Ron Wolf has his gold jacket. Placed over his arms by his son Eliot in Canton, Ohio, at Thursday night's Pro Football Hall of Fame dinner, the former Green Bay Packers general manager is among extremely elite company.
After Saturday night’s ceremony, Wolf will officially be counted amongst the 295 members inducted as the greatest and most influential individuals in the world of professional football.
Even more impressive for the 76-year-old Wolf is the way in which he is being recognized by the Hall of Fame. This is the first year that anyone has ever been inducted in the "contributor" category. Wolf and former Indianapolis Colts general manager Bill Polian will share the honor as the first to ever be enshrined as "contributors."
Do Packers fans even want to think about what the franchise might look like today if Wolf had not been hired in 1991?
Prior to Wolf’s arrival, Green Bay had just four winning seasons over the previous 23 years. The heyday of the 1960s was long gone and didn’t seem likely to return any time soon – if ever.
It was a very small market for a professional sports team. It was a losing franchise. The most recent thing the Packers could sell itself on to players was the Vince Lombardi era, and that became increasingly long ago with every passing year.
Wolf changed all of that.
Knowing the turnaround that took place for Green Bay in the early 1990s, here’s a reminder of Wolf’s impact:
Hiring Mike Holmgren
Wolf plucked away Holmgren from the San Francisco 49ers in 1992. Over the next seven seasons, the Packers never had a losing record and won three division titles in a row. They also won at least one playoff game in five consecutive seasons. More importantly, Green Bay won a Super Bowl and made an appearance in another. Holmgren’s 84-42 record (including regular season and postseason) speaks for itself.
Holmgren’s assistant coaches with the Packers included Andy Reid, Jon Gruden and Steve Mariucci, all of whom would become NFL head coaches.
Trading for Brett Favre
Wolf traded away a first-round pick for second-year Atlanta Falcons quarterback Brett Favre. At the time, it seemed like a bit of a head-scratcher. Green Bay already had Don Majkowski at quarterback, and sending away a top draft pick for an unproven young player like Favre carried a ton of risk.
Favre went on to become one of the best Packers in franchise history and one of the most iconic players ever to step foot on an NFL field. Favre posted a 172-103 record as Green Bay’s starting quarterback and won three league Most Valuable Player awards.
Favre should be joining Wolf in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016.
Signing Reggie White
This move changed the perception of playing for the Packers. White had spent eight seasons playing with the Philadelphia Eagles and had been to the Pro Bowl in seven consecutive years. He was as much of a star and difference-making defensive player as could be found in the NFL.
Choosing to go to Green Bay meant everything for the Packers franchise. The team would reach its pinnacle in the mid-1990s with White anchoring the defense. Former teammates of White have said that they knew they always had a good chance of winning a game as long as they looked across the locker room and saw No. 92 getting ready.
White would be elected to six more Pro Bowls as a Packer and was a first-team All-Pro in three of those seasons.
Hiring Ted Thompson
In 1992, Wolf hired Thompson as a scout for the Packers. Twenty-three years later, Thompson is successfully running Green Bay’s franchise, using all of the methods that Wolf taught him.
If there was ever a football executive deserving of being in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a contributor, Wolf is it.