McGinn Wrap, Part 13: The Green Bay Packers' best ambassadors, personnel men, contract negotiators, more 1979-2021
LeRoy Butler's value to the Packers extends well beyond the field. Also, who was McGinn's favorite players from the glory days in the 60s? His exceptional series wraps up inside.
Our Bob McGinn has been recapping and analyzing his 43 years on the Green Bay Packers right here at GoLongTD.com.
Nobody covered the team like McGinn, so nobody can put everything into historical context like McGinn.
For those new around here, my former colleague at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (and mentor/friend/all-around great human) covered the Packers from 1979 through 2021 and is enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Part 13 below is a continuation of his Part 12 “Random Rankings” with a unique look at the best personnel men, contract negotiators, team physicians, team ambassadors, unsung employees behind the scenes, PR directors and even McGinn’s favorite players from the glory days.
Loved this on Jim Taylor: “Never saw a harder runner. I can vividly recall the punishment he took and meted out against Giants middle linebacker Sam Huff and others in the 1962 NFL Championship Game on a windswept, 17-degree day at Yankee Stadium.”
And this on Butler, the ambassador: “He didn’t try to fool fans. When the team wasn’t playing well, he said that, too. His honesty was there for everyone to see. For that, Butler has been one of the most loved Packers ever.”
McGinn is one of a kind. Thanks to all for reading his unparalleled work.
First Team: Dick Corrick, 1971-’87.
Second Team: Scot McCloughan, 1995-’00.
Third Team: John Dorsey, 1991-’98, 2000-’12.
Others: 4. John Schneider, 1994-’97, 2002-’10; 5. Reggie McKenzie, 1994-’11; 6. Eliot Wolf, 2004-’17; 7. Jon-Eric Sullivan, 2004-’21; 8. Bobby Riggle, 1987-’91; 9. Alonzo Highsmith, 1999-’18; 10. Shaun Herock, 1994-’12; 11. John Wojciechowski, 2012-’21; 12. Mark Hatley, 2001-’04; 13. Charley Armey, 1985-’88; 14. Tom Tipps, 1978-’87; 15. Lenny McGill, 2000-’09; 16. Dave Hanner, 1981-’96; 17. Jon Jelacic, 1987-’91; 18. Red Cochran, 1975-’04; 19. Tim Terry, 2004-’17; 20. Jesse Kaye, 1989-’94.
Overview: Ron Wolf hired McCloughan, Schneider and McKenzie, all of whom became NFL general managers: McCloughan with San Francisco, Schneider with Seattle and McKenzie with Oakland … Hired by Tom Braatz, Dorsey was a GM in Kansas City and Cleveland … Hired by Corrick, Armey became a Super Bowl-winning GM in St. Louis … Corrick instituted an entirely new system of drafting after succeeding Doug Hafner in 1978 as the primary personnel man under coach-GM Bart Starr. His draft in 1978 was one of the best in Packers’ history. Although Starr was stripped of his GM duties in January 1981, he continued to dictate on the personnel front. Corrick was an elite evaluator, but at times lacked the force of personality to guide Starr to his way of thinking. Just when it appeared Corrick was in line for a GM’s primacy in personnel Robert Parins caved in and granted Forrest Gregg complete authority on all football decisions. Corrick eventually became the Oilers’ director of college scouting in 1988 before spending about a decade as an area scout under GM Kenny Herock in Atlanta … McCloughan had a rare gift for evaluating and picking players. His career in the NFL appears to have ended largely because of his problems with alcohol … Wolf once said Dorsey’s greatest strength was the ability to ferret out information on character … Schneider won a Super Bowl for Seattle in what at the time was a 50-50 arrangement in personnel with coach Pete Carroll … McKenzie’s forte, according to Wolf, was scouting and ranking players that already were in the league … Much like his father, Eliot Wolf has a near-photographic memory when it comes to the draft. His 14-year career in Green Bay reached its peak in 2016-’17 when his title was director of football operations under Ted Thompson. Joining Dorsey in Cleveland, he spent two years as assistant GM. Wolf, 40, is in his third year in New England and his first as director of scouting … Sullivan and Wojciechowski are co-directors of player personnel under Brian Gutekunst … Riggle and Jelacic were among Braatz’ initial hires. Braatz