Monday, January 28, 2008

Thanks, Mr. Harlan

Without much fanfare last week, the Chairman and CEO of the Packers -- Bob Harlan -- retired after 19 years at the helm of football's most storied franchise. As of today, Harlan officially becomes Chairman Emeritus and recently-hired Mark Murphy takes over as President and CEO. Harlan no doubt -- like the rest of us -- thought he'd go out with a trip to the Super Bowl and another Lombardi Trophy. The happy ending script didn't quite work out that way, as we all know.

But, think back for a bit, you longtime Packers fans, about what Harlan came into when he took on the job: a history in the 70s and 80s of mostly mediocre teams, so-so coaches, player scandals, an aging stadium generating revenue for the team only a handful of days a year, a split "home" schedule between Milwaukee and Green Bay...well, it wasn't a great situation.

Harlan enters the picture. He hires Ron Wolf as GM. Wolf hires head coach Mike Holmgren and trades for a young and unknown bench-riding QB in Atlanta by the name of Brett Favre, and also picks up the most highly prized free agent of the time, Reggie White. Harlan makes the call to return all home games to Lambeau Field, while still accommodating the loyal Milwaukee fan base who had helped keep the franchise afloat in other difficult times. He begins to plan for a way to make Lambeau Field a year-round venue that can generate income for the team day in and day out to keep it competitive for years to come.

During Harlan's tenure, the Pack had 13 straight years of above .500 football, and went to the playoffs 11 times, including the Super Bowl twice with one Super Bowl win. The Packers only had three losing seasons during Harlan's reign. Can you say "turn around"???

That's the Reader's Digest version of things. There is much, much more. Harlan told his own story in the book he authored this past year entitled, "Green and Golden Moments: Bob Harlan and the Green Bay Packers." You can get it from the Packers Pro Shop by clicking here.

You can read an exit interview of sorts with Harlan about his time with the Pack here.

In the long history of the Green Bay Packers, many individuals have played key roles on and off the field. But it could be argued that Bob Harlan has played as critical and as an important a role as any. So, for that and everything else, and for representing the Packers with such class, thank you, Mr. Harlan. See you soon in the Packers Hall of Fame.