Reggie McKenzie worked under Ted Thompson for seven years, but he obviously doesn’t adhere to his former boss’ philosophy of saying as little as possible when it comes to dealing with the media. Oakland’s new general manager hasn’t shut his mouth since being hired away from the Packers 10 weeks ago. And now his public comments aren’t just about his current team. In an interesting story written by Tom Silverstein in the Journal Sentinel, McKenzie had no qualms about pontificating on whom Thompson should hire to fill the gap his departure has created in Green Bay’s front office.
McKenzie had been the Packers director of football operations since May 2008, and according to the article, that was an all-encompassing job. “McKenzie served as de facto general manager, monitoring events around the league, directing pro personnel operations and making sure coach Mike McCarthy had everything he needed,” wrote Silverstein. “Since McKenzie has left, assistant director of player personnel Eliot Wolf and assistant director of pro personnel Tim Terry have had to fill some of McKenzie’s duties, but neither has the years of decision-making experience that [John] Schneider and McKenzie did in courting free agents, negotiating trades and dealing with McCarthy and his staff on personnel issues.”
While Wolf and Terry, among others, have helped to fill the void for the past few months, Thompson will almost certainly have to hire someone with more experience after the draft. Not that Thompson asked, but McKenzie was quick to recommend longtime scouts Brian Gutekunst and Alonzo Highsmith for the job. Both have been with the Packers for more than a decade. “I personally think he can work within the guys (he has),” opined McKenzie. “I think bringing in Highsmith and Gutekunst into the building would help him out a lot because they know exactly (what he needs) and they’re good. I’m looking from the outside, but being there, ‘hmmm,’ that would be a natural progression. Then you replace the college guys and bring in a college scout and have him train him to do that. You can do that.”
I’m far from an expert, but the idea of replacing McKenzie with a scout – even a really good one – seemed odd as soon as I read it. Maybe it seemed that way because of what Silverstein wrote in the very same story. You know, the part about courting free agents, negotiating trades and dealing with McCarthy and his staff on personnel issues. Again, I’m far from an expert, but I’m pretty sure neither Gutekunst nor Highsmith has any experience in these particular areas.
So who would be a good replacement for McKenzie? My choice would be Scot McCloughan, the former GM of the 49ers who’s currently working for the Seahawks as a senior personnel executive (sounds like a job title you’d give Dwight Schrute). In fact, it’s scary how perfectly McCloughan would fit in the Packers front office. Let’s count the ways.
1) He worked with Thompson under Ron Wolf, so he understands the way things are done in the NFL’s smallest market.
2) He served as a GM for two seasons so he has extensive experience dealing with free agents, potential trades and coaches.
3) He’s a solid talent evaluator. Pro Bowlers Vernon Davis, Frank Gore, Patrick Willis, Joe Staley and Dashon Goldson were all drafted on his watch, as were solid starters Adam Snyder, Parys Haralson, Josh Morgan and Michael Crabtree. He also signed All-Pro Justin Smith as a free agent and claimed Ahmad Brooks off the waiver wire.
In my mind, the only real question surrounding McCloughan is whether he’d be willing to come to Green Bay. He turned down a chance to join the Packers a few years ago because he wanted to be closer to his children, who live on the West Coast. But he wasn’t offered the chance to be Thompson’s right-hand man then. He would be now. And if he took the job, he would immediately become the favorite to be the team’s next GM. Such an opportunity may be too tempting to pass up for a football lifer with a burning desire to redeem himself after a messy split from the 49ers.