Green Bay Packers: John Dorsey

Each week, readers are invited to submit questions about the Green Bay Packers via Twitter using the hashtag #PackersMail. In the final regular-season edition, let's address some of the hot topics heading into Sunday's finale against the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field:

Demovsky: No question about it. If you think back to Eddie Lacy at this time last year, he had that sprained ankle that dogged him off and on for the entire month of December. He even missed the entire second half of the Week 16 game against the Steelers and then failed to reach 100 yards in either the finale against the Bears or the playoff loss to the 49ers. He was clearly worn down. He'll end up playing about the same number of snaps (or possibly even a few more) this season, but he should be in better shape for the playoffs than he was last season, barring a setback on Sunday against the Lions.

Demovsky: That would be a solid argument. Go back and watch the tape of the Week 3 game in Detroit, and you'll see how the Lions' front dominated. They have to do a better job of controlling Ndamukong Suh on the inside and the Lions' ends on the outside, and they know it based on some of their comments this week. That's not just on the offensive line but the tight ends as well. Richard Rodgers' blocking was atrocious in that game. The Packers believe he's much better now. If the Packers can run the ball against that front, it will open up all kinds of possibilities for Aaron Rodgers.

Demovsky: This might be the time for the Packers to use more starters on special teams. In fact, last week, we finally saw guard T.J. Lang back on the field goal protection unit. He had not played there since he sprained his ankle while blocking on an extra point in Week 8. As far as the return game goes, perhaps there was some foreshadowing when receiver Randall Cobb was named a special teams captain last week. Cobb has been a part-time punt returner, but this might be the time we see him on kickoff returns, too. DuJuan Harris hasn't offered anything special on kickoffs, and coach Mike McCarthy said this week, "I think we have a chance to improve here down the stretch. And when you play in the winter months up here, this is when the return game has to factor." Former Packers coach Mike Holmgren used to use players like Antonio Freeman and Robert Brooks as kick returners in the playoffs even though they rarely did it during the regular season.

Demovsky: On the general manager side of things, that's not a surprise given the attrition in Ted Thompson's office after losing John Schneider to Seattle, Reggie McKenzie to Oakland and John Dorsey to Kansas City over the last five years. But there's another crop of up-and-comers in the Packers' personnel office that will get their shot at GM jobs soon. Don't be surprised to hear Eliot Wolf, Alonzo Highsmith and Brian Gutekunst mentioned for GM jobs. On the coaching side of things, there may not be any head coaches in waiting but plenty who could get coordinator jobs -- that is if their contracts allow them to leave. McCarthy can block any of them from being interviewed if they aren't in the final year of their contract.
Ted ThompsonAP Photo/Mike RoemerUnder the direction of general manager Ted Thompson, the Green Bay Packers have maintained stability in the front office.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A month ago, Ted Thompson looked –- and sounded –- worn out.

In his annual pre-draft session with reporters, his speech was slower and more deliberate than usual, prompting whispers about his health and questions about how much longer he might continue as the Green Bay Packers' general manager.

Even Bob Harlan, the former Packers president and the man who hired Thompson in 2005, noticed a difference.

"I did see him on TV a couple of times where he seemed down, and I don't know if it was just exhaustion from the preparation for [the draft] and all the travel that he goes through because he just grinds all the time," Harlan said. "He's either in that room looking at video, or he's on the road."

At age 61, could Thompson have been showing signs that he was nearing the end of a successful run as general manager that has included one Super Bowl title?

Those close to him did not think so at the time, even when Thompson was forced to miss the NFL annual meetings in March because of an undisclosed personal matter. And they do not think so now, especially after he appeared energized following the draft.

So when Thompson joked a week after the draft that he’s "just getting started," the Packers should hope there is more than just a shred of truth to his typically dry humor.

In many ways, Thompson is the key to keeping the Packers' successful leadership team intact.

Consider what happened when Thompson's mentor, Ron Wolf, retired in 2001: The Packers had a coach in Mike Sherman they wanted to keep. Harlan feared that if he went outside for a general manager, he might lose Sherman, so he added the GM role to Sherman's responsibilities. Four years later, it had become apparent it was too much for him, prompting Harlan to bring back Thompson, who had followed Mike Holmgren to Seattle and was the Seahawks' director of player personnel. Thompson and Sherman worked together for one season before Thompson fired him and hired coach Mike McCarthy.

All the while, some of quarterback Brett Favre's prime years passed without even reaching another NFC Championship Game during Sherman's tenure (2000-05).

It's not unreasonable to think the same problems could befall McCarthy and quarterback Aaron Rodgers if Thompson were to walk away anytime soon.

"That poses a problem; there's no doubt about it," Harlan said. "I guess because I saw it happen twice –- when Ron came in and Lindy [Infante] was here [as the coach] and with Ted, who tried very hard to make it work with Mike Sherman –- I know it can go downhill in a hurry. It is very difficult if the general manager cannot select his own coach."

No doubt, that's why current Packers president Mark Murphy indicated earlier this month that before any contract extension will be done for McCarthy, Thompson’s situation will be taken care of first.

Like McCarthy, Thompson has two more years left on a contract he signed after the Packers won Super Bowl XLV. Thompson would not say how much longer he intends to work but added that he "wouldn't anticipate doing anything different."

When Harlan hired Thompson, he received no assurances of how long Thompson would stay on in the role, but Harlan considered Thompson -- who has never been married and does not have children – to be all football, all the time.

