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*.
Three years ago, in April 2014, the NFL held the draft in New York, where it has been held on 57 occasions since its beginning in 1936. While the draft had grown in popularity over the years, it was primarily attended by people from the metropolitan New York City area and attendance was limited to the capacity of Radio City Music Hall. With the league office in New York, holding the draft there provided many benefits to the league. Following the draft in 2014, representatives from Radio City Music Hall informed the NFL that the venue would not be available in the week that the draft had normally been held. Given this, the executives from the league office started looking at other options for the draft. This started a process that would change the nature of the draft forever.
The league held the draft in Chicago in 2014 and 2015. In Chicago, the draft was a much different event than in New York. It was much more fan-focused with all types of free activities for NFL fans in downtown Chicago. The new format has proven to be very popular with fans. In 2014, 250,000 people attended the draft in Chicago, and 200,000 attended last year (also in Chicago). The league moved the draft to Philadelphia this year, and hit another home run, setting an attendance record with over 250,000. By all accounts, Philadelphia did an excellent job hosting the event, and converted the entire area in front of the "Rocky" steps to an NFL destination.
A big question now is what the league will decide to do with the draft in the future. Twenty-one teams have filed applications to host the draft. The league invited representatives from 14 cities who have applied to host the draft (including the Packers) to Philadelphia to see how the league runs it. I think you will see the league move the draft from city to city, similar to the Super Bowl. Unlike the Super Bowl, though, many cities will be able to host the draft. Regardless, it is safe to say that the draft will continue to be a fan-centric event – second only to the Super Bowl in terms of fan interest.
Now, on to your questions…
Mick Ramsay, Brisbane, Australia
How do the players, staff and residents of Green Bay handle the offseason?
Great question, mate. The offseason is very different for players, staff and our residents. First, for the staff, there really is no offseason. We're busy planning and working on the various projects around the stadium, working on the budget process, and the offseason is a very busy time for league committees and meetings. Also, our personnel staff and coaches are very busy preparing for the combine and draft. For the players, they most likely will take a few weeks off following the season to allow their bodies to heal up, and then will start working out on their own. Some use the offseason to gain experience in internships or go back to school. Most of the players will spend the early part of the offseason away from Green Bay, and most players came back here in mid-April for the start of workouts, with OTAs beginning later this month. In terms of our residents or fans, I think they continue to follow the team in the offseason, and I notice that interest in the team definitely starts to pick up around the draft.
John from Wisconsin Rapids, WI
I love watching the draft, and especially enjoy seeing the players celebrating with their families at their homes when they are selected. What was your draft-day experience like?
Well, John, I actually have a very unique draft-day story. I was a senior at Colgate in the spring of 1977. The draft was quite a bit different then – there were 12 rounds, it was held over two days, and there was very little publicity. There were no draft experts or mock drafts back then, so I really had no idea whether or when I would be drafted. On the first day of the draft, George Allen, head coach of the Redskins, called me and said they wanted to draft me, and they would arrange to fly me to Washington, D.C., for a press conference. I was very excited, and before I knew it, I was at the Dulles Marriott near the Redskins' practice facility. I arrived at the hotel late at night. The first day of the draft had ended and I hadn't been drafted, but I figured that I would be drafted early the next day (the Redskins didn't have many draft picks because Allen liked to trade them for veteran players). I was surprised the next morning when two Redskins employees scheduled a breakfast for myself and five other players. After the breakfast, they put us all in a van and drove us to downtown D.C. (about a 30-minute drive) and gave us a driving tour of the city. The tour was very nice but I kept thinking about the draft and the press conference. We stopped for lunch in the city, and then headed back to the Redskins' practice facility. By then, the draft had ended, and none of the six of us had been drafted. The Redskins had no intentions of drafting us, and had decided to hide us out so that other teams couldn't contact us. The Redskins had also instructed the Dulles Marriott that if a call came in for Mark Murphy, they were to say that he was not registered there. Since there were no cell phones, there was no way for anyone to contact us. Once we arrived at the practice facility, George Allen called me into his office and said they really liked me and made a contract offer. He then turned to his assistant GM and said, "If Mark doesn't sign this contract, let's call that safety from Oklahoma that we like so much." During this process, I finally had a chance to call back Colgate and found out that several other teams wanted to sign me as a free agent. I eventually signed with the Redskins, primarily because they wanted me to play safety, while the other teams wanted me to put weight on and move to linebacker. Also, while I did question the ethics of what the Redskins did with me, they definitely did show a strong interest in me. I loved playing for Allen, and it was one of the best things that happened to me in my career, since he was a brilliant defensive coach. After I made the team my rookie year, George started calling me his 13th-round draft choice. I recently asked Bruce Allen, president of the Redskins, if his father ever told him what happened to me on draft day. Bruce said that he had, and that I shouldn't complain because it worked out quite well for me. Interestingly, in 1978, the league changed the rules regarding the draft and prohibited teams from hiding players out during the draft.
