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MT5: NFL Draft a needed respite from COVID-19

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

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Top left: QB Jordan Love; Top right: GM Brian Gutekunst & family; Bottom left: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell; Bottom right: Head Coach Matt LaFleur & family

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.

Needless to say, last week's NFL Draft was the most unique in league history. It was held completely virtually with the general managers conducting their drafts from their homes (and Jerry Jones from his yacht), while Commissioner Roger Goodell announced the picks from his basement. Roger took a big risk in deciding to go ahead with the draft as scheduled. Many people within the league and media called for the league to postpone the draft. They were concerned about the optics of holding the draft while the nation is in the throes of a pandemic. There were also concerns about whether the league had the technology and skill to effectively conduct the draft virtually, and that the draft could be hacked. Despite these legitimate concerns, the draft, by all accounts, was a huge success.

First, there were no major glitches during the entire draft, and the overall production was very smooth. The draft was managed in a manner that presented no risk to any of the draftees or employees of the league or clubs. The ratings were by far the best ever for the draft (35% more than 2014, the previous highest-rated draft) with a total of 55 million people watching the draft over three days. The Packers did what we could to help with the ratings by adding some drama with our first-round trade (more on that below). Most importantly, I think the draft served a real need for our fans and the country overall. It was a needed distraction for all of us during these difficult times. It also allowed our fans to see a different side of our GMs and head coaches. I know that our fans enjoyed seeing Brian Gutekunst and Matt LaFleur with their kids. Finally, the draft brought great recognition to the healthcare workers across the country and raised over $100 million for organizations providing relief to those impacted by COVID-19. Our share will go to United Way and Salvation Army in both Green Bay and Milwaukee.

Many deserve credit for the success of the draft. First, Roger for having the courage to go forward with the draft when there were so many risks. Also, Michelle McKenna and the entire IT staff at the league office were outstanding. Microsoft also deserves special mention. Their product "Microsoft Teams" was instrumental in allowing the league to efficiently conduct the draft. For the Packers, Mike Halbach and Kenny Ansel were remarkable in terms of what they were able to set up for all of our personnel working on the draft. Finally, the production crews at ABC, ESPN and the NFL Network did an amazing job in coordinating the entire broadcast.

The only loser in the draft was Las Vegas, with the constant shots of the empty strip. All is not lost, though, as the league announced that Las Vegas would host the draft in 2022. This means that the league is now on the clock to select a city for the 2024 draft, for which Green Bay is among the cities vying.

Now, on to your questions…

A question from Thomas

Dear Mark, Congratulations to the Packers organization and fans on the steal of the draft. Brian traded only a fourth-round pick and swapped our 30th overall for their 26th overall to get an elite QB? Brian is a thief and I'm so happy he's ours. WOW! Outstanding work. God bless and Go Pack Go!

And, a question from Michael

By now, you know that the Packers had one of the worst drafts ever in Packers history. Just take a look at NFL Draft grades by the media, experts, blogs and fans and take a look at how the Packers plummet in upcoming NFL power rankings, following NFL Draft 2020. From Las Vegas odds and expert projections for the Super Bowl to over/under win/loss projections...the Packers have fallen off the radar as a potential playoff team and will probably be projected to win no more than eight games, probably seven games in the upcoming season. What happens when the Packers FLOP? Packer executives will try to blame Aaron Rodgers, but NOBODY is that gullible to believe that the Packers' upcoming ineptness is due to Rodgers, particularly with so many talented wide receivers in NFL Draft 2020. NOPE. Tis time to clean house NOW or following the upcoming season, irate Packer fans WILL demand massive changes of Packer executives. Self-fulfilling prophesy guided by self-serving and misguided egos? A little humility and respect could have prevented the upcoming disastrous Packers season. Just my two cents worth.