scouted by position, and Jelacic’s specialty was the defensive line … Highsmith, 57, went with Wolf to Cleveland before spending 2021 in Seattle. He’s working now at the University of Miami, his alma mater. Associates say his specialty is scouting running backs, the position he played as the No. 3 pick in 1987. Some of his colleagues loved having him in and around the Packes’ locker room because of his positive influence on players … Herock has scouted for the Browns and Raiders since leaving Green Bay. Kenny Herock, who scouted for the Packers in 1999-’00, is his father … Among Corrick’s area scouts were Armey, Tipps, Hanner and Cochran, who was still scouting the state of Wisconsin for the Packers almost until his death in 2004. His career as a Packers scout began in 1975 … When Hanner didn’t like a college player, his pithy comment often was, “Wouldn’t have him in camp.” … Hatley was Mike Sherman’s top personnel man until his death in July 2004 of a sudden heart attack. He was 54. Five months later, Bob Harlan hired Ted Thompson as GM, replacing Sherman … McGill, a Packers cornerback in 1994-’95, has scouted for the Broncos, Dolphins and Raiders since leaving Green Bay … Terry has been the Chiefs’ director of pro personnel since 2017 … Kaye, a Green Bay native, scouted mostly on the pro side with the Packers before moving into the college side with the Jets.
PLAYER CONTRACT NEGOTIATORS
First Team: Andrew Brandt, 1999-’07.
Second Team: Russ Ball, 2008-’21.
Third Team: Bob Harlan, 1971-’84.
Others: 4. Mike Reinfeldt, 1991-’98; 5. Tom Braatz, 1987-’91; 6. Chuck Hutchison, 1985-’86.
Overview: Harlan worked for the St. Louis baseball Cardinals for seven years before coming to the Packers with Dan Devine as assistant general manager in 1971. One of his primary duties was negotiating player contracts. As a low-revenue team, the Packers had their share of salary squabbles. However, they never had a rookie or veteran player wage an injurious holdout. In 1985, tackle Ken Ruettgers missed the first 22 days of training camp when Hutchison was in his first year as Harlan’s replacement. The holdout by Ruettgers was longer than any during Harlan’s 14-year tenure … Hutchison had played under Forrest Gregg both with the Browns and CFL Toronto Argonauts. As director of player procurement, Hutchison was at constant war with agents. In 1986, center Mark Cannon and wide receiver Phillip Epps each missed almost four weeks of camp because of contractual enmity. Hutchison left for a job in the Wisconsin cheese industry about the time Braatz was hired in January 1987 … Strapped for cash and with a terrible reputation among agents for both on-the-field and off-the-field performance, the Packers entered a period in which lengthy holdouts were almost a necessity if a veteran player expected to “get paid.” Braatz, a scout by trade, was hamstrung by budgetary constraints. At the same time, he usually drove a hard bargain. In 1988, six veterans missed at least one exhibition game, and linebacker Brian Noble sat out 67 days and four regular-season games. The rookie salary cap was years away from adoption, and top pick Tony Mandarich missed 44 days in 1989 … Reinfeldt, a Baraboo, Wis., native, and Pro Bowl safety, was named the franchise’s first chief financial officer in November 1990. He assumed the negotiating job from Braatz but little changed. That year, quarterback Don Majkowski and running back Herman Fontenot each staged 45-day holdouts. In 1991, linebacker Tim Harris sat out five games (78 days) before being traded and kicker Chris Jacke missed 40. The holdout binge reached its nadir in 1992, Ron Wolf’s first season as general manager. Nine veterans sat out at least 18 days seeking new deals while cornerback Terrell Buckley, the top draft choice, held out for 50 days. In 1993, linebacker Tony Bennett missed six games (102 days). In 1994, with a new collective bargaining agreement in place, all rookies and veterans were under contract by the start of camp for the first time since 1984. Reinfeldt, who left to join Mike Holmgren’s front office in Seattle in 1999, had one other protracted holdout. In 1998, it took the Packers 44 days to re-sign running back Dorsey Levens … Brandt, a former player agent, arrived as Reinfeldt’s