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
I often hear from fans who are disappointed that we aren't more active in free agency. I know it can be frustrating for them to see other teams adding free agents - and receiving "A" grades from the media. The reality, though, is that championships are not won in March. The Eagles' "dream team" from two years ago is a good example of the risks involved with signing high-priced free agents. Free agency can certainly play a role in helping teams improve (Charles Woodson and Ryan Pickett are good examples of recent free agents who have played key roles for us), but history shows that teams that focus on drafting, developing and extending the contracts of their core players are more likely to have sustained success.
The draft has always been an important resource for teams. A couple of changes in recent years, though, have made the draft even more valuable. First, the rookie system under the new collective bargaining agreement greatly reduced the amount of money paid to rookies, especially for first-round draft choices. Under the old system, teams drafting in the top part of the first round faced a real dilemma. They had to make a huge financial commitment to these players, and if they made a mistake on the player, it could set the team back for years. For this reason, teams often tried to trade out of this part of the first round, but usually found few takers. Another reason the draft is more valuable now is the fact that the salary cap has been relatively flat for the last few years. There has been relatively less money available to spend on players, and the rookies are now even more attractive to teams. I also think the quality of play at the college level has improved in recent years and, as a result, more players are ready to contribute right away.
So, when you watch the NFL Draft on Thursday, April 25 (in prime time for the third straight year), know that it's the best way to improve our team.
Now, on to your questions:
Nick from Kenosha, WI
Do you believe the new "tuck"rule will have a significant impact on the game?
It will be interesting to see how eliminating the tuck rule changes the game. The tuck rule has been in place since the 1990s, and became famous (or infamous) in 2001 when Charles Woodson sacked Tom Brady in an AFC playoff game and forced an apparent fumble. The call was overturned on review because it was determined that, under the tuck rule, Brady's arm was moving forward to tuck the ball away and was considered a pass. The tuck rule has remained in place because it was thought that it was difficult for officials to tell if a quarterback is moving his arm forward to pass or to tuck it away.
As a member of the competition committee, we have watched a lot of film on these plays this year. Two things struck me. First, you can tell when the quarterback is tucking the ball, and second, it should be a fumble. I know Charles will be pleased with this rule change, but disappointed it isn't retroactive.
A question from Rich
If you and the league are so concerned about player safety, why don't you focus on having players wear the proper equipment and wear it correctly? Many players wear no knee, thigh or hip pads.
Great point, Rich. When I came back to the NFL with the Packers in 2008, I was amazed at how few players wear knee, thigh and hip pads. All players in high school and college are required to wear knee and thigh pads, and NFL players were required to wear these pads up until the late 1980s. Eventually, the NFL stopped requiring these pads because it became difficult to enforce. In the 2013 season, though, players will be required to wear knee and thigh pads. Interestingly, many players have resisted this requirement. They say the pads will slow them down and that there is no proof the pads will prevent injury. Since all players will be required to wear the pads, no one should have a competitive advantage, and it certainly can't hurt players to wear pads. Actually, we do think the pads will reduce thigh and knee bruises, and may help reduce concussions, since concussions often occur when knees hit the helmet.
Will from Rock Hill, SC What is the most difficult part in running a pro team?
I think the most challenging part of my job is managing expectations. I want our fans to have high expectations for the team, but it is important that they be realistic. While our goal every year is to win the Super Bowl, the reality is that a lot of things have to go your way to win a Super Bowl (i.e. injuries, calls), and that you can still have a successful year without winning the Super Bowl. If the expectations are unrealistically high, you are setting yourself up for failure.
Alex from Roberts, WI
What is your favorite sport besides football?
I've always loved basketball. I played it growing up, through high school and one year in college, and continued to play pick-up basketball until I moved to Green Bay. It's great exercise and I always enjoyed the camaraderie. I also enjoy watching basketball, especially the college game. The first weekend of the NCAA men's tournament is a real favorite of mine. One of the real thrills of my career as an athletic director was when our men's basketball team at Colgate played in the NCAA tournament.
Sandy from Green Bay
Have the new season-ticket holders for the new seats been notified for next season?
You have great timing, Sandy. Approximately 4,000 letters have gone out in the past few weeks to people on the waiting list informing them they will be able to purchase tickets for this season. The people who will be coming off the waiting list went on in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Under the process that we used to fill the approximately 7,000 new seats in the South End Zone, we first went to the current season ticket holders and asked if they wanted to move up to the South End Zone (and give up their bowl seats). We then went to the waiting list, so people coming off the list will be purchasing tickets for seats both in the South End Zone and the current bowl (mostly in the end zones). It's an exciting time for these fans, and we thank them for their patience.