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Murphy Takes 5: A month of rivals


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:

Rivalry games have always held a special place in football. If you ask any former player to recall the most memorable games in his career, chances are he will mention games played against archrivals. Whether they are high school games against crosstown rivals or college games against in-state rivals, these games take on special meaning to both players and fans. I know as I look back on my playing career, these rivalry games clearly stand out. Hard as it may be to believe now, when I played at Colgate, our biggest rival was Rutgers. In my senior year, we played Rutgers on Thanksgiving night in the newly opened Meadowlands Stadium. Rutgers was undefeated (and nationally ranked) and we had only one loss, and the game was televised nationally on ABC. Although we lost the game 17-9 (on a controversial call) the game provided such a unique experience. The fact that it was played against our archrivals made it truly special.

During my professional career, I was fortunate enough to play in two Super Bowls. The most memorable game in my career, though, was the NFC Championship game that we hosted at RFK Stadium against our dreaded rivals, the Dallas Cowboys. The week before, at the end of our playoff win against the Vikings, the fans at RFK started chanting "We want Dallas." The city was abuzz the entire week, and the atmosphere inside RFK Stadium on game day was electric. RFK was a stadium built for baseball, and the seats behind our bench were retractable.  When our fans jumped up and down, it felt like the entire stadium was shaking. The Redskins won a hard fought game to advance to Super Bowl XVII. When the Packers played the Bears in the NFC Championship game two years ago, it brought back a lot of memories for me. The atmosphere in Soldier Field was similar to RFK, and the fact that we beat our archrival made the victory all the more special.

As we head into the last month of the season, my thoughts turn to rivalry games. Three years ago, in order to ensure that games at the end of the season were meaningful, the NFL decided to move more division games to the end of the schedule. The change has also had the impact of improving the rivalries within each division. This year, four of our last five games (and five out of the last seven games) will be against division rivals. It should be an exciting month for our fans.  Each of these games will have playoff implications, and will help determine the NFC North champion. We have a great opportunity ahead of us – to win the division and position ourselves in the playoffs for a run to the Super Bowl – but, just as important, to beat our rivals.

Thanks to all of you for your questions this year. We've had some great questions on a variety of topics. Later this month, we will select the "best question" of the year. The winner will receive a special Packers gift package.

Now, on to your questions:

Jason from Boca Raton, FL

How old were you when you actually thought about being the CEO of a football team?

Fifty-two. Seriously, I never thought about becoming president of an NFL team until I was approached by Jed Hughes in the fall of 2007. Jed worked for the executive search firm Spencer Stuart and coordinated the search for the Packers. I was very happy with my career as an athletic director, and wasn't looking to leave Northwestern University. The position with the Packers, though, presented such a great opportunity that I was immediately interested. In addition, I thought the position would allow me to tie together my experiences (as a player, union executive, lawyer and athletic director) and to help further the Packers organization.

Keith from Oshkosh, WI

Are you going to follow Aaron Rodgers and Coach McCarthy and sport a mustache? Or won't your wife let you?

No, I don't think you, or anyone for that matter, would like to see me in a mustache. It would be ugly – red hair and a light beard is not a good combination. I think it's great, though, that Coach and Aaron grew mustaches for "Movember" to raise awareness regarding prostate cancer.

Mike from Cranston, R.I.

I would like to know how you feel about injuries. Are new methods being put in place to minimize them? And are you actually involved on the subject with the Packers players?

Great question, Mike. I'm very concerned about injuries. I think player health and safety (particularly concussions) is the biggest issue facing the NFL. Given the nature of the game, we will never eliminate injuries, but I think we have to do everything we can to minimize the number of injuries in the game. I believe Commissioner Rodger Goodell has done an excellent job in recent years in addressing the issue and helping to change the culture of the game regarding injuries. We've made progress (i.e. rules changes, improvement in equipment), but much more needs to be done. I'm not involved at all with our players regarding injuries. Our physicians are the key people in decisions regarding injuries. Our philosophy is that we make decisions concerning our players as we would if they were our sons.

David from Madison, WI

As a Packers Shareholder, is there a venue to make or recommend motions that may affect the organization? Thank you for your time and dedication to the Green Bay Packers organization.

Thanks, David. This is a question that I get periodically from shareholders. If a shareholder has an idea or a suggestion, I would encourage him or her to send me a letter explaining the idea. I've received many great ideas from shareholders and fans over the years, and have implemented several of them. With 369,000 owners, we have a big advantage over all other NFL teams when it comes to ideas for improvement.

Tony, a shareholder, from San Juan Capistrano, CA

First off, congrats on overseeing another winning year (so far!). So glad to be part of such a legendary franchise.

Question: I am interested in learning what it takes to become a candidate for the board of directors. I have noticed that just about all of the directors are from the Green Bay area and maybe Wisconsin, as well. As you know, Packers Nation is worldwide and I know that there is a huge following out here on the West Coast. I would think it is a natural progression to perhaps have regional directors and certainly that would include at least one from out here.

You're correct, Tony, most of our directors are from Brown County, the county where Green Bay is located. Under our by-laws, at least 30 directors must be from Brown County. With regard to the non-Brown County spots on our board, we like to have people who have a connection to Wisconsin. It is important to have representation across the state. We think having representation in Milwaukee and Madison is especially helpful to the organization. However, we are always looking for talented individuals to serve on the board and would not rule out applicants from outside Wisconsin. If you would like to be considered for the board, please send me a letter and résumé. We will send you a board application.

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