Eliot Wolf heads to Cleveland, aka Green Bay East


Mark Eckel


Ron Wolf and Bill Polian were two of the NFL’s great general managers a generation ago.

Both won Super Bowls — Wolf with the Green Bay Packers in 1996 and Polian in 2006 with the Indianapolis Colts. Both were also inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2015.

Polian was thrilled when his son, Chris, was given a chance to replace him as the Colts’ GM in 2009. And Wolf was always hopeful his son, Eliot, would be given a chance to follow in his footsteps in Green Bay.

“That would certainly be nice,” Ron Wolf said in a 2015 interview. “But hey, that’s not up to me.”

That opportunity was squashed earlier this week when Packers president Mark Murphy chose Brian Gutekunst over Eliot Wolf to be Green Bay’s new GM. And on Wednesday, Eliot Wolf chose to take his talents to Cleveland.

The Browns hired the younger Wolf as their new assistant general manager. Wolf, 35, joined the Packers in 2004 and has been their director of football operations since March, 2016.

Suddenly, Cleveland’s front office looks like Green Bay East.

John Dorsey, who worked for the Packers every year except one between 1991-2012, is the Browns new general manager. Alonzo Highsmith, who was Green Bay’s senior personnel executive since 2012, left last week to become Cleveland’s Vice President of Football Operations.

And now Wolf is heading to Cleveland, as well, where he’ll team with Dorsey and Highsmith to try turning around a franchise that is 4-44 in the last three seasons and went 0-16 in 2017.

While the Browns were winless last season, this is undoubtedly a major victory for their front office. Wolf also had an offer to join the Oakland Raiders’ personnel department or remain in Green Bay.

He chose Cleveland.

“That’s a pretty solid trio right there,” an NFL executive said on Wednesday of Dorsey, Wolf and Highsmith. “Getting Eliot kind of caps a nice month for Cleveland. Eliot’s still an up-and-comer, no matter what happened there in Green Bay.”

Eliot Wolf had spent much of the past quarter century around Packers headquarters.

At just 11 years old, Eliot would show up at least two days a week after school and join Ron in film sessions. He became a staple inside the Packers’ ‘War Room’ on draft day. And he was filing reports on players by the age of 14.

“I learned a ton from my Dad,” Wolf said in a 2005 interview. “I couldn’t even begin to describe how much. I wasn’t sitting around and asking a lot of things. I was learning more by osmosis. It was just invaluable, stuff I couldn’t even put into words. That said, I was luckier than most because it gave me a great head start.”

Eliot Wolf served eight NFL internships — four with Green Bay, three with Atlanta and one with Seattle — by the time he graduated from the University of Miami in 2003. And shortly thereafter, then-Packers G.M. Mike Sherman hired him as a pro personnel assistant when he was just 22.

“I have literally seen Eliot Wolf grow into this job,” Sherman said after hiring Wolf in 2004. “He has an eye for talent as well as a voice to communicate it. He will be an asset.”

Wolf served as a pro personnel assistant until 2008, was Green Bay’s assistant director of pro personnel from 2008-’10 and was named the Packers’ assistant director of player personnel in 2011. He worked as the director of pro personnel from 2012-’14 and became Green Bay’s director of player personnel in 2015.

“He has a passion,” Ron Wolf said of his son. “For passion and work ethic, he’ll get A’s in those areas. Those are impressive.

“And he has an encyclopedic mind … and that helps a great deal in this profession. But the key is how well you evaluate. It’s not rocket science, but you’re going to be wrong more than you’re right. The key is being right at the right times. And when you’re wrong, how do you come out of that?”

The Detroit Lions asked to interview Wolf for their vacant GM job in 2016, but the Packers declined the request. Wolf did interview for the GM job in San Francisco in Jan. 2017, and interviewed for Green Bay’s GM job last week.

But when the Packers went in a different direction, so did Wolf.

“I would just say this about Eliot, obviously he was part of the process, one of our candidates,” Murphy said on Monday. “He’s going to be a general manager someday. He’s extremely talented, and I have high respect for him and I really believe he’s got a great career ahead of him.”

The latest step in Wolf’s career path will take him to Cleveland.

Whether his journey ever makes its way back to Green Bay remains to be seen.

New QB coach named: According to several reports, Frank Cignetti will be the Packers’ new quarterbacks coach. TMJ4 in Milwaukee first reported the news.

Cignetti, 52, worked on the same staff with head coach Mike McCarthy in 2000-’01. McCarthy was the Saints’ offensive coordinator and Cignetti coached the quarterbacks. Both McCarthy and Cignetti were also graduate coaches at Pittsburgh in 1989.

From 2002-’11, Cignetti spent nine years in the college ranks, before returning to the NFL in 2012 to coach quarterbacks in St. Louis. Cignetti was promoted to the Rams’ offensive coordinator position in 2015, but things went about as poorly as could be imagined.

The Rams finished dead last in total offense that season and ranked 29th in scoring. Cignetti was fired with four weeks remaining in the 2015 season by then-Rams head coach Jeff Fisher.

“It was, in my estimation, time to move in a different direction,” Fisher said of Cignetti. “(All of) the blame’s not to fall on (Cignetti’s) shoulders, but it’s the way this business works. Players contributed, coaches contributed, everybody contributed, but we have to move in a different direction. The lack of production is obvious — we’ve been talking about it for weeks — and we need more production.”

Former New York Giants head coach Ben McAdoo, a McCarthy disciple himself, brought Cignetti to his staff in 2016 to coach quarterbacks. McAdoo was fired last month, though, leaving his previous staff in limbo.

Matthews undergoes knee surgery: According to ESPN.com, Packers linebacker Clay Matthews underwent minor knee surgery after the season.

Matthews, 31, missed two games in 2017, but neither was due to the knee injury.

Matthews is entering the final season of a five-year, $66-million contract that will pay him $11.4 million in 2018 in salary and bonuses.

Daniels named to the Pro Bowl: Packers defensive lineman Mike Daniels still carries pictures on his phone of what he looked like in high school and when he first showed up at Iowa. Why exactly?

“Motivation,” said the 310-pound Daniels, who was at least 50 pounds lighter when he arrived at Iowa in 2007. “I keep reminding myself where I come from. I really had to work.”

Much of that hard work was recognized earlier this week when Daniels was named to his first Pro Bowl. Daniels was an alternate the last two seasons, but now replaces Los Angeles Rams defensive Aaron Donald, who is unable to play due to injury.

Daniels started all 14 games he played in this season and finished third on the team with five sacks. Daniels also recorded a career-best 72 tackles, including 42 solos.

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