at the top candidates in the Green Bay Packers’ front office shakeup.

A frustrated fan base was overcome with emotions of joy and apprehension upon receiving word of Ted Thompson being relieved of his general manager duties, as he prepares to transition to a new role within the Packers organization.

The soon-to-be 65-year-old has been a fixture as the team’s top front-office executive and boasts an enviable track record since taking over in 2005 with a Super Bowl and six division titles on his ledger.

However, recent drafts have generally failed to produce the kind of defensive talent needed to annually keep the Packers in the Super Bowl conversation. The last three seasons, in fact, have seen the boys from Packers News become overly dependent on Aaron Rodgers bailing them out of games where his teammates on the other side of the ball were often powerless in their attempts to keep the opposition off the scoreboard.

A 7-9 season—Green Bay’s first losing campaign since 2008—was enough for team president Mark Murphy to not only give three assistant head coaches their walking papers, but he’s gone  one step further by taking Thompson out of the equation as the man with the final say on free agent signings and draft-day decisions.

The question now remains: Who is TT’s successor? Who will take over as the organization’s new leader expected to plant the seeds for a quick turnaround? Who will be the one that will need to answer to a legion of loyal, but disheartened fans that want to see their legendary QB finally conquer his second Super Bowl crown?

According to reports, the next man up will almost certainly be selected from within. Here are the top candidates and their respective odds in being promoted to the mighty throne formerly occupied by the likes of Ron Wolf, Mike Sherman and Thompson himself among others.

Brian Gutekunst

Green Bay’s Director of College Scouting is a football lifer, who learned the game from his father, John, who once coached the Minnesota Golden Gophers. After two years of playing experience at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, the younger Gutekunst briefly coached before being the only individual hired from a group of 300 to serve as a Packers’ intern in 1997.

The 44-year-old executive has a good eye for personnel and honed his craft by contributing as a regional scout for 14-plus years. In recent media interviews, Gutekunst came off as the type of evaluator who values traits, such as size, versatility and toughness in his players along with placing a premium on intangibles, such as confidence and intelligence.

The North Carolina-born front-office member seems to be the best qualified for the GM position among those currently employed by the team. Probability: 60 percent

Eliot Wolf

The 35-year-old is no longer “Ron’s boy” after working his way up from pro personnel assistant in 2004 to now serving as Green Bay’s director of football operations.

While not much is known about Wolf’s personality or management style, previous reports indicated that the young executive wasn’t always in favor of Thompson’s extreme draft-and-develop mantra. So, you can bet that he’ll be more aggressive in acquiring free-agent talent.

And if he’s anything like his dad, Wolf will probably be very demanding of his staff and players alike. They will be expected to meet certain performance levels that they will be evaluated on.

Scouts will be held accountable and possess the courage of their convictions in pounding their fists for a prospect they are trying to sell the front office on, as the elder Wolf details in his book The Packer Way.

As far as the younger Wolf not being of age or lacking the gravitas of handling GM duties, Eliot reportedly wrote his first scouting report on former Steeler Chad Scott at the tender age of 14. Probability: 25 percent

Russ Ball

The 57-year-old vice president of football administration/player finance is the organization’s chief negotiator and salary cap guru.

He’s been described as being fair and likeable among the people he associates with, but he is not a personnel man, although he has been known to partake in war-room meetings when he’s not busy negotiating contracts.

I would expect the next Packers’ GM to possess some sort of scouting background, which probably excludes the University of Central Missouri alumnus from the running.

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However, Ball shouldn’t entirely be ruled out since other bean counters have ascended to the role of chief personnel decision maker in the past, such as Mike Tannenbaum, who was involved in player evaluations with both the Jets and now serves in a similar role with the Dolphins. Probability: 5 percent

Alonzo Highsmith

The former NFL running back has spent the last 19 years as a member of Green Bay’s personnel department and was promoted to senior personnel executive in 2012.

As a former player at the highest level, Highsmith knows what to look for in an aspiring pro not just from a physical perspective, but is a great judge of an athlete’s makeup and personality when meeting them in person.

Highsmith is a pure scout in the truest sense of the word, but his chances of becoming the next packers’ GM lie somewhere between slim and none due to the individuals above him on the corporate totem pole. Probability: 5 percent

John Schneider

The 46-year-old Wisconsin native has served as both a scout and director of football operations for his hometown Packers before going off to the Great Northwest, where he now call the shots as the general manager of the Seattle Seahawks.

Schneider is well known for unearthing mid-to-late-round gems in the draft and isn’t opposed to taking chances on prospects with checkered backgrounds from time to time.

Next: Packers: 12 players that need to go this offseason

The likelihood of the well-traveled personnel man taking over for Thompson is practically nil due to the fact that he’s been out of the organization since 2010 putting him at a steep disadvantage as the lone outsider in the group. Probability: 5 percent