GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Here's how one NFL agent described the Green Bay Packers' general manager position:
"It's the best job in the NFL," he said. "Two reasons: No owner and Aaron Rodgers."
Actually, there are 361,060 owners, and every last one of them is powerless.
The shareholders have zero say in anything that happens at 1265 Lombardi Avenue, and the de facto owner -- team president Mark Murphy since 2008 -- draws a salary just like any other team employee. It's not Murphy's own money on the line, which inherently means less meddling and more patience from the top. In other words, ideal working conditions.
Then there's the quarterback. Rodgers turned 34 years old last month but was off to one of the best starts of his two-time NFL MVP career before he broke his collarbone in Week 6 of the 2017 season. Yes, Rodgers has had two major injuries -- both times to his collarbone -- in the last five seasons, but neither would suggest he's injury prone.
The next general manager will have the unenviable task of finding a third franchise quarterback to follow Brett Favre and Rodgers. The last two full-time GMs (not counting coach/GM Mike Sherman) built their legacies because they nailed the quarterback spot. Ron Wolf wouldn't be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame had he not pulled off the trade that brought Favre to Green Bay in 1992, and Ted Thompson wouldn't have lasted 13 years had he not taken Rodgers with the first pick of his first draft in 2005.
Sure, Rodgers essentially fell into Thompson's lap, but he learned under Wolf the value of a franchise quarterback. It was Wolf who asked Thompson to study film on Favre during Thompson's first month on the job as a Packers scout. Wolf already had made up his mind about trading for Favre, but he wanted to see Thompson's reaction.
Now that Thompson is out as general manager, it's his successor's job to continue the tradition of top-level quarterback play. The next GM will have the luxury of having perhaps a handful of drafts to find a quarterback and would be wise not to wait until Rodgers is at or near the end of his career.
The new GM also has a proven coach in Mike McCarthy who is easy to work with, which is key in a situation where a head coach is inherited and not hired. McCarthy showed he wouldn't stand pat after the Packers' streak of eight straight playoff appearances ended this season. He fired defensive coordinator Dom Capers plus at least two other assistant coaches Monday, and more changes could be in the works before the week is over.
All of that means Murphy should have his pick of the plum candidates. There are almost too many candidates, if that's such a thing. There are at least three top-line personnel evaluators already in the building: Eliot Wolf, Brian Gutekunst and Alonzo Highsmith. Yet Murphy respects Russ Ball, who worked closely with Thompson as his contract negotiator, but Ball doesn't have a scouting background and hiring him could risk alienating -- and perhaps eventually losing -- the other three.
Current GMs John Schneider (Seattle Seahawks), Reggie McKenzie (Oakland Raiders) and John Dorsey (Cleveland Browns) know exactly why the Packers job is one of the best in the league, and if any of them could get out of their current positions, they might jump at the chance. But because they're all under contract, their current owners would have to let them out or accept players/draft picks as a trade. Dorsey just got hired in Cleveland last month, so that would likely eliminate him. But perhaps Schneider or McKenzie would push for the job.
"It's a top-three job in the league," another NFL source said. "You look for stability. That's what you have in Green Bay."