Last week on The Pack Recap, we covered Bob Harlan and the incredible legacy he left with Green Bay. This week, we will cover perhaps his most important personnel decision. The hiring of Ron Wolf.
Wolf began his career in 1963 as a member of Al Davis’ Raiders. Serving as a scout in two different stints with the team, Wolf was instrumental in drafting several Hall of Fame players, helping the Raiders reach three Super Bowls, winning two. Of his time with Davis, Wolf said: “He took me and trained me. And it was a wonderful, wonderful time for someone like myself.” He said that the scouting department and the coaching staff would study the teams throughout the AFL for hours, then at the end of the night determine who were the best and who were the poorest. And that was how Al Davis trained them.
In between his stints with the Raiders, Wolf was hired by the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Without the current advantages afforded expansion teams, Wolf built from the ground up. But over the first two seasons, the Bucs only recorded a 2-26 record, losing their first 26 games in team history. Wolf said, “Somebody needed to bite the bullet. It was determined that I would.” After his departure, the Bucs made the NFC Championship game with the foundation Wolf had built. One of those players was Lee Roy Selmon, whom he called the best player he ever drafted.
After feeling he couldn’t contribute anything else to the Raiders, Wolf stepped away and took a position with the Jets. It was there that Wolf became enamored with a strong armed quarterback, naming him the best player in the draft. The problem was that the Jets didn’t own a first round pick, and a potential deal with the Cardinals fell through. Wolf watched as his quarterback was drafted the pick before his.
It turned out to be a blessing, as Wolf was hired by Green Bay on November 27th, 1991. Four days later, the Packers played the Falcons. Wolf was determined to trade for Atlanta’s third stringer, a gunslinger by the name of Brett Favre. At the conclusion of the 91 season, Wolf fired Lindy Infante and hired Mike Holmgren, the offensive coordinator of the 49ers. With his coach in place, Wolf pulled the trigger and sent a first round pick to Atlanta for Favre. Wolf overruled a failed physical and acquired Favre. In the third week of the 92 season, Favre took over and proved Wolf right for 16 seasons after. It was the biggest move of Wolf’s career. Of the trade, Wolf said: “I wouldn’t be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame if it wasn’t for a guy who wore #4. That did it. That turned the whole thing around.”
With his coach and quarterback in place, Wolf pulled off one of the biggest surprises in NFL history. Green Bay signed Reggie White before the 93 season, giving them a strong veteran leader on defense. Taking the next few seasons to acquire pieces, Wolf built a dominant defense around White and an unstoppable offense with Favre at the helm. In 1996, Green Bay posted a league best 13-3 record en route to a Super Bowl championship. They would reach the big game the year after, but fall short.
Wolf would never suffer a losing season as GM of the Packers. Green Bay posted the second best record in the NFL during his tenure, and changed perceptions about Green Bay. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2015, a year before the quarterback he took a chance on joined him. Wolf considered what he did in Green Bay as his greatest achievement.
“We resurrected a dead franchise.” And so they did. Thank you for reading.
The author would like to thank the following contributions:
Doug Farrar writing for SI 11-13-2015
Tim Van Vooren for Fox6now.com October 2019
Quotes by Ron Wolf from the book Ron Wolf and the Green Bay Packers by Michael Bauman.
Previous Pack Recaps: https://freely.express/2020/04/15/the-pack-recap/