successor with solid relationships already in place. His nine-year tenure included two lengthy holdouts. In 2004, cornerback Mike McKenzie, locked in a personality tiff with Mike Sherman, refused to report for 46 days before being traded. In 2005, tight end Bubba Franks missed 28 days. Brandt announced his resignation in January 2008, several months after he was a finalist for the job of president that went to Mark Murphy. Throughout Brandt’s tenure, the Packers seldom, if ever, had a deleterious cap situation … Replacing Brandt was Ball, who had worked with Mike McCarthy in Kansas City. Ball was one of four finalists; two others were the Falcons’ Brian Xanders and the Rams’ Samir Suleiman. Ball has continued many of the fiscal policies that Brandt put in place. Those were limited use of guaranteed base salaries, heavy use of per-game roster bonuses and few instances in which cap ramifications prevented the Packers from adding players. A former Chiefs strength coach, Ball brought a football perspective to the job. He enters negotiations friendly and well-prepared, and typically low-balls agents at the start. He listens, and in the end tends to make fair-market deals. Friends of Ball said he was crushed after finishing second to Brian Gutekunst for the GM job in 2018. As executive vice president/director of football operations, he presently is aligned on a plane with Matt LaFleur and Gutekunst under Murphy.
PUBLIC RELATIONS DIRECTORS
First Team: Chuck Lane, 1966-’74, 1975-’79.
Second Team: Lee Remmel, 1980-’03.
Third Team: Jeff Blumb, 2004-’11.
Others: 4. Jason Wahlers, 2011-’21.
Overview: Lane’s philosophy of PR was well ahead of its time in Green Bay. In fact, it could be said it has never been duplicated. He protected the organization while never failing to understand or prevent reporters from doing their jobs as conduits to the fans. At age 23, Lane caught a break coming out of college and was hired by Vince Lombardi. After working under Lombardi, Phil Bengtson and Dan Devine, Lane left the organization in 1974 after not seeing eye-to-eye with Devine. In addition to working with Bart Starr in several business ventures that year, he served as a de facto lobbyist for the Hire Bart Starr faction. Lane rejoined the organization in early 1975 after being hired by Starr. They were to have many disagreements over club-media policies. “When you’re drawing a paycheck from a man, I feel you owe him an opinion on subjects,” Lane told the Green Bay Press-Gazette after his firing in January 1980. “When public relations subjects came up, we didn’t always agree. I felt I owed him some input, not just sit back and agree.” … Remmel, a native of Shawano, Wis., had covered high-school sports and later the Packers for almost 30 years at the Green Bay Press-Gazette. He assisted Lane from March 1974 as publicity director before taking over in early 1980. Remmel had a sharp wit, voluminous vocabulary and a colorful writing style. Having covered all of the Packers’ coaches, he lived the history of the franchise. A reporter himself, Remmel often was able to bridge the inevitable differences between team and media. He became team historian in 2004 before retiring in December 2007. In an interview with the Press-Gazette in January 2007, Remmel pointed out he was pulling for the Packers to win during his years as a reporter. “I know there are writers today who make a fetish of saying they don’t care who wins, that they’re objective, that they have no stake in this,” said Remmel. “That’s fine. But when you talk to players over and over, particularly if they’re friendly to you, I don’t see how you can’t root for them.” … Blumb, a native of Minneapolis, began work for the Packers under Remmel in 1989. As Remmel aged, Blumb took on a more prominent role until Remmel stepped down in 2004. As Remmel’s successor, Blumb offered almost none of Remmel’s personal warmth dealing with reporters but he was efficient and got things done when it came to player/team-reporter interaction.
He wasn’t afraid of the players, an important quality for NFL PR people. When Jason Wied, the team’s vice president of administration, said he let Blumb go in March 2011, the Packers hired Wahlers four months later after a nine-year career with the Buccaneers.