2020 Combine Edition - That’s What Cheese Said

We're back with That's What Cheese Said this week to highlight some of the key comments from GM Brian Gutekunst and Head Coach Matt LaFleur. 

Head Coach Matt LaFleur and General Manager Brian Gutekunst met with the media this week at the NFL Combine, which means we have a special edition of That’s What Cheese Said.

Of course, there was plenty for both the GM and head coach to talk about, but one position of interest at the combine has been the loaded wide receivers class. 

Gutekunst described the wide receivers group as “pretty heavy at the top” and added that he’s been impressed by the position as a whole. He also noted that receivers are more advanced coming out of college now than they were in the past. 

When asked if a player’s size would deter him from drafting them, Gutekunst shook the notion that the Packers won’t look at certain players because of a size threshold, saying that while the team is always looking to get “bigger, faster, stronger,” there are also guys like Randall Cobb who maybe didn’t have the height but played a huge role for the Packers on offense. 

“Every player has different attributes that makes them who they are. If a guy doesn’t have the height that we would like but makes up for it in other ways, I don’t think we would not draft a player just because he wasn’t tall enough,” said Gutekunst, indicating what’s more important is the role they can fill on offense. 

When LaFleur was asked a similar question about what he looks for in wide receivers, he mentioned that it varies. 

“I think we’re all trying to find the guys that can separate, make plays,” he said, before adding “You’ve gotta find out what they do well and then how do you implement them within your system.”

Similar to Gutekunst, LaFleur felt that versatility and playmaking ability was really what the team was interested in, giving Davante Adams as an example of a player who can line up anywhere on offense. LaFleur also was quick to mention that the learning curve can be steep going from college to the NFL, especially trying to get on the same page with a future Hall of Fame quarterback. 

One position outside of the receivers that LaFleur is hoping to look at is the running backs group, saying he thinks the Packers need to add additional help behind Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams. 

“I think you always need multiple guys to get to that finish line,” he commented, pointing out that the Packers fell one game short of the finish line and emphasizing the physical, demanding nature of the position. 

While Tyler Ervin did serve more of a role as a special teams player in 2019, LaFleur did have some high praise for the pending free agent and the potential role he could have on offense in 2020. 

“If I have my way, yeah, I’d love to have him back,” LaFleur smiled. 

It was also clear listening to LaFleur and Gutekunst that both men have high expectations for the Packers going into LaFleur’s second year in Green Bay. 

“A year ago this time was a lot of change, a lot of newness, really trying to figure some things out with the new coaching staff, coming off a tough year,” said Gutekunst. “So certainly, I think we got some foundation strengthened and like where we’re headed year two with Matt, not only as an organization but with our staff, with our players. Just really excited where we’re going.”

LaFleur agreed, emphasizing multiple times that the foundation has been laid and the systems are in place, so now the players and coaching staff will have a better idea of what to expect in the second year of this regime.

The proposed 17-game schedule was also brought up to Gutekunst at the combine, with the question asked how this would affect his team’s ability to scout roster bubble players. 

“It’s one less opportunity,” Gutekunst said of losing a possible preseason game, noting the team might have to get creative with how they evaluate the roster talent without that last game. He added that while it’s one less opportunity for evaluation, it’s also one less opportunity for the players to make an impact. 

Looking ahead to 2020, Gutekunst made sure to point out that he doesn’t feel the Packers are chasing anybody. While the 49ers proved to be too much for Green Bay this past season, Gutekunst said it could be a brand new team in that position next year, and that at the end of the day the goal is simply to win football games. 

Still, given the team’s success in 2019 and ending one game from the Super Bowl, LaFleur knows the Packers will have a target on their backs next season. “We’re going to be one of the hunted this year,” he said.

The coaching staff will look just a little bit different in 2020, but the key coordinators are still in place. When asked if LaFleur had any thoughts about not retaining Mike Pettine for next season, he shook his head. 

“There was never a doubt. I’m not gonna make a rash decision on one game,” LaFleur said. He added that the team can improve in all three phases, not just on defense. 

He also praised Jerry Gray as the team’s new defensive backs coach and said he’s been spending a lot of time in the defensive room, acknowledging that Gray has a wealth of experience and is a person the players will be really receptive to. 

While a wide receivers coach hasn’t been hired to date, LaFleur did say one would be coming, so the coaching staff isn’t completely set just yet. 

While the 2019 season didn’t end the way either men had planned, Gutekunst did say that the 2019 season was much nicer than the 2018 season, when the team had to deal with a massive amount of change, hiring a new head coach and implementing a new scheme. 

And of course, it wouldn’t be a combine interview without quarterbacks being mentioned, especially with Gutekunst’s predecessor being Ted Thompson. Gutekunst was asked if he still scouts quarterbacks even if they’re unlikely to be available where he’s picking in the draft, or if it isn’t seen as a team need in a particular year. 

