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MT5: Combine important to Packers again this year

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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.

Last year at this time, I wrote that the NFL Scouting Combine was the start of a very important offseason for the Packers. With Brian Gutekunst early in his tenure as general manager, I felt that the time spent at the combine evaluating potential draft picks would be crucial for the success of the team.

Well, here we sit a year later, and (although we had a strong draft last year) I feel the combine may be even more important to the organization this year. With a new head coach in Matt LaFleur, as well as many new coaches on the staff, the interviews with our possible draft picks in Indianapolis will be important in determining what players we believe will fit well into our system (which is new on offense). Also, with two first-round picks (and 10 overall), we have the chance to really help ourselves in the draft. The combine also provides an opportunity for us to talk with the agents for our current players under contract. Obviously, the work that Gutekunst and his staff have done over the past month in putting together the draft board (and in evaluating players currently in the NFL) is crucial to making the time at the combine as productive as possible.

Coming off two disappointing seasons, the work we do over the week in Indianapolis will go a long way in determining if we are able to have a successful season.

Now, on to your questions…

Philip from Chicago

For goodness sake, Murphy, let’s get aggressive with the play-calling! Nice guys finish last in this league and as a Chicago resident, I’m quite sick and tired of losing to these crapping Bears!

We don’t like losing to the Bears either, Philip. As Aaron Rodgers said when he accepted the award for the Moment of the Year (for our come-from-behind victory over the Bears in Week 1) at the NFL Honors program, “There’s nothing like beating the Bears.” It is great to be a part of a special rivalry like the Packers-Bears. Over the 98 years of the rivalry, it is amazingly close, with the Packers having 97 wins and the Bears 95. Actually, we’ve had a pretty good run recently, winning eight of the last 10 games. With the NFL about to celebrate its 100th season, there’s a good chance that we will open the season on Thursday night in Chicago in the NFL Kickoff Game. I can’t imagine a better way to start the season.

Ken from Graford, TX

Mark,

First, I love the changes being made to get the Packers back to the Super Bowl! With that in mind I want to say I sure hope we get a much stronger focus on defense! I have been a Packer fan since I was 6 years old and I am now 71! I researched every world championship or Super Bowl the Packers won, and every one of those teams were in the top 10 defenses! Defense wins championships and it is true for the Packers! Our last Super Bowl we won in Dallas had a top five defense. We haven’t won since and we have struggled every year.

As a former defensive player, Ken, I couldn’t agree with you more. This year’s Super Bowl is a good example of the importance of a strong defense. I think we have a chance to be much improved on defense this year. As I mentioned here last month, I’m excited that we retained Mike Pettine and think we will see improvement in his second year as players will be more familiar with his system. Also, we have the chance to add impact players on defense through the draft and free agency.

From an anonymous fan

Hey Murph,

Just wondering why the Wisconsin taxpayers “donated” hundreds of millions of dollars for Packers renovations to games most of us can’t even afford to attend, yet in return, you people take the surplus and hand out $10,000/ $100,000 novelty checks to the charity of your choice.

Do not the Wisconsin taxpayers get first dibs on profits over charities that make your organization look good in the eyes of the community? It’s not your money, it was a loan, not a grant.

We’ll see if you are tough enough to take on this fourth-and-1 question, or will you wimp out and punt hoping for an easier question.

Regards,

The cheated Wisconsin taxpayer.

