(Photo courtesy of the Green Bay Packers)
Talk of Fame Network
Ron Wolf was one of the best talent evaluators in the history of pro football, so when he speaks people listen. And when Wolf, who was named to the Hall of Fame Class of 2015, told the Talk of Fame Network’s radio broadcast how he’d fix the Oakland Raiders – a team for which he worked – we not only listened.
We were intrigued by what he said.
“I think the situation with the Raiders is not entirely their fault,” he said, “and I’m talking about finding a place to play. They need an identity. There is no greater identity than the Oakland Raiders. When you hear of the Oakland Raiders you think of one person and one person only … and that’s Al Davis
“They’ve slipped considerably. (But) I think under (general manager) Reggie McKenzie you’re starting to see life pumped back into that franchise. He solved their cap room two or three years ago. He’s had two heckuva drafts. He got a quarterback and a pressure player on defense, both of which look as if they’re going to be dominant players in a very short period of time. He’s added a running back. In that sense they’re going to be OK.
“(But) you need time. You have to develop yourself. You can’t have that switch all the time of coaching staffs. That doesn’t help anybody.”
In all fairness, Wolf recommended McKenzie when the Raiders were looking for a GM. But he knows what he’s looking at and looking for.
After years of working with the Raiders, he took over a Green Bay Packers team that won .422 percent of its games, had five winning seasons, went to the playoffs twice and won one division championships in the 24 years before he arrived. In the 23 years since, the Packers have had 19 winning seasons, 17 playoff appearances, 11 division championships and a .619 winning percentage – including the league’s second-best record during Wolf’s reign.
What’s more remarkable is that the transformation happened almost overnight. Wolf got the right coach in Mike Holmgren. He made a shrewd trade for Brett Favre. He added the biggest free agent in history in pass rusher Reggie White. And he drafted wisely, gaining a reputation as the game’s best second-day drafter by finding guys like Adam Timmerman, Donald Driver, Mark Chmura and Doug Evans – all pro Bowlers -- in the later rounds.
“You just went with their ability to play the game,” he said, “and put all the other things aside (like) he’s got slow feet, he does this or he does that; he ran a 4.5 … You put all that aside and you draft football players. You get fortunate that people have allowed these guys to slip through.”
Wolf was more than fortunate. While he had Favre as his starter, he drafted Mark Brunell in the fifth round, Matt Hasselbeck and Aaron Brooks in the sixth and Ty Detmer in the ninth – quarterbacks who all went on to have productive careers, with Hasselbeck starting in Super Bowl XL.
“I firmly believe that if you don’t have a quarterback you’re in a lot of trouble,” he said. “So I always tried to make sure we covered ourselves at that position. It’s the fear of when you don’t have one … because I went through that experience in 1976 and ‘77 in Tampa Bay without a quarterback, and there wasn’t one that came through the draft either one of those years that lit it up. I always made an effort to protect myself in that area.”