The Stamp of Ron Wolf on the NFL

Ron Wolf

In 2015, Ron Wolf, along with Bill Polian, became the second and third general managers ever to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The first general manager to get that honor was Jim Finks. All three made it to Canton because of the masterful way they could evaluate talent.

Wolf started out his career in the NFL under Al Davis of the Oakland Raiders at the age of 25 in 1963, first as a scout and then as a key member of the front office of the Raiders. Wolf helped Oakland select a number of very talented players in the draft during that time, including Gene Upshaw, Art Shell, Ken Stabler and Jack Tatum. Each of those players had key roles for the Raiders as Oakland won Super Bowl XI in 1976.

Wolf left Oakland in 1975, moving across the country to Florida to head football operations for the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Wolf drafted players like Lee Roy Selmon, Doug Williams and Ricky Bell—three players who helped lead the Bucs to the NFC title game in 1979.

Wolf was not around to see the success of the Bucs come to fruition, as he resigned from the Bucs in 1978 and returned to work with his mentor Davis. Wolf stayed on with the Raiders until 1990. Once again, Wolf was able to bring in some more talent to the team, adding players such as Marcus Allen, Howie Long and Matt Millen, as the Raiders ended up winning two more Super Bowl titles in that time frame.

Wolf then spent a year with the New York Jets front office before he was hired by Bob Harlan to run the front office in Green Bay. Wolf’s first move was to fire then head coach Lindy Infante and then hire Mike Holmgren as his new head coach.

Wolf also brought on a guy named Ted Thompson to help out in the scouting department for the Packers. One of Thompson’s first jobs was to review tape of a player the Packers were thinking about possibly acquiring via a trade. Thompson looked at tape of the player and gave his endorsement.

The player’s name was Brett Favre. Wolf obviously made the trade, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Wolf used the draft to build the Packers during his time in Green Bay, but he also used trades and free agency fairly often to get excellent talent as well. The Favre trade was certainly huge, but Wolf was also able to get nice talent in the trade market—acquiring players such as Keith Jackson, Eugene Robinson and Ahman Green—over the years.

Wolf also signed arguably the best free agent in NFL history when he signed Reggie White in 1993. Wolf used free agency quite extensively, and he also signed players such as Mike Prior, Sean Jones, Don Beebe, Santana Dotson, Desmond Howard and Andre Rison.

Wolf oversaw 10 drafts with the Packers, and although he hit on some pretty good talent in early rounds—Wayne Simmons, Aaron Taylor, Craig Newsome, Darren Sharper, Vonnie Holliday, Bubba Franks and Chad Clifton are examples—it was Wolf’s expertise in the mid-to-late rounds that brought a boatload of talent to the team.

Robert Brooks, Edgar Bennett, Mark Chmura, Earl Dotson, Dorsey Levens, William Henderson, Brian Williams, Antonio Freeman, Adam Timmerman, Tyrone Williams, Keith McKenzie, Mike McKenzie, Donald Driver, Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila and Mark Tauscher are prime examples of his drafting prowess in those rounds.

All of this led to one of the greatest periods in the history of the Packers. Between 1992 and 2000, the Packers had a 92-52 record (a .639 winning percentage), won three NFC Central titles, had seven straight winning seasons, six straight playoff appearances, appeared in three consecutive NFC Championship Games (winning two of them) and were featured in two consecutive Super Bowls—winning Super Bowl XXXI.

Holmgren and Wolf

The Packers were also 60-12 at home (a .833 winning percentage) during that time.

Compare that to the period before Wolf arrived in Green Bay. From 1983-1991, the Packers were 57-85-1 (a .402 winning percentage). That includes no division titles or playoff appearances. The Packers were also 31-40-1 at home (a .438 winning percentage).

Besides all the wins that came because of Wolf’s skills in the front office, Wolf hired a number of key members to his staff, who later went on to more prominent roles.

One was Thompson, who has been the general manager of the Packers since 2005. Since Thompson hired Mike McCarthy in 2006, the team has gone 104-55-1 during that time in the regular season, plus has won five NFC North titles, made eight playoff appearances (including seven straight times currently) and also won Super Bowl XLV.

Like Thompson, Wolf also hired John Dorsey in 1992. Dorsey is currently the general manager of the Kansas City Chiefs. In 1993, Wolf hired John Schneider. Schneider is currently the general manager of the Seattle Seahawks. Schneider and his Hawks won Super Bowl XLVIII.

In 1994, Wolf hired both Scott McCloughan and Reggie McKenzie. McCloughan is currently the general manager of the Washington Redskins, while McKenzie is general manager of the Oakland Raiders.

And in the not too distant future, another Wolf might be making a name for himself in the NFL. That would be Eliot Wolf, Ron’s son.

The younger Wolf is now the director of football operations for the Packers after getting another promotion back in March. That promotion was the fourth for Eliot and his new position has the same title that Schneider, Dorsey and McKenzie held in Green Bay before they became NFL general managers.

When Eliot first joined the Packers in 2004 at age 22, he worked in the same department Thompson did when he was first hired. But even before then, Eliot had accumulated quite a resume.

Eliot first started working with his dad Ron unofficially at age 10, watching film. He then started working the NFL draft and has now been part of 24 consecutive drafts for the Packers. Eliot has also been to 24 consecutive NFL Scouting Combines.

In addition to that, Eliot had nine NFL scouting internships—five with the Packers, three with the Atlanta Falcons and one with the Seattle Seahawks.

Eliot basically grew up in Green Bay, as he was nine years old when his dad joined the Packers. Eliot graduated from Notre Dame Academy in Green Bay before going to Miami (Fla.) for college, where he graduated in just three-and-a-half years.

Eliot and Ron Wolf

Time will tell whether Eliot Wolf will become the next general manager for the Packers at some point, or whether that assignment will take place somewhere else.

If Eliot is anything like his father Ron, then he will go one to have a magnificent front office career in the NFL.

Yes, Ron Wolf had the innate ability to scout and acquire outstanding talent. Wolf also made excellent hires, both in the front office and also to the coaching staff of his teams for the most part.

After Holmgren left the Packers and joined the Seahawks, Wolf hired Ray Rhodes to replace him. After watching the Packers finish 8-8 under Rhodes in 1999, Wolf quickly realized that he erred in that particular hire and Mike Sherman was then hired as the new head coach in Green Bay.

Sherman didn’t take the Packers to another Super Bowl, but his teams were 57-39 during his tenure in Green Bay, which included three divisional titles and four playoff appearances.

Bottom line, Wolf brought a winning culture to every team he worked for. And winning is the name of the game in the NFL.

Which is why Ron Wolf has a bust in Canton.

5 thoughts on “The Stamp of Ron Wolf on the NFL

  1. Pingback: Brett Favre: The Road to Canton | Bob Fox

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