Murphy Takes 5 is a monthly column written by President and CEO Mark Murphy. 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: MurphyTakes5@packers.com
Head Coach Mike McCarthy likes to break the season down into four quarters, just like a game. When we studied the schedule, we knew the start of the season, the first quarter, would be challenging. Three of the first four games were on the road, including the opening game in Seattle against the defending Super Bowl champions. Also, having three consecutive games against division opponents, with the first two on the road, was very tough. With Thursday night's convincing win over the Vikings, though, we've made it through the opening stretch of the season in good shape, and are off to a great start in the second quarter. I thought the entire team played well against the Vikings, and it was especially encouraging to see us both run the ball and defend the run well. An added bonus of playing on Thursday night is we get a nice break before our next game against the Dolphins on Oct. 12. The players will be off until Monday.
The NFL season is a long grind. On any given Sunday, any team in the NFL can beat any other team, so you really have to be ready to play each game. If we continue to work hard and improve, I think the setup of the schedule will give us a chance to get hot as we head into the third and fourth quarters of the season. Our bye comes right at the midway point of the season, and we will have four out of five games at home to start the second half of the season. It should be exciting.
Now, on to your questions:
Dan from Torrington, CT
How are the Packers able to compete with the big owners and salary cap being a public company? Can they compete with the big salaries?
Thanks, Dan, for bringing up this issue. I am often asked this question by fans. First, I would say the League's revenue sharing policies over the years have been very helpful to the Packers, and are a main reason the team has survived and remained in Green Bay. In recent years, though, we've been one of the highest revenue teams (ninth in 2013) and have had to pay into the supplemental revenue sharing pool. I think the salary cap has also helped the Packers over the years (since it sets a maximum that teams can spend on player salaries), and is great for competitive parity in the League. We are in very sound financial shape (we have a corporate reserve fund of approximately $280 million) and I believe our ownership structure is an advantage rather than a hindrance.
A question from Jerry
I just learned of Bart Starr's health issues and I wish him the best, along with a quick recovery. There has been none classier in the NFL than our No. 15. I hope when Brett Favre's jersey is retired next year, Starr and Aaron Rodgers will be there for this very important moment in Green Bay Packers history. For a guy who has been backing the Pack since the 1960s, I know that moment would also make one amazing photo, seeing them all together.* *
Like you, Jerry, we all wish Bart the best and hope for a quick recovery. I've talked to both Bart and Cherry recently. While he is still in the hospital and has a long way to go in terms of recovery, there have been some positive signs. We've discussed the possibility of getting Bart, Brett and Aaron together. In fact, at the press conference this summer announcing Brett's induction into the Packers Hall of Fame and the retirement of his number, Brett mentioned he gets goose bumps thinking about being at a coin toss with Bart at Lambeau Field. First things first, though, and Bart has to recover enough to be able to travel to Green Bay. We're hopeful Bart will be able to come to a game this season.
Rob from Allouez, WI
Mark, what's your view on the current situation with the Ray Rice matter in the NFL?
Great question, Rob. The Ray Rice situation (actually, the entire domestic violence situation) has become a major crisis for the League. In all my years in the NFL, I do not believe I've seen anything quite like it. We've seen sponsors, media and politicians weigh in on the issue, and question the decisions made by the League. It is obviously a very serious situation, and the League office and teams have learned valuable lessons from the experience. They've admitted they've made mistakes and vowed to improve, both in terms of working to reduce domestic violence, and in how penalties are determined. I like Roger Goodell and think he has done great things for the League during his tenure as commissioner. I am, though, looking forward to seeing the report from the investigation by former head of the FBI Robert Mueller.
A question from Dan
Why do they have scoreboards on the east and west sides of the stadium? Does anybody even look at them? Are they functional?
You are very perceptive, Dan. We added the scoreboards last season and, yes, they are functional. In 2012, after we installed the new video boards in each end zone, we received complaints from fans in suites that they couldn't see the video board from the back seats in the suites. This is especially true with regard to the video board in the South End Zone, since it is much higher than the previous board. So, in response, we added the sideline scoreboards in 2013. These scoreboards are also helpful to coaches and players on the sidelines.
Bill from Wausau, WI
During the preseason, the commentators talked a lot about points of emphasis in terms of the rules. Do these points of emphasis continue into the regular season?
Thanks, Bill. The points of emphasis are for both the preseason and regular season. We had two experiments this year for portions of the preseason, longer extra-point kicks and using an extra official. There are three main points of emphasis this year – contact between receivers and defensive players (both defensive and offensive penalties), defensive holding of receivers, and illegal hands to the face. The penalties per game for these calls were way up during the preseason. This was to be expected, as the players and coaches adjust to the new emphasis. Also, during the preseason games there are many younger, inexperienced players playing who are more likely to commit penalties. Through the first portion of the season, these penalties per game are still up over last year, but not as high as in the preseason. This is a good sign that the players are adjusting and, hopefully, the penalties will continue to go down as the season progresses.