The Green Bay Packers finished the year with the best record in the NFC and made it to within a blowout of the Super Bowl.
So was it because of a bunch of great player? Apparently not, since they had no first team All Pros or Pro Bowlers.
Great coaching? No, because Matt LaFleur didn’t win coach of the year (and fans now want Petting fired).
So if they had no good players and a rookie coach, it must have been GM Brian Gutekunst doing better than anyone, right?
Nope, John Lynch won executive of the year (and that clearly wasn’t because of the name recognition he got from being a tv announcer).
I disagree with that last one. I don’t think any GM a better year than Brian Gutekunst. Let’s look at what he did this year.
He hired Matt LaFleur, who not only proved to be the right personality for this group, but showed some innovation in his offense and (I think most importantly) changed out the team routines and schedule to keep the team healthy.
He cut Nick Perry and Mike Daniels, which shocked a lot of people, but turned out to be the absolute correct moves.
Then he signed Billy Turner to stabilize a disaster guard position, Adrian Amos to give them stability at safety, Preston Smith to be a huge upgrade over Perry, and Za’Darius Smith who led the league in disruptions, lines up all over the place, and completely changed the culture of the team.
In the draft, he took a long-term project and athletic freak in Rashan Gary (which could go either way), got a high-potential safety who paid immediate dividends in Darnell Savage, a fantastic guard in Elgton Jenkins, and a lot of prospects for the future, including tight end Jace Sternberger, who made some contributions after starting the season on IR.
During the year, he didn’t sit on his hands. When it looked inevitable that the Packers would set a record for punt return futility, he went out and got Tyler Ervin, who completely turned around the return game seemingly single-handedly. When Bryan Bulaga got hurt and his backup was embarrassed, he immediately signed Jared Veldheer, who was more than solid in two games of extended duty (including a playoff victory over Seattle).
The ends results were pretty good, too. The Packers won 14 games (more than they had in the previous two years combined), swept the division, and came within a game of the Super Bowl.
You may not like how it ended, but that is an impressive season even if you don’t consider how much turnover happened in the offseason.
The only thing I would give Gutenkunst any low marks on are keeping Jimmy Graham (who, despite some late production, did not live up to his contract) and not getting an immediate impact with a top 12 pick (though the final grade on that move is still out).
However, those two small marks pale in comparison to all the positive ones. He can’t get an A+ because he wasn’t perfect, but I have to give the man an A.
This was a great season and it wouldn’t have happened without the moves he made.
Now, we get to look forward to the draft, which, if it’s like any other year under Gutekunst, should be pretty exciting.
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