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.*
They say that everything is bigger in Texas. With regard to the NFL Draft, that is certainly true. The draft was held in Dallas this year after stints in Philadelphia and Chicago, and the league set a record with almost 300,000 people requesting tickets. It was also the first stadium-based draft, so it had a much different feel than the drafts in Philadelphia and Chicago. The NFL Experience in Dallas was the largest ever, with over 900,000 square feet of space (with a record 50 exhibits). The draft has also become a major media event. Thanks in part to the fact that the draft was broadcast on FOX this year, a record number of people watched it. The draft brings together college football and the NFL, as college fans want to see where their favorite players will end up. Fantasy football also contributes to the popularity of the draft, and the intrigue involving what quarterbacks would be drafted in the first round this year helped as well.
Given the popularity of the draft, almost all NFL cities are anxious to host it. The league has announced the five finalists to host the draft in 2019 and 2020 – Cleveland/Canton, Kansas City, Nashville, Denver and Las Vegas. The league is expected to announce the two winners soon. We had applied to host the draft in those years, but decided instead to focus on hosting the draft in 2021 or 2022. By then, the new exhibition hall (replacing the Brown County Arena) should be built and Titletown will be much further developed. It is a very competitive process, and we think this will give us our best chance.
Now, on to your questions….
The Packers wrapped up the 13th annual Tailgate Tour in West Bend with a party to benefit Threshold, Inc., a non-profit that helps individuals of all ages with disabilities. Photos by Evan Siegle, packers.com
Shelly from Butternut, WI
I was at the Tailgate Tour stop in Medford last year. I really enjoyed having the chance to see the current players and alumni up close. I was wondering, how do you decide where to stop on the Tour?
Thanks for coming out to the Tailgate Tour, Shelly. The Tailgate Tour is something we're very proud of and I think underscores the uniqueness of the Packers organization. We try to spread the Tour out across the state over time. This year was the 13th tour, and, if you look at a map of all the places we've been in the 13 years, we've made it to every nook and cranny of the state. We've also been to the U.P. and Iowa. We try to get to Milwaukee and Madison on a fairly regular basis. Cathy Dworak, our director of community outreach and player/alumni relations, does a great job of planning the tour every year. The tour serves two main purposes. First, to thank our fans for their great support. We also raise money for charities in the five communities we stop in on the tour. We set a record this year by raising over $380,000.
Mark from Milwaukee
Hi Mark, I am a Milwaukee gold package season-ticket holder and want to express my displeasure with another Thursday night preseason game. For those of us that live in Milwaukee, the suburbs of west Milwaukee, or anywhere else in southeast Wisconsin, a Thursday night game is very difficult to attend. With the long commute to Green Bay, to truly enjoy the game and the full experience, it requires us to take two days off of work. I am thankful to the organization for being able to retain season tickets and continue to have the opportunity to attend games after all the games were moved to Green Bay, but I think the organization should do more to assure that the gold package preseason Shrine Game is on a Friday night or Saturday night. I have no issue taking two days off work to attend a regular-season game if it would fall on a Thursday, but don't really want to use some of my vacation days to watch a bunch of backups in a preseason game. I know many other people who have gold package tickets, and they feel the same way. We all want to attend ALL the games, and would really appreciate if the organization took this into account in the future.
Thanks for your email, Mark. I appreciate your thoughts on the preseason schedule and understand your concern about Thursday night games. I often hear from fans regarding the scheduling of preseason games. There are a number of factors that go into determining when we play our home preseason games, but our first priority is to ensure that our team is well-prepared for the start of the season. First, under NFL policy, teams can report to training camp 15 days before the first preseason game. We typically try to play the first preseason game on a Thursday to give us as much time as possible with our players in training camp. As you know, we are playing our first two preseason games on Thursday nights. We wanted the second game on a Thursday to have a full week to prepare for the game in order to replicate our preparation for games in the regular season. Also, we avoid playing on Friday nights so we don't conflict with high school games. We made the Pittsburgh game a gold package game because we thought the Steelers would be an attractive opponent, and the starters are likely to play more in the second as opposed to the first preseason game. Thanks again for your input, as well as your support of the Packers over the years.
A question from Jason
You guys f….. disgust me! I can't believe you traded down in the first round. Another letdown season coming. (We actually can't post all of Jason's question as it was filled with words that are inappropriate for our readers, but he wasn't pleased with our draft decisions. Jason stated that we missed some opportunities to pick certain players, we let some players go, and we are wasting the prime years of Aaron Rodgers' career. He also stated that his opinion means nothing to us, and it has been difficult being a fan of the Packers.)
Not sure there's a question here, Jason, but I do appreciate you letting me know your thoughts on the draft. You really can't evaluate the quality of a draft for at least two years, but, I was very pleased with way Brian Gutekunst handled his first draft. He was calm and confident, and it was clear to me that the situation was not too big for him. I thought the two trades in the first round really worked to our advantage. We ended up with a player we liked – Jaire Alexander – at a position of need, and gave up a third-round pick for a first-round pick next year. Thanks again for your input.
Jim from Chicago
I read that the league brought together a number of special teams coaches to discuss the kickoff. Do you think the league will get rid of the kickoff?
Great question, Jim. As we've discussed here before, the kickoff is by far the most dangerous play in the game. You are five times more likely to suffer a concussion on a kickoff than a play from scrimmage. The kickoff is so dangerous because the collisions are often at full speed. I was part of the meeting this week in New York. The discussions were very productive. The special teams coaches came forward with a number of recommendations that should make the play safer. The recommendations included eliminating the two-man wedge, eliminating the running start for the kickoff coverage team, and requiring eight players on the return team to be within 15 yards of their restraining line. The changes should make the play more like the punt, where blockers are running alongside the players on the coverage unit. We're very hopeful that these changes will result in fewer injuries on a kickoff, but we will continue to monitor this closely. We're hopeful that these change will allow us to keep the kickoff in the game. It is one of the most exciting plays in the game. The proposed changes will be voted on by the owners at a league meeting later this month.
Raphael from Madison, WI
I took my family to Titletown this winter. My kids loved the tubing hill and the skating trail. I was wondering how you thought the first winter at Titletown went.
I'm glad you enjoyed your visit to Titletown, Raphael. Overall, we were pleased with the winter season at Titletown. Since it was the first year of operations, we learned a lot throughout the winter. The weather certainly had a big impact on the tubing and skating. If it was too warm, we couldn't make snow or ice (the tubing hill was more temperature sensitive than the skating trail). We also had a number of days where it was so cold (below zero) that people did not want to tube or skate. When it was that cold, it was really challenging for our employees working on top of the hill. We also encountered some problems with the tube return. I thought the Winter Jubilee, with the light show, was very popular. I'm confident that we will improve the experience for people at Titletown next winter. Of course, with Murphy's Law, we closed the tubing hill just days before the biggest snowstorm in Green Bay in over 130 years.