More on the Packers "lost years"
Turns out I wasn't the only one thinking about the Green Bay Packers not-so-golden era, the one from Lombardi to Holmgren during which the team went from perennial champs to annual NFL doormats.
It was the topic of discussion at a forum at St. Norbert College this week, too, featuring former GM Ron Wolf and the man who hired him, team president Bob Harlan.
They remembered the Packers culture at the time, one that featured a strong board of directors that did the hiring, the firing and the approval of major trades. As unique as the Green Bay set-up was, with it's citizen owners and unique bylaws, it scared front-office talent away. The GM had to run things through the committee, which may have been fine in the 40's but wasn't the way to get things done in the 70's and 80's.
Continued mediocrity plus Green Bay's lack of glamor as the NFL's smallest town made it a modern Siberia to players who flat-out didn't want to play there. The Lambeau aura meant nothing to young college athletes who didn't know about the Ice Bowl or who Bart Starr was. There was a growing school of thought that the team as structured could no longer win in the modern NFL. Some thought the franchise should abandon Green Bay and drop permanent stakes in Milwaukee.
Then came Harlan, a culture change, Wolf, Holmgren and contemporary pro football success.
Harlan made sure that when Wolf came to town as GM that it would be Wolf calling all the shots, not the board of directors. Given free reign, one of the game's sharpest personnel men went about rebuilding the downtrodden franchise. Harlan checked the business landscape and made several key moves, none more important than the remodeling of Lambeau. It took a lot of convincing and door-to-door cajoling but he and others were able to convince Brown County voters that turning the stadium into a year-round destination would be good for both Green Bay and the Packers. A knowledgeable fan shudders to think where the team would be without the improvements.
The Packers remain competitive and business-savvy. Work continues on acquiring more land around Lambeau that the team can use for revenue streams, cash that doesn't have to be shared with other NFL teams. It pays salaries and allows Ted Thompson to spend as needed to keep proven players in Green and Gold.
One more part of the Packers saga that needs to be remembered, and perhaps emulated, by folks in Milwaukee as the city considers the fate of it's Bucks and it's place in modern professional sports.