Brian Gutekunst General Manager of the Green Bay Packers addressed the media during a press conference introducing Matt LaFleur as head coach at Lambeau Field on January 09, 2019 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere / Photos of Getty)
In the last days of 2018, the Green Bay Packers found themselves sitting out of the playoffs for a second straight season without a head coach and many questioned how long they would be climbing back.
Not for long, as it turns out.
The Packers (13-3) are in a better place a year after a resurgence of 2019 time saw them reclaim the NFC North title and travel to the postseason with a winding-up soliloquy, which guaranteed a home game at Lambeau Field to play for an NFC Championship game bid. Not only is this the first time in franchise history that a Packers team has won seven more games than last year, but it also marked unprecedented success under a first-year head coach.
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“I know it doesn’t always look good, but our guys are resilient and we’re finding a way,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said in Sunday’s postgame. “And I can’t explain it, but I thank everyone in that locker room. People care about each other and they fight, and you can’t find that in every group you are in. And it’s a just credit to the character in that locker room. “
It is also the credit to the wealth of talent gathered in the locker room. Many of the Packers’ biggest contributions, including outside linebackers Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith, are just finishing their first year in Green Bay. The Packers also continue to entertain new talent throughout the season to offer much-needed boost during key moments.
The guy who will be grateful for that? General manager Brian Gutekunst.
Case for Brian Gutekunst as NFL Executive of the Year
While names like Brandon Beane in Buffalo and John Lynch in San Francisco have generated some worthy buzz for their attention-grabbing rebuilds, Gutekunst deserves a heap of credit for taking the dry dry Packers roster and renovating it to a contender without undergoing a complete observation on the roster.
Gutekunst further distanced the franchise from the late philosopher Ted Thompson when he came out and signed large contracts with a quartet of high-value agents, which included safety Adrian Amos and right guard Billy Turner with the passing Smiths. He also drafted two starters Darnell Savage Jr. and left guard Elgton Jenkins and added some developmental potential including first-rounder Rashan Gary and tight end Jace Sternberger.
Brian Gutekunst’s 2019 main moves:
* Za’Darius Smith: Led the NFL with 61 strikeouts
* Preston Smith: 12 sacks
* Adrian Amos: 84 tackles, 99.6% PT
* Billy Turner: 99.9% PT
* Drafted 3 immediate impact rookies, including probably the top S and OL (Darnell Savage, Elgton Jenkins)
– Field Yates (@FieldYates) December 30, 2019
His diligence in monitoring the waiver wire and evaluating his team’s needs has helped keep the Packers from bonding at some point since the start of the regular season.
Gutekunst traded to get fourth-year linebacker B.J. Goodson from the New York Giants when the inside-out team needed help without Oren Burks and was regularly tooled with the special teams return game, eventually finding the perfect fit for Tyler Ervin in the early December. His investment in Chandon Sullivan and Ibraheim Campbell as hybrid safitions also pays off as rotational pieces.
“Brian and his staff made some splashes clear with ZaDD and Preston and Adrian and Billy in large numbers,” said quarterback Aaron Rodgers, via the Wisconsin State Journal. “But there are a lot of things that we’ve done that have really been done.”
That biggest test came in the Packers’ regular-season finale with the Detroit Lions when offensive line starters Corey Linsley and Bryan Bulaga came out of the game with injuries. The versatile second-year Luke Patrick came to an end just in the middle of the day after being hired by a two-year contract extension. Meanwhile, veteran Jared Veldheer – who was signed into retirement as a piece of insurance – kept a clean pocket for Rodgers as he and the offense rallied to a walk-off victory.
Keeping the rankings fresh has allowed the Packers stars, old and new, to shine through the years. No one has benefited from a more solid lineup than third-year running back Aaron Jones, who has been a breakout talent this season with his first 1,000-yard rushing season and an NFL-leading 19 total touchdowns. Both he and Jamaal Williams have been dangerously effective since multi-purpose backs this season from the Packers backfield.
On the opposite side of the ball, a stronger pass rush resulted in multiple allocation opportunities. Starting cornerbacks Jaire Alexander – who drafted Gutekunst with a first-round pick in 2018 – and Kevin King had multiple interceptions (7) between them the Packers became a team all-time. last season. In total, the Packers finished with a third-best 17 interceptions as well as the third-best turnover variation (+12) behind only the New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints.
Gutekunst also recently helped free up a significant amount of cap space for 2020. restructuring Rodger’s contract terms in a way that gives more flexibility for the upcoming offseason. when it comes to expanding current players – like defensive tackle Kenny Clark or Bulaga – or possibly chasing another star in the free-agent market.
Perhaps Gutekunst’s efforts, like the Packers’ most of this year, will not go unnoticed when the awards are announced in February. But if he stays on course, it should only be a matter of time before the league has no choice but to recognize him as one of the best currently in the business.
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. ) billy turner