Green Bay Packers: Gute’s aggressive approach is breath of fresh air

Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images
Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images /

It is clear that General Manager Brian Gutekunst has taken a much more aggressive approach when it comes to addressing the Green Bay Packers needs, and it has been a breath of fresh air.

With the 2019 NFL draft now in the books, this Green Bay Packers roster has come a long ways from the 2016-2017 NFC Championship game against the Atlanta Falcons where Ladarius Gunter started at cornerback and Joe Thomas at linebacker for what was a decimated roster.

If you recall, that was the season that Aaron Rodgers went on a historic two-month stretch and carried this Green Bay Packers team into the playoffs as they ran the table for the final six games of the season and into the playoffs. But given the roster, Rodgers could only do so much and all things considered, making the NFC Championship game was an impressive feat.

The following season, the Rodgers’ collarbone injury confirmed what most of us had thought, and that was that this team as it was constructed at the time, was a bad team without him.

During the Ted Thompson era in Green Bay, his philosophy around building a team was quite clear, and it was to draft and develop their talent, rather than rely on free agent acquisitions. And for much of Thompson’s time in Green Bay it worked quite well.

Thompson would find gems like T.J. Lang, Mike Daniels, David Bakhtiari, to name a few in the mid rounds, where most teams are just hoping to find roster depth. However, in the later years of Thompson’s tenure, he wasn’t hitting on those types of players and continued to remain inactive in free agency.  The result was a Green Bay Packers roster void of playmakers, and boy did it show on the field.

Since Brian Gutekunst has taken over at General Manager, we have seen him diligently working to overhaul this roster and coaching staff with an aggressive approach, that I for one am thankful to see.

Step one for Gutekunst has been reshaping this entire roster and putting difference makers on the field. Whether due to age or a lack of production, guys that played big roles at the end of Thompson’s tenure, such as Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins, Clay Matthews, Jordy Nelson, Nick Perry, HaHa Clinton-Dix, Richard Rodgers, Jake Ryan, Randall Cobb, Ty Montgomery, amongst others, have all been replaced.

At this point, the Green Bay Packers don’t have one player from the 2015 draft class still on their roster. It was clear that changes needed to be made, and Gutekunst has done just that.

As mentioned above, Thompson was not one to dive into free agency, much to the frustration of Packers fans, but Gutekunst over his two years as GM has not been afraid to bring in players from the outside.

Last offseason, the Green Bay Packers brought in veterans Jimmy Graham, Marcedes Lewis, Tramon Williams, and Muhammad Wilkerson as free agents that were expected to fill roles and make immediate impacts. Heading into the 2019 offseason, it was clear that safety and EDGE rusher positions needed major changes, so Gutekunst went out and added Adrian Amos, Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith, along with the versatile Billy Turner for the offensive line.

Even Gutekunst’s head coaching selection in Matt LaFleur had a bit of an aggressive mentality. Entrusting a first-time head coach with the final years of Aaron Rodgers career can be considered a bit risky, especially when there were more experienced, and “safer” options at head coach available. However, Gutekunst’s belief in LaFleur’s system, which stems from the Mike Shanahan philosophy and variations of it have been successful elsewhere, along with the new energy that LaFleur will bring to 1265 Lombardi Avenue, won out.

Looking at past drafts under Ted Thompson, it was almost expected that he would trade back in order to accumulate more day two and three draft capital. And when your entire approach is draft and develop, having a large number of picks each year is necessary because obviously not all of them are going to hit. Yet under Gutekunst, we have seen a different approach.

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Although Gute’s first draft started off in a similar fashion to Thompson’s, it did not end the same way. In round one of last year’s draft, Gutekunst would trade back and netted a first rounder in this year’s draft, however, Gute wouldn’t sit still for long and he would move back up to grab Jaire Alexander. Later on in that same draft, he would trade up in round three to select Oren Burks.

This year, the Green Bay Packers made a polarizing pick by taking Rashan Gary at 12th overall. He may have the highest ceiling of this year’s EDGE rusher class, but he comes with a bit of risk and some unknowns. Green Bay would then move from pick 30 to 21 to select Darnell Savage while giving up two fourth rounders to do so. However, in both instances, the Packers went and got the guys that they loved and valued most.

Fans and draft experts can debate endlessly on whether they think these moves were good ones or not, but truthfully we won’t know on either draft class for a few more years. And while I’ll admit the Rashan Gary selection at 12 was not my favorite, and I’ve heard some say the move to get Savage was a bit rich, what I do love is the aggressiveness.

When Aaron Rodgers’ time is done in Green Bay, regardless of whether or not the Packers win another Super Bowl, I want to look back and know that they did everything they could to win while the window was still open.

The Packers clearly loved Rashan Gary and Darnell Savage, along with their early draft picks from last year, and the free agents they’ve signed along the way. So instead of being passive and hoping that Savage fell to pick 30, or that this is the year Josh Jones puts it all together at safety or giving Nick Perry one more year to figure it out, Gutekunst made the moves that he felt needed to be done.

Whether you value the players in free agency or in the draft the same as Gutekunst and the Packers is a different argument, but I will always support Gute’s aggressive approach to go and get who he’s determined to be a playmaker, as opposed to waiting for someone to develop or fall to him in the draft.

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The Green Bay Packers are in a win now mode as they should be, and to me, the aggressiveness that we have seen the last two offseasons from Gutekunst has been a breath of fresh air and an approach that I love.