Green Bay Packers: Ron Wolf finally gets his due


There are five people who should be credited in helping revitalize the Green Bay Packers in the early 1990s. Brett Favre and Reggie White were the marquee players of the culture change in Green Bay. Mike Holmgren was finally the coach the Packers had desperately needed since the Vince Lombardi days.

And Bob Harlan brought a vision and driving force that helped bring a Packers franchise back to prominence.

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A Harlan hiring really helped change the Packers culture … and we still feel it today.

The hiring of Ron Wolf drastically changed the fortune for the Green Bay Packers in the early ’90s and the organization still reaps the benefits from that deal today. If it weren’t for what Wolf did in Green Bay, it could be easily argued that the Packers may still be struggling to return to its prominence.

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Wolf will be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday, the highest honor anyone involved in the NFL could ever ask for. It’s a long time coming for the former general manager of the Packers, but voters for the Hall of Fame finally got it right. Wolf belongs among the greatest players, coaches, and other contributors to the NFL.

When you look at Wolf’s resume, it’s easy to see why he is entering the Hall. Wolf had an amazing eye in spotting talented players and building team’s rosters.  Wolf spent many years with the Oakland Raiders and he was a major piece of the puzzle that garnered their success in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s.

Wolf helped the Raiders draft players such as Ken Stabler, Gene Upshaw, Jack Tatum, Art Shell, Marcus Allen, Howie Long, and Matt Millen. He helped the Raiders win Super Bowls XI, XV and XVIII.

Due to his success with the Raiders, Wolf was an obvious choice to lead the new expansion team, Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1976. Tampa went winless its first 26 games of the season and he ended up only sticking through 1978.

Even though he didn’t stick around long enough to see the success Tampa would soon have, he was hugely instrumental in bringing in the players that would lead Tampa to the NFC Championship in 1979.

Wolf went back to the Raiders, and in 1990 was hired by the New York Jets. He only stuck around for two seasons. Then Packers president, Bob Harlan, knew that Wolf was the perfect man to bring the Green Bay Packers back to their former glory. Harlan hired Wolf late in the 1991 season and as they say, the rest is history.

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By now we know most of the stories about how Wolf changed the Packers franchise. He hired a new coach named Mike Holmgren who came from one of the winningest franchises in the San Francisco 49ers. Holmgren and Wolf would work together for seven years in Green Bay, making the playoffs in the last six seasons during their time together. Wolf and Holmgren would not have a single losing season together.

In fact, Wolf never had a losing season in Green Bay. His worst season was 1999, when he fired Holmgren’s replacement, Ray Rhodes, after one season after going 8-8.

Along with hiring a new coach in 1992, Wolf made one of the most lopsided trades in NFL history. At the time it looked like a ridiculously crazy trade that no one in their right mind would make if they were the general manager of the Packers. Wolf traded a first-round pick for a third-string quarterback named Brett Favre.

Do we really need to talk about what happened afterwards?

Then in 1993, Wolf brought in the most prized free agent at the time and one of the greatest players in NFL history. His name was Reggie White. Nobody should underestimate the selling job Wolf and Holmgren did to get White to Green Bay. Taking a player like White to Red Lobster to impress him and convince him to come to Green Bay? Talk about making the task of signing him a lot harder, but it worked.

White signed with the Packers and with the signing, it showed the rest of the NFL that Green Bay was a destination place for other free agents.

All the hard work paid off in the 1996 season, as the Packers would go on to win Super Bowl XXXI. The Packers would back to the Super Bowl the following season, but came up empty-handed. Those were the only Super Bowl appearances Wolf had with the Packers, but what he did with the franchise during his tenure with the Packers still resonates with how the team is run today.

Wolf brought back the mystique of the Packers franchise. He showed Green Bay is a winner and should be a place players want to play. The success the Packers are currently having is directly related to those five men mentioned earlier, but a lot of the credit goes to Wolf because of how he consistently built winners. Players want to play for winners and that’s all the Packers have done since Wolf first arrived in Green Bay.

Since 1992, the Packers have had only two losing seasons and neither was during Wolf’s tenure.

The Packers are currently lead by one of Wolf’s former disciples in general manager Ted Thompson and Wolf’s son Eliot is Thompson’s right-hand man. Wolf’s fingerprints are all over this franchise today and a lot of his philosophy is still practiced in that organization. Why wouldn’t anyone want to copy his model? It’s a winner’s model and it works.

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  • Shortly after Wolf retired from the Packers after the 2001 season, the Packers put his name in his own little corner on Lambeau’s façade. They didn’t include it with the other names, because those were specifically for players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But the Packers knew how important Wolf was to their franchise so they made an exception for him.

    Now, on Nov. 15, his name will be removed and added with the rest of the Pro Football Hall of Famers. Where it belongs.

    If Wolf didn’t get a second chance and didn’t become the general manager of the Green Bay Packers, he most likely wouldn’t be going into the Hall of Fame. What he did during his tenure with the Packers is the main reason why he is being honored on Saturday. No other general manager did what Wolf did.

    He took not only a team, but a franchise struggling for decades and instantly turned them into winners. Even over a decade after he retired from the Packers, his presence and his ideas are still strong throughout that franchise. Packers’ fans have a lot to be thankful for. After the dark ages of the ’70s and ’80s, Packers fans have been spoiled a bit with nothing but winning.

    Only two losing seasons since 1992. That’s because of Ron Wolf. The franchise, the city of Green Bay, and its fans owe a lot of gratitude to Ron Wolf. He finally gets the highest honor he deserves this weekend.

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