GREEN BAY, Wis. — One of the NFL’s model franchises for stability and success, the Green Bay Packers have embarked on an offseason of change after missing the playoffs and finishing with a losing record for the first time since 2008.
Ted Thompson is out after 13 years as general manager but will remain as senior adviser of football operations. President/CEO Mark Murphy said a search for a replacement has started.
This should be an attractive opening since the Packers aren’t far off from returning to contender status. Two-time NFL MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers is expected to return to full health next season following a collarbone injury.
“I think with our organization, the success we’ve had in the past, I think very realistically we can win Super Bowls in the near future,” Murphy said Tuesday at Lambeau Field. “And it’s now on us to get the right people in place and move forward.”
The Packers have several in-house candidates. But whoever replaces Thompson will have Mike McCarthy under contract through 2019, after Murphy said the coach was given a one-year extension during the season. The extension prevents McCarthy from having lame-duck status with a new GM.
“Kind of like Ted, the two of them together have had a great run. We have all the confidence in the world in Mike,” Murphy said.
The Packers’ Super Bowl victory in 2010 was the highlight of Thompson’s 13-year tenure, which also included four NFC championship game appearances. The Packers abided by a “draft-and-develop” philosophy on Thompson’s watch.
Bengals give coach Marvin Lewis 2-year extension
CINCINNATI — Coach Marvin Lewis got a two-year contract extension Tuesday, providing more chances to try to get the Cincinnati Bengals that playoff victory that has eluded him for 15 seasons.
The agreement came after a second straight losing season and two days of discussions with owner Mike Brown. Lewis has the second-longest active coaching tenure in the NFL, behind Bill Belichick’s 18 seasons with New England.
Unlike Belichick, who has won five Super Bowls and made two other appearances in the title game, Lewis is 0-7 in the playoffs, the worst coaching record in NFL history. The Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since the 1990 season, the sixth-longest streak of futility in league history.
Paul Brown Stadium was half-empty for the final home game, an indication fans had given up on the team and were hoping for change.
Instead, Brown decided to stay the course and keep Lewis, who wanted more say over the coaching staff and the roster if he stayed.
Brown’s aversion to change won out.
“Marvin has made significant contributions during his time here,” Brown said in a statement.
Gruden tells paper: ‘I hope I’m a candidate’ for Raiders job
ALAMEDA, Calif. — Jon Gruden hopes he’s a candidate to return for a second stint as coach of the Oakland Raiders and believes a final decision will be made next week.
Gruden made his most specific comments about the opening in Oakland in an interview Tuesday with the Bay Area News Group . The Raiders fired coach Jack Del Rio on Sunday following a disappointing six-win season
“My understanding is they’re interviewing candidates this week and they’re going to let everybody know sometime early next week or whenever they make their decision,” Gruden told the paper.
When asked specifically if he was a candidate, Gruden replied: “Well, I think I am being considered, yes. I hope I’m a candidate.”
The Raiders are not commenting on the search beyond a statement issued Sunday night from owner Mark Davis thanking Del Rio for his tenure.
Gruden spent four seasons as coach in Oakland from 1998-2001. After leading the Raiders to 8-8 records his first two years, Gruden helped the team reach the AFC title game following the 2000 season and got Oakland back into the playoffs the following season.
Gruden’s tenure ended shortly after the “Tuck Rule” loss to the New England Patriots when he was traded the following month to Tampa Bay for two first-round draft picks, two second-rounders and $8 million.
Gruden beat the Raiders in the Super Bowl in his first season with the Buccaneers but didn’t win another playoff game for Tampa Bay in his final six seasons. He has a 95-81 career record.
Gruden has spent the past nine seasons working as an announcer for ESPN and is scheduled to work the playoff game Saturday in Kansas City between the Chiefs and Tennessee Titans. ESPN first reported the likelihood of Gruden returning to Oakland on the eve of the season finale that Oakland lost.
Del Rio was fired following the 30-10 defeat to the Chargers, leading to the current search.
Oregon State RB Ryan Nall will enter the NFL draft
CORVALLIS, Ore. — Oregon State running back Ryan Nall has decided to declare for the NFL draft with a year of eligibility remaining.
Nall rushed for 2,216 yards during his career, ranked eighth on the Beavers’ career list. He ran for 24 touchdowns (seventh) and had nine 100-yard rushing games (seventh). He also had 56 catches for 563 yards and four touchdowns.
“When I was recruited four years ago, I was fortunate in knowing that I was going to be in the best hands both academically and athletically,” he said in a statement released Tuesday. “My time at Oregon State has been a blessing — both on and off the field — as the memories that I have shared with my teammates, coaches, and Beaver Nation will be with me forever.”
A native of Sandy, Oregon, Nall was a standout at Portland’s Central Catholic High School and was recruited to Oregon State by then-coach Mike Riley.
Nall, who was on track to graduate after the winter term, ran for 810 yards and eight touchdowns this season. He also caught 27 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns.
Happ’s 28 points lead way, Wisconsin beats Indiana 71-61
MADISON, Wis. — Ethan Happ had 28 points in one of his best all-around efforts of the season, and undermanned Wisconsin overcame another injury to beat Indiana 71-61 on Tuesday night.
Happ hit 11 of 17 shots, adding nine rebounds, four steals and two blocks for the Badgers (9-7, 2-1 Big Ten). They won their fifth straight game despite being without starting guard Brevin Pritzl, who was scratched 90 minutes before tipoff with a head injury.
Brad Davison added 14 points for Wisconsin, which extended its winning streak over the Hoosiers (8-7, 1-2) in Madison to 16 games.
Collin Hartmann led Indiana with a career-high 18 points, hitting 4 of 8 from behind the arc off the bench. Robert Johnson added 14 points and five assists.
But Indiana had no answer for the 6-foot-10 Happ, Wisconsin’s athletic, do-it-all forward.
After trailing by three at halftime, the Badgers took over slowly and led by about 10 for most of the last five minutes. Happ muscled his way around three defenders for an offensive rebound and putback for a 62-51 lead with 4:34 left.
Happ added four assists, including a pass out of the post to an open Davison on the wing for a nine-point lead with 6:51 left. Indiana’s Josh Newkirk slipped on the other end with the ball for a turnover to camp the momentum-swinging stretch for Wisconsin.
Hartman had 13 points in the first half to help Indiana take a 33-30 lead at the break. But the Hoosiers ended up falling to 0-4 this season on the road.