GREEN BAY — The Green Bay Packers’ scouting department was at its best when Ted Thompson had some of the best lieutenants in the business. He built the 2010 Packers’ Super Bowl XLV-winning roster with the help of three men — John Schneider, John Dorsey and Reggie McKenzie — who would all go on to run their own personnel departments elsewhere.
General manager Brian Gutekunst hopes he’s put together a similarly strong power structure on the scouting staff that not only contains future GMs but will rebuild a roster that had some significant holes exposed during a 6-9-1 finish in 2018.
On Thursday, Gutekunst hired Milt Hendrickson as the team’s director of football operations, a title that puts him one rung below Gutekunst in the scouting department. Gutekunst also has two other trusted confidants high in the pecking order in co-directors of player personnel Jon-Eric Sullivan and John Wojciechowski, while Matt Malaspina is the team’s director of college scouting.
Gutekunst leaned particularly on Sullivan and Wojciechowski during his first year as GM, and the addition of Hendrickson should bolster the scouting department significantly.
“Those are two guys — they’re exceptionally important,” Gutekunst said last offseason when asked about the importance of putting together a strong scouting staff. “I know that those aren’t names a lot of guys have heard, but these guys — Woj has over 20 years of experience doing multiple things in this business, Jon-Eric has 15 years doing a lot of things. I feel really good about those two guys. Those guys have as much experience as the guys who left. People just don’t know them.”
And in Hendrickson, a former Pecatonica High School athlete who has known and been friends with Gutekunst since their time together at UW-La Crosse, Gutekunst now has a right-hand man who’s known him for more than two decades.
Hendrickson’s director of football operations title is the same one formerly held by Eliot Wolf under Thompson, before Thompson transitioned into a senior advisory role when Gutekunst was promoted to GM as his successor. Wolf, whom Gutekunst wanted to keep in Green Bay, left for the Cleveland Browns, where he joined Dorsey, the Browns’ GM, and veteran Packers personnel executive Alonzo Highsmith. Wolf has the title of assistant general manager with the Browns.
Gutekunst, who is at the Senior Bowl practices in Mobile, Ala., was not quoted in the team’s PR release announcing Hendrickson’s hiring.
Hendrickson is entering his 15th season in the NFL and first with the Packers, with whom he was a training-camp intern in the summer of 2004 — an internship Gutekunst helped him secure. After that, Hendrickson joined the Baltimore Ravens, serving as a player personnel assistant in 2005 before working in various scouting capacities before being promoted to national scout after the 2016 NFL draft.
Hendrickson was a three-sport star at Pecatonica High School and was inducted into the school’s athletic Hall of Fame in 2016. He was an All-State Line League selection in football, basketball and baseball, a captain on all three teams, and graduated as Pecatonica’s all-time leading scorer in basketball.
Hendrickson played both baseball and football at Luther College after that, then earned his master’s degree in exercise and sports science/sports administration at UW-La Crosse, where he met Gutekunst.
“We have a very tight-knit group here right now and we love that,” Gutekunst said last season. “My responsibility is the Green Bay Packers and make sure this club is at its best. But at the same time, I’m a big believer in people and have the confidence that if we lose guys, and it’s good for them and their families to go somewhere, that we can replace them and move on. I’ve got a network of scouts from being in this business for a long time that if we have to replace them, we can do that.”
New Packers coach Matt LaFleur made official three assistant-coach hirings that had been widely reported: offensive line coach Adam Stenavich, tight ends coach Justin Outten and inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti.
It’s noteworthy that Olivadotti’s title is inside linebackers coach, as it was unclear initially amid news reports whether he would coach all linebackers or just inside linebackers. That means LaFleur likely has another position coach to hire on the defensive side of the ball, where the team announced two weeks ago that defensive coordinator Mike Pettine will return.
Previous inside linebackers coach Patrick Graham, who also served as the defensive run-game coordinator, is expected to leave to join the Miami Dolphins as their defensive coordinator under Brian Flores, the New England Patriots’ defensive play-caller. Flores cannot officially take that job until after Super Bowl LIII, as the Patriots are set to face the Los Angeles Rams in Atlanta on Feb. 3.
The Packers parted ways with defensive passing-game coordinator Joe Whitt and defensive assistant Scott McCurley earlier this month, according to league sources. ESPN.com reported that defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery is expected to return, as is secondary coach Jason Simmons.
Olivadotti coached inside linebackers for the Washington Redskins for the past five seasons.
Outten was an offensive assistant for the Atlanta Falcons the past two seasons and worked with LaFleur with the Falcons in 2016, when LaFleur was the team’s quarterbacks coach and Outten was an offensive intern. He replaces Brian Angelichio, who coached the Packers’ tight ends the past three years.
Stenavich, a Marshfield native who spent part of the 2006 season on the Packers’ practice squad and went to training camp in Green Bay in 2007, was the San Francisco 49ers’ assistant offensive line coach the past two seasons. He replaces veteran offensive line coach James Campen, who was not retained and is now the Cleveland Browns’ associate head coach/offensive line coach.
The Packers did not announce the hiring of quarterbacks coach Luke Getsy, even though his hiring has been widely reported and league sources confirmed he is returning after spending the 2018 season as Mississippi State’s offensive coordinator. Getsy was the Packers’ wide receivers coach in 2016 and 2017 after two years as an offensive quality-control assistant.
Jason Wilde covers the Packers for ESPN Wisconsin. Listen to him with former Packers and Badgers offensive lineman Mark Tauscher weekdays from 9-11 on “Wilde & Tausch” on your local ESPN station.
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