GREEN BAY — New Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst wants his friend and colleague Eliot Wolf to stay in Green Bay.
But Gutekunst also doesn’t want to hold Wolf back if he wants to pursue other opportunities after losing out to Gutekunst for the Packers’ GM job.
“I would envision him kind of being a right-hand man to me,” Gutekunst said of Wolf on Monday following his introductory news conference. “We have a great relationship. I’m very fond of the person, and the scout is excellent. I’ve told him that. I really want him to be here. But I also know he has other opportunities, and I wouldn’t hold him back from that because I care about him.”
Gutekunst, Wolf and Russ Ball were the Packers’ three internal candidates to replace outgoing general manager Ted Thompson, who is transitioning to a role as a senior advisor to football operations. While the Packers announced Gutekunst’s promotion to GM from director of player personnel and Ball was promoted to executive vice president/director football operations, the team did not announce any promotion for Wolf, whose current title is director of football operations.
Gutekunst and Wolf have become close friends during their time working in the Packers’ personnel department — multiple times Monday Gutekunst referred to Wolf as “E” — and Gutekunst believes Wolf staying on would bolster the department.
Wolf is under contract for this season, so Gutekunst and the Packers could technically prevent him from leaving for any job that was not a GM position. But while saying he would look at it on a case-by-case basis, Gutekunst said he did not want to prevent Wolf from moving on if he chose to do so.
“We’ve been talking throughout this whole thing,” Gutekunst said. “He’s a friend, and we do have a very good relationship. I talked to him multiple times and will continue to and see where it goes.”
Asked what the timeline is for getting a decision from Wolf, Gutekunst replied, “That’s up to Eliot — and I’ll kind of keep that between me and ‘E’ — but I will say with all those kind of things, you would hope that we can move forward quicker than slow.”
If Wolf isn’t offered a GM job elsewhere in the league this offseason, he could leave to join two other ex-Packers executives in Cleveland. The Browns hired John Dorsey as their GM last month, and Dorsey hired former Packers senior personnel executive Alonzo Highsmith last week.
Gutekunst said he’d like to get Wolf “more involved in the college side” of the personnel department and have him have “a broader approach” after Wolf has spent the majority of his scouting career in pro personnel.
This marked the second time that Gutekunst and Wolf interviewed for the same job. Last year, they both interviewed for the San Francisco 49ers’ GM job, and while Gutekunst was reportedly a finalist, he removed his name from consideration shortly before the team hired FOX Sports analyst and ex-NFL safety John Lynch, who had no prior personnel experience.
“Me and Eliot have worked together so long, you know? We both have dads (who worked in football) and we’re friends, we’re colleagues, we’ve worked together a long time,” Gutekunst said. “Whenever you’re interviewing for the same job, I guess that’s a little awkward. We went through it last year with San Francisco, and it’s weird and you talk about it and laugh about it.”
A league source said coach Mike McCarthy has finished interviewing the team’s three internal candidates for the defensive coordinator job — cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt, safeties coach Darren Perry and linebackers coach Winston Moss — and is ready to move forward with external candidates.
ESPN reported McCarthy is set to interview ex-Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine today. Pettine worked under Rex Ryan for much of his career as an assistant, serving as the New York Jets’ defensive coordinator from 2009 through 2012 and the Buffalo Bills’ defensive coordinator in 2013.
Meanwhile, a league source said McCarthy remains interested in now ex-Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who was set to become a free agent at 12:01 am Tuesday, when his contract with the Bears was set to officially expire.
Fangio, who has had a defense in the NFL’s top 10 in five of the last seven years, turned around the Bears defense this season (No. 10) and interviewed for Chicago’s head-coaching position last week. The Bears hired Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy on Monday.
Fangio, who served as ex-Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers’ coordinator during Capers’ head-coaching jobs with Carolina (1995-’98) and Houston (2002-’05), runs a similar scheme that would be a good fit for the Packers’ existing personnel.
The Packers made no announcement about Joe Philbin, who NFL sources said is set to join the Packers’ offensive staff.