GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers' next general manager doesn’t have to come from the Ron Wolf scouting tree. In fact, the next GM doesn’t necessarily have to come from a scouting background.
That’s what team president Mark Murphy said Tuesday, when he began his search for Ted Thompson’s successor.
The 64-year-old Thompson, who has been the Packers GM since 2005, will move into an advisory role after his replacement is hired.
Thompson broke into scouting under Wolf, and so did the Packers’ top three advisers under Thompson: Eliot Wolf (the son of the Hall of Fame GM), Brian Gutekunst and Alonzo Highsmith. Wolf and Gutekunst are expected to interview for the job. Highsmith could as well, but a source said he was given permission to explore other jobs, and he interviewed Tuesday with Cleveland Browns general manager John Dorsey and appears likely to move on.
Dorsey is also a Wolf disciple but likely is off the board because he just took the Browns job last month. But two other possible candidates, both current GMs from the Wolf tree, could be in play: Seattle’s John Schneider and Oakland’s Reggie McKenzie. Both are under contract with their teams. In Schneider's case, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said he expected his GM to remain with the team.
"As a matter of fact, I am," Carroll said Tuesday. "I'm convinced of that, yeah. ... I think he's going to be here, yeah. That's what I'm counting on."
There’s a nontraditional candidate, too, who's at or near the top of the list in Packers vice president of football administration Russ Ball, who comes from the player contract/salary cap side of things.
Those outside the Wolf-Thompson tree could include Steelers vice president of football and business administration Omar Khan, who worked with McCarthy in New Orleans; or other assistant GMs such as Eric DeCosta (Ravens), George Paton (Vikings) and Joe Douglas (Eagles).
“I don’t want to limit myself,” Murphy said. “It certainly has worked, people from the tree have gone on and had success at other places, so obviously you give some weight to that. There are a lot of good people that have done things different ways. I’m not going to limit myself, but it’s certainly something I’m cognizant of.
“There are different examples of GMs across the league who have had success with different backgrounds. I’m willing to look at a number of different types of candidates.”
Murphy said the Packers will use Jed Hughes of the consulting firm Korn Ferry to assist with the search. It’s the same firm that brought Murphy to the Packers as president in 2007.
“The search firm doesn’t make the decision; I will make the decision on who the next general manager is,” Murphy said.
Murphy said the interview process will begin “very quickly.”
This is Murphy’s first football hire in more than 10 years. He inherited Thompson, who was hired by former longtime president Bob Harlan (who also hired Wolf).
Like Thompson, the next general manager will have full authority over the hiring and firing of the head coach and will make final roster decisions both in free agency and the draft. However, Murphy said coach Mike McCarthy will remain as head coach. McCarthy was given a one-year contract extension, through the 2019 season, before this past season ended.
Thompson’s deal also ran through the 2019 season, but Murphy said it was time for Thompson to take on a lesser role. Thompson, who will turn 65 on Jan. 17, had cut down on his scouting schedule in recent years and began to delegate more administrative duties to Ball. Thompson, a longtime former linebacker with the Houston Oilers, also was slowed after hip replacement surgery.
Murphy denied speculation that the Packers’ 45-member board of directors or seven-member executive committee directed Murphy to remove Thompson because of declining health.
“There’s absolutely no truth to the story that I was directed by the board to make a change,” Murphy said. “Our board doesn’t operate that way. ... It was my decision to move the way we have and working with Ted. I keep our executive committee [apprised]; I’m a member of that. There are seven of us on that, and I’ve kept them [apprised] during this entire process. But at the end of the day, I was hired to make these decisions and will do so.”
Under Thompson, the Packers made the playoffs nine times in 13 seasons, drafted Aaron Rodgers, hired McCarthy and won one Super Bowl. Thompson often faced public criticism for his draft-and-develop philosophy in which he often shunned free agency. Thompson, who rarely spoke to the media, was not part of Tuesday’s news conference to discuss the change.
“I think his record speaks for itself,” Murphy said. “I realize, probably as you do, he’s a little bit of a lightning rod among our fans. I’ve read some of the comments, as I know you have, but I think when you step back and look at what he has accomplished as our general manager, it speaks for itself. Pretty remarkable, really.”
ESPN's Brady Henderson contributed.