I normally don’t answer questions from people unwilling to leave their names. However, h3ciy0+arrnjs3kd3wfw, I decided to answer this question because I believe you are way off-base on this matter. From a public funding standpoint, the $295-million Lambeau Field redevelopment that was completed in 2003 received $160 million in bonds that were paid off with a half-a-percent sales tax in Brown County, and $9.1 million from the state of Wisconsin for infrastructure. I believe, by all objective measures, that this has been a good investment for the county. The renovation converted Lambeau Field from a facility that was used 10 times a year to a year-round facility. It also converted the Packers from a team that was near the bottom of the league in revenue to one that has consistently been in the top 10 since 2003 (which helps ensure that we remain competitive and that we are able to remain in Green Bay long term). The annual economic impact of the organization immediately increased by $100 million in 2003, resulting in more than $1.5 billion in additional impact in the ensuing 15 years. Moreover, the bonds that were taken out to pay for the renovation were paid off early in 2015 (with a total of just over $309 million in payments), and there is still a maintenance fund that will provide approximately $13 million annually for upkeep of the stadium through 2031. As a result of the sales tax, Lambeau Field enhanced its status as an iconic stadium that is on the bucket list of football fans from all over the world, and it has put the Packers in a financial position where we can invest in the stadium, football facilities and the community annually. Since 2013, we have invested over $600 million in the stadium for the South End Zone addition, Johnsonville Tailgate Village, Atrium renovation and other projects. We also completely renovated the football facilities and added the CRIC (Conditioning, Rehabilitation and Instructional Center). This year, we will build a new security building, replace the turf in the Don Hutson Center and the flooring in our weight room, and move forward with the second phase of the concourse renovation. Our annual charitable impact is now over $8 million. We have built the endowment of our Foundation to over $40 million and give away over $2 million annually to a wide variety of local charities and nonprofit organizations that help those in need throughout our community. We have also made a significant investment in the community with Titletown. So far, the Packers and our partners in the development have spent over $135 million in establishing Titletown. Significantly, since the 2003 renovation, we have not received any public funding for improvements. Titletown is a unique community asset, particularly the public park and plaza areas, and could have the biggest impact on the community of all the investments that we’ve made over the years. I’m especially excited about the potential impact of TitletownTech, our partnership with Microsoft. And, finally, h3ciy0+arrnjs3kd3wfw, stop calling me Murph.

Dave from Mundelein, IL

Hi Mark,

Isn’t it time for the NFL to consider improvements to its officiating staff? The players continue to get faster and the game itself gets faster, but the league continues to use the same older men. In the case of professional sports the wisdom that comes from experience cannot compensate for physical limitations. If it would, Tramon Williams could be counted on to play for another 20 years!

Since the conference championship games (especially the NFC Championship Game), officiating has been a hot topic, Dave. The league office is always looking to improve the quality of officiating, though. Just as the players are evaluated and graded after every game, so too are the officials. You make a good point about the speed of the game. There is no question that it is more difficult to officiate the game now than it was years ago (not only due to the speed of the game, but also because of the increase in passing and the use of the entire field). The officials do have to pass annual fitness tests and the league does annually replace a number of officials (the NCAA serves as a good training ground for our officials). I anticipate that we will have continued discussions about how replay might be able to improve officiating. Traditionally, replay has been used to correct obvious mistakes based on objective criteria (e.g., the receiver’s feet were in bounds, the ball hit the ground). The controversial call (actually a no-call) in the Rams vs. Saints game was more subjective in nature. If we allowed replay to impose a penalty in that situation, you would be substituting the judgment of the replay official for the judgment of the game official. Interestingly, the CFL recently expanded replay in this manner, and the NFL may be able to learn from their experience. Technology has become a big part of the game, and can be very helpful, but the game is played, coached and officiated by humans, and, as we all know, humans will make mistakes.

Jim from Onalaska, WI

I watched the AAF (Alliance of American Football) game this weekend, and actually enjoyed it. What do you think of the quality of the play in the AAF?

I watched parts of the games on the first weekend, Jim, and I have to admit that I was impressed. I also enjoyed watching the games partly because it was fun to see so many of our former players in action. I would say that the quality of play was similar to a preseason game. The league seems to have a good plan and I hope it can survive, as it could be a great developmental league for not only players, but also coaches and officials. Interestingly, some of the younger employees in our equipment room are on loan to AAF teams. I have to give Bill Polian, the founder of the AAF, credit. He put together a smart plan for the league and is sticking to it. I was amazed by the ratings of the games on the first weekend. More people watched the AAF game on CBS than watched the national NBA game that weekend or the PGA tournament. This speaks well of the popularity of football.

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