OPINION: Gutekunst should learn from Thompson's mistakes, establ - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

OPINION: Gutekunst should learn from Thompson's mistakes, establish better relationship with fans


You're not alone. We're all wondering what will happen now that Ted Thompson is out and Brian Gutekunst takes over as the Packers general manager.

The biggest hope among fans is that Gutekunst will take a much more proactive approach in free agency and use all available avenues to better the Packers roster. He said Monday he would do so, but words are words. His actions - starting this March - will do the real talking.

Here's another change we should all hope for: More accountability and a better, more honest relationship with the fans - built through the local media.

During his 13 years in Green Bay, Ted Thompson was notoriously shy when it came to speaking to reporters.

Don't just take my word for it - team president Mark Murphy said it himself last week. Murphy joked that Thompson enjoys dealing with the media "about as much as a root canal."

"It's nothing personal, he doesn't enjoy dealing with you," Murphy said earnestly to reporters at his news conference on January 2. "If he had his way, (he would) never have any interaction with the media."

All jokes aside, that is funny because it's true. Thompson didn't even show up to his own "retirement" press conference on January 2 when the Packers announced he would transition into a new role.

Thompson would do interviews during the preseason - as is mandated by the league - but as soon as he submitted his finals cuts in early September, you wouldn't hear from him again until the NFL Combine in February.

I've diligently followed the Packers for my entire life and covered them for four years now. Not as long or as often as some, but long enough to realize that this lack of availability caused a legitimate problem for the Packers. It forced head coach Mike McCarthy to have to answer for Thompson, often times about questions that are outside of his realm of decision making.

There were two perfect examples this past October. Thompson never addressed the mysterious departure of failed free agent acquisition Martellus Bennett, nor did he discuss the possibility of signing a veteran quarterback after Aaron Rodgers got hurt.

McCarthy had to answer for him, and made negative national headlines after he was asked about bringing in a veteran QB, specifically Colin Kaepernick.

"Did you just listen to the question I just answered!?" McCarthy said angrily. "I have three years invested in Brett Hundley and two years invested in Joe Callahan. The quarterback room is exactly where it needs to be."

For what it's worth, McCarthy is fiercely loyal to his quarterbacks, and I think he truly meant what he said. But still, that's not a question he should have to answer alone.

He would likely be asked by the front office for his opinion on any high profile additions, but ultimately Ted Thompson is the only one who could make that call.

Last week, Murphy referred to Thompson as a "lightning rod" among fans. His failure to address concerns like these ultimately contributed to a lot of the backlash he received in his final years as the team's GM.

That brings us back to Gutekunst. When asked during his introductory news conference about doing additional interviews, he had this to say:

"I think I have a responsibility not only to the team and this organization, but to the Packer fans. A lot of times when there wasn't communication, there was perception. If we can communicate clearly, that'll take care of some of that."

That is a smart, well-thought out answer. The best thing someone ever told me as I was coming up in sports reporting was this: "You are not a fan, you are the eyes and the ears of the fans." We ask the questions you have to give you the answers you need.

Ted Thompson did a fantastic job in Green Bay. He's a sure-fire bet to make the Packers Hall of Fame one day. Yet, his tenure left more questions than answers in part because - for whatever reason - he rarely stood up to answer them.

I have the utmost respect for the Packers, and I have the utmost respect for Thompson, but to me, his misuse of the media was a missed opportunity.

Gutekunst - a self-described people person - has a chance to be just as successful, but much more revered, if he can build on Ted's many successes, and also learn from his mistakes.

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