Three drafts into his tenure as GM, it’s hard to get a read on Brian Gutekunst’s personality.
Two things are becoming clear: he is aggressive and he is patient.
These things are usually viewed as opposites, but not in his case, let’s look at how.
It’s easy to see where he’s aggressive:
- In 2018, he traded up in the 1st round for Jaire Alexander.
- In 2019, he traded up in the 1st round for Darnell Savage.
- In 2020, he traded up in the 1st round for Jordan Love.
When he sees his guy in the draft, he goes up and gets them. He’s also not afraid to take a guy he believes (like Josiah Deguara or Oren Burks) long before anyone expects.
Free agency has been a similar story. When he wanted a tight end, he jumped in and gave Jimmy Graham a big contract. Last year, when the defense needed a boost, he went out and won bidding wars for Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith, and Adrian Amos.
But he’s also shown patience in the draft:
- In 2018, he moved down in the 1st to pick up long-term value.
- In 2019, he took a project in Rashan Gary at 12 overall even though he had just signed Za’Darius and Preston Smith at the same position.
- In 2020, he took Jordan Love for the long-term competitiveness of the team, even though they were on the cusp of a Super Bowl berth.
When it comes to roster management, he’s been aggressive in cleaning house. When he saw diminishing skills from veterans like Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and Mike Daniels, he didn’t stick with them, hoping to squeeze out their last bit of productivity. He cut them loose.
At the same time, he’s shown patience in his roster building approach. When they needed a wide receiver last year, he didn’t make a foolish short-term move to waste resources on a veteran rental like Emmanuel Sanders or Mohamed Sanu. Instead, he waited for a guy like Allen Lazard to develop, he waited for Jace Sternberger to get healthy.
Aggression and patience are great traits for GMs when they are used in balance. Most GMs only seem to have one, but Gutey looks like the rare bred who has both.
In a time where fans want aggression, we should appreciate his patience. History shows it works out very well for the long-term competitiveness of the team.
His moves may not all work out, but there is a process and he has shown a commitment to that process both in roster building and in drafting.
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