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Coaching changes highlight start of busy, unique offseason

Murphy Takes 5 is a monthly column written by President and CEO Mark Murphy

Special teams coordinator Maurice Drayton and defensive coordinator Joe Barry
Special teams coordinator Maurice Drayton and defensive coordinator Joe Barry

On the first Saturday of every month, Mark will write about a topic of interest to Packers fans and the organization, and then answer five fan questions. Fans are encouraged to email Mark with their name and hometown at:

I'm often asked by people what I do in the offseason. I think most fans would be surprised to learn how much NFL teams do in the offseason, especially in February and March (which most people assume is a slow period of time for teams). Now, I'm not saying that we're as busy as we are during the season, but there is a lot going on. This is particularly true this offseason, with the salary cap going down.

Immediately following the end of the season is typically the time that teams will make coaching changes. This time period was very busy for us this year, with Matt LaFleur's decision to make changes at both defensive and special teams coordinator. I give Matt tremendous credit for his willingness to make these changes, even though we have had two straight successful seasons. The better head coaches are always looking for ways to improve their coaching staffs and the team generally. We ended up interviewing numerous candidates before hiring Joe Barry as our defensive coordinator, and promoting Maurice Drayton to special teams coordinator.

For the 2020 season, the salary cap was $198.2 million. Right now, all we know about the cap for this year is that it will be no lower than $180 million. We started the offseason $32.5 million over the salary cap. We've made a number of moves (e.g. releasing players, restructuring players' contracts) to reduce our salary costs. We still have a ways to go before our preseason roster will be set, and these are very difficult decisions. We have a number of players who are free agents that we would like to keep, but that will require freeing up more cap space. We are very fortunate to have someone like Russ Ball who is so skilled at managing our salary cap.

February is also a busy time in terms of our budget process for the entire organization. Finally, league committee meetings take a lot of time during February and March as we are getting ready for the league's annual meeting at the end of March. Mid-June to mid-July is typically the time when most of our football employees will take their vacations.

Now, on to your questions…

Greg from Toluca, IL

Hello Mr. Murphy, first off, a compliment to the organization for the way the season was handled. Safety – foremost important, but then toward the end allowing employees their families AND first responders to attend...first rate. My question is about the situation for season ticket holders. We paid for our tickets last year and COVID kept us home. What can we expect for the upcoming season as to any price increase? Should we be looking for an invoice for a balance due? Thank you, I appreciate all the good work you folks are doing!

Thanks, Greg. I appreciate your kind words. It was a challenging year in many ways, and I'm proud of the way we handled it as an organization. With regard to your question, next week we will be sending out a letter to all season ticket holders explaining this year's ticket situation. The situation is complicated by the expected move to 17 regular-season games. If we have nine regular-season home games (it has not been determined yet whether the NFC or AFC teams will have the extra home game this year), we will select either the Gold or Green package ticket holders to have the extra game (then the other package would get the extra regular-season game the next time the NFC has the additional regular-season game, two years later). When the Green or Gold package ticket holders have the extra regular-season game rather than a preseason game, they would pay more because the regular-season game ticket prices are more than preseason tickets. When the AFC has the extra home game, our ticket pricing for both packages would not be adjusted.

From Patrick

Mark, are the Packers or the league looking into protocols for attendance next season? There have been reports of a COVID passport that would be portable (in a phone app with bar code) that would show the person's vaccination verification and it may be required at some venues and modes of travel in the near future. We all missed out on a great season last year. Most of us would jump thru hoops to attend.

Also, I tried telling Daniel Moss you were my dad when I was applying for club box season tickets several years ago. I am 73 and he didn't buy it. We have been season ticket holders for a few years now and absolutely can't say enough about the wonderful way we are treated. Molly is an outstanding member of your premium seating team and has been a treat to have as our contact. Murph

Good question, Murph. (I hope you don't mind me calling you Murph.) We are looking into what we can do this season to maximize our attendance safely. I anticipate that, like last year, we will rely heavily on our local health officials. Obviously, the status of the vaccine rollout will be crucial in this regard. The new Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be very helpful. I was encouraged to hear President Joe Biden say that by the end of May, everyone in the country who wants to be vaccinated will be able to get the shot. A key will be encouraging people to get the vaccine. Lastly, thanks for your comments about your treatment from our premium seating team, and, in the future, I suggest you say you are my older brother.

Adilson from Rotterdam, The Netherlands

On Nov. 19 last year, Cliff wrote a great in-depth piece about the inaccurate assumption that Vince Lombardi called Forrest Gregg the greatest player he ever coached, even though he actually said that about Paul Hornung, a misconception that has unfortunately been repeated by the Pro Football Hall of Fame, even in the respective obituaries. I was wondering if it was possible for the Green Bay Packers to inform Canton of this unintentional error so that it can be corrected. Cliff's outstanding work, track record and reputation are unquestionable, and considering your own motivation to get the history of the team right, something I've respected greatly about your stewardship of the Packers, I hope it can be rectified in the near future. All the best to you and your loved ones during these trying times. Go Pack go!

I'm glad you brought this up, Adilson, and I appreciate your praise of Cliff Christl. I couldn't agree more regarding Cliff – he is a tremendous asset. He is a perfectionist and is so respected, I think he is the right person to contact the Pro Football Hall of Fame regarding the error. I realize it is not easy to make some of these changes, but the Hall should have accurate information. Cliff has been in contact with the Hall on these matters and has been encouraged with the initial conversations.

Scott from Ramsey, MN

Hi Mark, for some time, the ability of someone with a 16-game schedule to break a record from someone who played a 12-game schedule has bothered me, and will even more with the anticipated transition to the 17-game schedule. Has the league ever considered listing records on a games-per-season basis? Not thinking about actual games played, but games that would have been played that year: 12, 14, 16, 17, depending on the year. That keeps some consistency and doesn't allow someone with a great half-season to sneak in if injured the other half of the year. Thanks for all you do for the Packers and the Green Bay area, especially this past 12 months.

Very interesting suggestion, Scott. I am not aware that there has ever been any consideration given to the idea. As you note, with the expected move to 17 games, now would be a good time to consider this change. It is always hard to compare players from different eras, and putting statistics on a per-game basis would help in this regard. If you based statistical honors on a per-game basis (e.g. rushing champion), though, you would have to require that a player play in a minimum number of games. It is often said in the NFL that the most important ability is availability, and being able to play in most or all of the games is not easy in the NFL. While I'm intrigued by your suggestion, I do not anticipate the league making this change.

Bob from Cortez, CO

Friends of mine with children have commented on the lack of endless rounds of colds and flu children bring home from school that infect the rest of the family members. We assume the preventive measures taken because of Covid-19 have limited the spread of other diseases too. In the past, the flu and various colds have caused players to miss games. Going forward, do you see the Packers organization continuing many of these Covid-related protocols to protect the team's health?

Excellent question, Bob. As I mentioned above, while we are optimistic that things will be better this year with regard to the virus, I think most of the protocols will remain in place for this year. Long term, I think some of the protocols (e.g. washing hands, temperature checks) will make sense to remain in place to help keep our players healthy. Lastly, I know I may be old-school, but I could never imagine missing a game because I had a cold or the flu. Actually, though, the most serious injury I suffered during my career occurred when I played a game with the stomach flu. Maybe it wasn't so smart to play with the flu.

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