Thanks for your submissions, Thomas and Michael. I would love to see a conversation between the two of you regarding our draft. Seriously, this is a good representation of the full spectrum of the reactions to our draft. Personally, I don't put much weight on the various draft grades, as it takes two to three years to be able to really evaluate the quality of a draft class. I do have great confidence in Brian Gutekunst and give him credit for having the confidence to make the decisions that he believes are in the long-term best interests of the organization. I look forward to virtually welcoming the draftees and undrafted free agents to the Packers this weekend at our rookie mini-camp. It's an exciting time of year for the organization, albeit very different than in previous years, and I know that the rookies are anxious to get started on their NFL careers.

Chad from Tarpon Springs, FL

Are the Packers a business? Or are they a charity? Or are they an enterprise? What distinguishes them from other franchises? I'd say it's our historian.

As you probably know, Chad, the Packers are a very unique organization. We are a publicly owned nonprofit with more than 360,000 shareholders. We are the only professional sports team among the major sports leagues with a similar structure. Although the Packers are not technically a business in the traditional sense as we do not pay a dividend, we are in the business of winning championships. One of the things that distinguishes the Packers is our great history and tradition (an NFL-best 13 world championships) as well as our historian, Cliff Christl. Not too many teams have historians, and we are fortunate to have Cliff. Cliff was instrumental in the production of "Legacy," the documentary celebrating our 100th anniversary (now available to watch on packers.com) and is working to finish the definitive history book on the Packers.

Russ from Tarpon Springs, FL

Why do the Packers have to play in San Francisco two years in a row? We played there last year during the season. Why aren't the 49ers coming to Lambeau this year?

You're getting us into the complexities of the NFL schedule, Russ. I would certainly like to play the 49ers at Lambeau Field this year, but it is not to be. In terms of the schedule, there are two ways we can play NFC teams not in the NFC North. Every third year, we play every team in the NFC West. In 2016, we played the 49ers at home, so we played them in San Francisco last year. The other way we are scheduled to play NFC teams is if we finish in the same place in the previous season. Last year, the 49ers and Packers both finished in first, so we will play each other this year. In 2017, we both finished third, so we played each other at Green Bay in 2018. In 2020, it is the NFC West's turn to host the NFC North champion. By the way, my mother lives in Dunedin, and Tarpon Springs has the best Greek food I've ever tasted.

Scotty from Lombard, IL

Hi Mark, I hope all is well with you and your family during this challenging time. I have an idea that might be helpful. Could the Packers have one of their vendors produce masks for people to buy and wear when they leave their homes? The masks could be gold and have the Go Pack Go script on it. I am sure it would be a big seller, and the team could distribute the profits to groups in need during this desperate period. I know my family and I would wear one with pride. I am guessing maybe somebody else made this suggestion, but just in case they have not, I thought it be worth it to run the idea by you. Regards and best wishes.

Great minds think alike, Scotty. We've got something in the works along the lines of your suggestion. First, we will send two Packers facemasks to all season-ticket holders. We will also sell Packers facemasks online through our Pro Shop. Hopefully these steps will help people stay healthy during this pandemic and show their Packers pride. In addition to helping fans stay safe, we're proud of the support we've been able to provide nonprofits through the Packers Give Back COVID-19 community relief funds, with more than 60 organizations thus far receiving grants.

Dan from Golden Valley, MN

Mr. Murphy, Given the uncertainty of the moment, how would an unplayed 2020 season impact the Packers' balance sheet? I know the preservation fund is has a big balance, but being a longtime fan, I am always concerned about the financial viability of the franchise. Would an "unfunded" 2020 wreak havoc on the Packers' long-term financial stability? Thank you!

Thanks, Dan. I obviously hope that we are able to play the entire season as scheduled. But, as the old saying goes, hope is not a strategy, and while the league office is planning to play an entire schedule, we are also looking at other options if the health and safety of our players and fans dictate that we not play games or play games without fans. We are trying not to set false deadlines and to wait as long as possible before making final decisions regarding whether and how to play games. In the event the season is cancelled, though, I do believe that we will be able to weather the storm. As you note, we have over $360 million in our corporate reserve fund and, while we would obviously take a financial hit, we would remain financially viable.

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