“That’s where we start,” he said before adding that even if the player likely won’t end up in Green Bay, they’ll still be playing in the NFL so it’s important to know about them.

As far as evaluating performances at the combine and how players perform both on the field during workouts and in private interviews, Gutekunst stressed the importance of watching the player film.

“Everything goes back to the tape,” he said. “At the end of the day, the tape is what matters.”

LaFleur was asked what he looks for in players, and his answer addressed more about player character than it did talent. 

“We want to have guys that love football. That love football, that love the competition, that are gonna be great teammates, because that’s kind of what we’ve developed within our team,” he said. “I think Gutey and his staff have done a great job of bringing in people that are like-minded in that regard, that put the team above themselves, and I think any time you can find guys like that, you’ve got a much greater chance for success.”

It’s a similar theme to what he’s mentioned all season about this 2019 Packers team, that it’s a close group of men playing for one another. The expectation is there that the locker room will have a similar vibe in 2020. 

Finally, with the 2019 season in the rear view mirror, ending the year one game away from the Super Bowl was hard for LaFleur, who’d been to the Super Bowl with the Atlanta Falcons during the 2016 season as quarterbacks coach only to come up short. But he said it was important for him to attend the game in support of his brother Mike on the 49ers coaching staff.

Even still, it just puts another goal in focus for LaFleur to be an observer in the game and not playing in the game itself.

“I know I’ll never be satisfied until we’re holding that Lombardi trophy,” he said. 

 

Maggie Loney is a writer for Cheesehead TV and podcasts for the Pack-A-Day Podcast and Pack's What She Said. Find her on Twitter at @MaggieJLoney.

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Comments (10)

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Turophile's picture

February 28, 2020 at 07:37 am

To some extent the first year of a new head coach is a bit of a mulligan. Expectations are lower (though if you mess up too badly you're probably still gone at the end of the year).

La Fleur aced his rookie year with Green Bay, so the expectation is much higher now that he is in year two. He was helped by great veteran additions, good team chemistry in the locker room, having a remarkably healthy team, and by winning plenty of close games.

I think there is a high chance of winning less games in 2020 (than in 2019) even though it could be a stronger team overall. More injuries, and failing to win all of those close games again might lead some to believe the team has regressed, but the real test is what you see on the field, not the final win/loss total. I'm pretty hopeful the Packers get into the playoffs again in 2020.......... and I just hope that any new veterans and draft additions can improve the Packers run defense enough to overcome teams like the 49ers (not to mention adding a good WR on the offense).

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albert999's picture

February 28, 2020 at 08:56 am

I agree we could win less games but we could also win the Super Bowl doing so

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Samson's picture

February 28, 2020 at 09:46 am

Have to agree..... 14-4 is somewhat an anomaly. --- The Pack could easily have a better team in season 2020 but 13-3 in the regular season won't be matched... I'd be happy with about 15-5 overall.

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Leatherhead's picture

February 28, 2020 at 09:53 am

I think Coach L has a winning formula. Protect the ball, protect the QB, execute in the red zone. I’m expecting more of the same and it will be successful.

We increased rushing attempts from 333 to 411 in just the first year. I’d expect another, smaller increase and it would not surprise me if we drafted accordingly

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jannes bjornson's picture

February 28, 2020 at 11:14 am

A power running back and Fullback competition will help move the chains even more in year two.

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albert999's picture

February 28, 2020 at 08:54 am

Packers raise ticket prices again
It’s a complete shame the money grab of the nfl has to play out also in this raise. Already a couple buddies or father and son or parents and families can’t afford and extremely over priced game each week.
Normal people with blue collar wages have to stay home and watch
Sad

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sbransbottom's picture

February 28, 2020 at 01:15 pm

I agree. I have been a cheesehead as long as I can remember. I live in WV and raise my 4 year old son alone. I dream of one day making it to Lambeau with him but idk if it will ever happen. Maybe if I raise him right and he becomes successful and takes me in my old age haha.

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Fredrik87's picture

February 28, 2020 at 11:34 am

After his combine performance I would actually love to see us draft Mims in the first round or trade down and take him at the top of the second.
He had a excellent senior bowl, was great in college, and just had a dominate combine.
He ran a 4.38 40 yard dash, had a 38.5" vertical, a 10' 11" broad jump, and had the best three cone of any WR completing the drill in just 6.66 seconds.
I already loved this guy in the second round but after that performance he likely wont be there at 62.

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Turophile's picture

February 28, 2020 at 12:17 pm

I think with the way his star has been rising, if the Packers don't draft him at #30, he'll be gone in the next 10 picks. Not long ago he was a legitimate target for the Packers in round two (pick 62).

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Fredrik87's picture

February 28, 2020 at 02:29 pm

100% agree.
I think we take him at 30 or maybe if we trade down into the first 10 picks of the 2nd take him there but I no longer see him being there at 62.

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