Bill from Sturgeon Bay, WI
It seems that most of the publications are giving the Packers a solid B grade for our draft. What do you think the Packers grade should be for this year's draft?
Don't get me started on this, Bill. The draft grade idea is one of my pet peeves. It is so ridiculous to immediately grade a team's draft or specific pick. The true test of a draft is after three to four years, and you also have to take into consideration undrafted free agents. So, ask me in four years, and hopefully I will give us a B or better.
Rob from Green Bay, WI
Mr. Murphy, I'd like to hear some of the plans for what you have in store to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Packers in the next two years. I had an idea of the city or Packers building a water tower in the shape of the Lombardi Trophy. Most of the water towers I see already have a similar shape of tall narrow base with somewhat of a huge ball attached to the top. I also noticed the size of farm silos can be about 10 stories tall and made from pretty much the same materials. Maybe it could be an attraction for the Titletown District where an observatory level is built near the top, like the Statue of Liberty, or arch in St. Louis.
I think it would look great near the new Titletown District. It could be anywhere upwards of 5-10 stories tall. Towers have a small overall footprint and wouldn't take up much space. It could be made of a shiny sheet metal similar to the material used on the arch in St. Louis. Everyone could see that water tower for 10 or more miles away. It would be the envy of other teams and fans as they visited and flew over Green Bay for games.
In the future, each NFL team that has won a trophy could also add a Lombardi Trophy water tower to the landscape of their downtowns. For now, just building one would be the perfect way to do something on a large scale to match the size and importance of the Packers' 100th anniversary.
Thanks for the suggestion, Rob. We're very excited about our 100th anniversary and have been working on the plans for quite a while. Although we haven't finalized all the plans yet, some of our initial concepts include a traveling Packers exhibit, a video, and a book, all commemorating our 100th season, which takes place in 2018. With regard to the 5-10 story tall water tower in the shape of the Lombardi Trophy, I like the idea but question how challenging it would be to build a structure that size and whether the municipalities would be able to work with us on a project like this. We're very proud of the 55-foot replica of the Lombardi Trophy in the American Family Insurance lobby, here at Lambeau Field. It was a challenging process to build and chrome that trophy, and I can only imagine what it would be like to build a 10-story water tower trophy.
A question from Dru
I think many fans would prefer it if the offseason schedule came out sooner, to include Family Night and open practices. I no longer live in Wisconsin and must plan several months in advance to attend these events. Since last year we have been trying to plan to attend Family Night this year, but still there is no date. At this point we will most likely not be able to attend. The later in the year it gets, the more difficult it is to coordinate with work, family, etc. I think this will become a more difficult problem for out-of-state fans once Titletown is completed. Thanks, Go Pack Go!
Thanks, Dru. I am often asked by fans why we can't release the offseason schedule sooner. I know that people are anxious to determine when they can travel to Green Bay for training camp or open practices. It really all depends on the release of the regular and preseason schedules. Once the schedule comes out, we are able to determine when we want to start training camp and set the practice dates. I know it is a source of frustration, and we will do our best to get it out as soon as possible after the schedule is released by the league.