"I had watched him for all of those years when he was working for Ron in Green Bay, and his life was just football then as I'm sure it was in Seattle, too," Harlan said. "Ron was 53 when I hired him [in 1991], and I was shocked when he wanted to leave so early, but I understood. Frankly, what I was trying to do was make the move on Ted before it was time for me to go so that I could be sure football was good hands."

And Harlan's last major act as president did just that. Of the 53 players on the Packers’ roster for Super Bowl XLV, 49 of them were acquired by Thompson, whose draft-and-develop philosophy has kept the Packers competitive on an annual basis.

If Murphy has a succession plan in mind for the GM job, he has not shared it. Perhaps he could try to lure former Packers scouts-turned-general managers John Schneider or John Dorsey back to town, but it might be tough to get Schneider out of Seattle or Dorsey out of Kansas City, where both have strong support from their owners.

It's possible he could maintain continuity by promoting vice president of player finance Russ Ball or one of Thompson's chief scouts –- Brian Gutekunst, Alonzo Highsmith or Eliot Wolf.

Some believe Murphy might hire a search firm -– as he has done with several other key front-office positions -– to identify candidates.

Or maybe, if the Packers are fortunate, Thompson will keep going strong.

One person close to him said recently that he does not see Thompson leaving anytime soon, unless the Packers win another Super Bowl, and that all the recent talk about him retiring "got him going."

When told of that, Harlan said, "I would think he'd at least go to 65, and then I think probably what he's going to do is become an area scout. He told me a long time ago that someday he might just go back to Texas and just be an area scout.

"Maybe he'd do it for the Packers. I would be surprised if he didn't work until at least 65. His health is good, and this is everything for him."
A roundup of what's happening on the Green Bay Packers' beat.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- In his first season as the Kanas City Chiefs general manager, former Packers personnel man John Dorsey was named the NFL's executive of the year by the Pro Football Writers of America.

Dorsey, 53, was hired a year ago to help revitalize the Chiefs, who were coming off a 2-14 season, and to work with newly-hired coach Andy Reid on the personnel end of things. The Chiefs went 11-5 and made the playoffs this past season. Dorsey ran the Chiefs' draft and helped engineer the trade that brought quarterback Alex Smith over from the 49ers.

He spent more than 20 years with the Packers and was director of football operations, one of the top positions under general manager Ted Thompson, before leaving for the Chiefs.

This past season was Dorsey's first as an NFL general manager.

“I learned that Ted Thompson was right when he told me, 'There are a lot of people who want that job, but when you sit in that seat, you'll realize how hot it is,'” Dorsey said according to the Kansas City Star. “Every day is a new challenge ... but it's not a job. It's what you live and dream for and the ultimate goal is to restore the pride of the Kansas City Chiefs. Allow those fans who so passionately wanted something ... that's what's neat about it. If you can make the fans proud, that's ultimately the bottom line.”

Dorsey isn't the only former Packers' personnel executive in the spotlight this week. John Schneider, who left Green Bay in 2010 to become the Seattle Seahawks general manager, has his team in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday.

In case you missed it on ESPN.com:
  • Our countdown of the plays that most shaped the Packers' season has reached No. 2. The top play, which should come as no surprise, will be revealed later on Friday.
  • Our analysis of the Packers' roster from top to bottom continued with the players ranked from 21 to 30. It included one rookie and two former first-round draft picks. We will break into the top 20 later on Friday.
Best of the rest:
  • At ESPNWisconsin.com, Jason Wilde wrote that kicker Mason Crosby said he won't try to repeat his 2013 season, which was his most successful. But rather, he will look at 2014 as another fresh start, just like he did last year.
  • In the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Weston Hodkiewicz wrote that the Packers will have to figure out how much value they place on the fullback position when it comes to deciding whether or not to bring back John Kuhn.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Lately, it seems like whenever a team goes looking for a general manager, their eyes turn toward the Packers.

In the last four years, three teams have plucked members of the Packers' personnel staff for GM hires. In 2010, the Seattle Seahawks hired John Schneider. In 2012, the Oakland Raiders hired Reggie McKenzie. And last year, the Kansas City Chiefs hired John Dorsey.

Could there be a fourth this year?

According to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, Packers senior personnel executive Alonzo Highsmith is on the radar of two teams, the Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, looking for new leadership in their scouting departments.

Highsmith is a Florida native and a University of Miami graduate. He has been with the Packers since 1999, when he was hired as an area scout. He was promoted to his current position in May 2012.

According to people around the league, it would not be surprising to see Highsmith or any of the other top-level scouts in the Packers' personnel department eventually get a chance at a general manager job. Director of college scouting Brian Gutekunst and director of pro personnel Eliot Wolf are also viewed as eventual GM candidates.

In case you missed it on ESPN.com:
  • Packers coach Mike McCarthy revealed that he thought this past season might have been his best team with the Packers had injuries not derailed it.
  • With the season in the rear-view mirror, it’s not too early to look at the positions of greatest need in the upcoming draft.
  • Kevin Greene was named one of 15 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Although he never played for the Packers, were he to be inducted it would have some meaning around these parts because he coaches Green Bay’s outside linebackers.
  • Here’s No. 7 on our list of the top-10 plays that shaped the Packers’ season. No. 6 will be posted later on Friday. The top five will appear next week.
Best of the rest:
  • In the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Weston Hodkiewicz looked at what the Packers might do with their center position going forward.
  • In the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Tyler Dunne wrote that it wasn’t the fact that the Packers’ safeties failed to intercept one pass this season that bothered position coach Darren Perry, but rather it was the overall quality of play from that position that wasn’t good enough.

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