And it is a big deal, though only time will tell if the Packers made the right decision to promote Gutekunst knowing that it would likely lead to losing Wolf and Highsmith. From an opportunity standpoint, there's a lot more upside for Wolf and Highsmith in Cleveland than Green Bay. If they stayed in Green Bay, they would have helped the Packers rebound from their first losing season in 10 years, which isn't a big story when you have a future HOF QB. But if they can turn it around in Cleveland over the next couple seasons, with all the high draft picks the previous front office had been hoarding and all the cap room available for a quality free agent or two, helping a team that went 1-31 in the past two seasons back to respectability will grab attention. If that happens, it wouldn't be surprising to see either Highsmith or Wolf leave Cleveland in the next two or three years for a GM position of their own.Eliot Wolf will be Cleveland Browns new assistant GM, joining John Dorsey's staff in Cleveland, a league source confirms. Wolf joins Alonzo Highsmith in exodus from the #Packers personnel department. Those are two big departures.— Ryan Wood (@ByRyanWood) January 10, 2018
Keeping Gutekunst while losing Wolf seems to have the support of the Packers' scouting department, whatever you want to read into that about them seeming to support Gutekunst over Wolf.
The demotion of Ted Thompson and the promotion of Gutekunst also led to more authority for team President Mark Murphy.
Murphy is the de facto owner representative for the team, so anytime you read that Murphy or the Board of Directors are taking more interest in personnel and coaching, there is the worry that they're meddling. But every team runs that risk. Something went sour at the end of Ted Thompson's time as GM and Murphy feels he needs to have more oversight, which he should because it could be his job on the line next if he becomes out of touch with the team.Brian Gutekunst, Russ Ball and Mike McCarthy will all be reporting directly to Mark Murphy. That is a significant departure from the way things have been set up in Green Bay the last 25 years.— Aaron Nagler (@AaronNagler) January 8, 2018
So who's left? It's interesting that Ted Thompson is technically an assistant to VP Russ Ball, who's on the football operations side and not the scouting department. There have been a lot of stories about how Thompson is a scout at heart. The new head of college scouting is the same as last year, Jon-Eric Sullivan. Good luck getting an interview with him. He's got a long history around college football though he's only 41 years old. Who knows how much credit he deserves for last year's draft, but it wasn't a bust and the quality of the top picks is left to be determined. There was definitely promise among that draft class.
Also promoted last year was John Wojciechowski who should be leading the pro side of the scouting department now while Sullivan leads the college side. It does make this all look like the team has been planning this all for a year now. His background is a little unique because unlike Gutekunst and Sullivan, who have spent almost their entire careers working with the Packers, Wojciechowski spent 15 years working with Pittsburgh, Jacksonville, and Dallas before joining the Packers a few years ago. Being the lead scout on the pro side is even harder to evaluate for the Packers because they sign so few pro free agents, and it's hard to tell their portion of the input on scouting each week's opponent during the season.
Overall the organization and Mark Murphy seemed to have handled it as well as they could have knowing they had more than one solid GM candidate for only one job opening. And they got their top choice in Gutekunst while leaving the scouting and football operations departments mostly intact and led by scouts who were already in leadership roles. Change is hard, and the Packers only have had subtractions from their brain trust with no additions so far, but the overall situation seems stable and promising going forward.