Analyzing Gutekunst's Presser

Here are a few things I heard (or did not hear) during GM Gutekunst's recent press conference.  Some of them were about the draft and some about more general matters.  Here are some that might pertain to the draft:

1.  It sounds like it matters to Gutekunst that a prospect opted out of the season.  He noted that GB made efforts to determine why a player opted out, and listed quite a few factors: personal high risk; family high risk; certain conferences that at some point canceled their seasons versus conferences that never canceled their seasons; taking a coach's advice; and he noted prospects who played a few games and then opted out.  A similar concern might be players in the past who skipped their bowl games.  I am a little more concerned about small sample sizes as an issue regarding some players who are projected to be premium picks.

2.  Gutekunst did not say too much about medical issues being a concern, just the expected that GB has great doctors, some of whom would be in the war room on draft night/days.  When the issue was raised, I thought I detected a reaction in Gutekunst's body language (and a definite sigh), but that could just be me.

3.  Need over ceiling/BPA was addressed.  This was mostly GM-speak.  Gutekunst said that being able to contribute immediately was always a bonus, though he hedged by saying that is always the case and that teams don't really know what they have until the players are in camp anyway.  He said need was a tie-breaker, but I wonder how many guys are on average considered equal at any particular draft slot.  Gutekunst said: "We feel like we could go play, we have a very good football team coming back, which gives me a little more freedom, I think, as we attack the board and go with the best player.  For the most part, we try to look at the draft as a long-term investment in the Green Bay Packers.”

4.  There were questions about trading up.  Panther GM Scott Fitterer has publicly indicated that the Panthers have given just 16 prospects a true first round grade.  Fitterer went on to say the following:  “It seems like that every year [there are] between 15 and 19 [first rounders], and it’s right in that range once again this year.  Then beyond that, it’s a really strong second round, like kind of the next, 30 to 40 players, it’s a really good group, but there is a drop-off, and it seems to be consistent every year, and same this year.”  Fitterer said the Panthers had 155 players on their board.  [I assume that the Panthers have just 16 players with first round grades who fit their team, but Fitterer was not clear about that.]

Gutekunst said he "had not been in this position often, but noted that sometimes you have a game coming up and you do not think you can do it because you are missing a certain piece."  Perhaps he was alluding to the need to sign four free agent starters and/or the move up for Darnell Savage and/or Alexander.  Gutekunst said it's "always tempting" to trade up as really good players go flying off the board. "You gotta be careful not to fall in love with any one individual player.  At the same time, for me, if we have a chance to move up and take a specific player that we think is special, you have to consider that.  The last three years, we’ve done that. We’ll always do that. There’s only so many game-changing type players in this league, and if you have the opportunity to acquire one, you have to consider it.”

5.  Our own Aaron Nagler asked GM Gutekunst about athletic thresholds for certain positions while alluding to obvious drafting success at certain positions and lesser results at other positions.  Gutekunst answered (surprisingly) at some length (quote from Bill Huber's article):

I think it’s because Ron and Ted pounded it into all of our brains as we were being trained, that it wasn’t allowed. In all seriousness, I do think that you have to decide how you want to look and how you want to be. I think up here in Green Bay, in our weather conditions, that we’ve always tended to lean on bigger, more physical players. If you’re playing in a dome or down South, those guys are smaller, quicker, with speed, I think that lasts during the season a little bit longer than if you’re up here. And the durability factor. I think that’s part of it.  I know that all of us that were trained under Ron and Ted, that’s a hard thing to get over but I do think if the right player is there – Jaire was very, very close to our Mendoza Line, which sometimes drops a little bit depending on how good of a player you are. We certainly will consider those players but I do think it’s just part of the way we’re all trained.

Bill Huber concluded in his article that the Packers probably would not select some of the short and slight wide receivers or cornerbacks.  Perhaps so, but Gutekunst did not foreclose that option, at least not if they think the player is special in other regards, or perhaps as a later round selection.  Moreover, general managers have been known to put out smoke screens with their comments.

6.  At the 24:09 mark, Gute was asked about how the new DC Joe Barry is involved in the draft to ensure that his vision of the defense and how prospects might fit in it aligns with the setting of the draft board by the scouts and front office.  Gute said those things are vitally important (is he talking about fit, communication with Barry, or both?) and then immediately indicated that those conversations especially between "Matt and I" happen a lot.  Gute said he was excited to have Joe Barry on board.  Fit was discussed as well.  Gute downplayed fit, I thought, by noting that the league changes, injuries happen, and things are so multiple that players need to be able to do a lot of things well.  "If you get too scheme-specific bad things can happen as the season wears along."  There were a couple of times that Gute noted his dealings with Matt [LaFleur] and the coaches.  One might speculate that Barry just does not have the stature that Capers or even Pettine had.  Gutekunst never mentioned Hackett either.  My own take is simply that GM Gutekunst is very comfortable with Matt LaFleur, and I am sure that he speaks often with all of the coaches. 

7.  Gutekunst said that due to the cancellation of the combine, he had traveled to more pro days (about a dozen this year) than he had in the past.  Despite those efforts, Gutekunst said: "There's guys we will draft that I haven't actually seen live."  There was a question about whether this draft had a talent deficit starting in or around the fifth round as some small school and late-blooming players elected to stay in college this year since they were unable to fully showcase their talents due to their college playing a limited schedule or canceling their season altogether.  Gutekunst said the Packers draft board was full.  Well, he is a GM with seven day three picks, some of which he might want to use to move up in earlier rounds, so not disparaging the value of later picks is only to be expected.    

 


General Manager Gutekunst spoke more generally about the state of the franchise. 

A.  Gutekunst acknowledged that the Packers were dealing with a two-year cap crunch.  That is merely acknowledging the obvious, of course.  He said they would modify several contracts this summer and that Rodgers' contract would probably be one of them.  When Rodgers' cap numbers of $37 million this year and $39 million in 2022 were brought up, he seemed to indicate that those numbers would be addressed.  The Packers have enough cap space to sign their scheduled draft picks, but will need to free up about $7 million more by September.  He said that the Packers were talking with various players (and presumably their agents) about modifying more contracts this summer.

B.  Aaron Rodgers is their guy and he is the quarterback for the foreseeable future.  I do not know what that really means in the Not-For-Long business or how foreseeable future differs from the immediate future.  There is little doubt that the NFL is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league.  Most players have to produce every year, or get at most one season of grace.  How the Packers meet the cap constraints will be more telling than any words at a press conference.

C.  Gutekunst used slightly different phrases in regard to Rodgers, but it might have been because he was responding to a question specifically regarding Rodgers' contract.  Anyway, he never quite said that the team was talking to Rodgers' agent or to Rodgers himself.  He kept saying they are working through that, but that could just mean an auto-conversion of base salary to a signing bonus.  Or, Gutekunst could have been including talking to Rodgers and his agent when he spoke about talking with various players.  Gutekunst did not address a question specifically about adding guaranteed money to Rodgers' deal to show commitment to Rodgers.  None of that may be as important as it might appear at first blush: fans in GB (with some good reason) equate guaranteed money with a signing bonus but Rodgers has gotten guaranteed roster bonuses in out years in the past.  Moreover, future guaranteed money (be it base salary or roster bonuses) that has not been paid can still be traded and/or converted to a signing bonus later.

D.  Gutekunst previously suggested that the Packers would like to be active in free agency.  In this presser, he restricted himself to talking about just re-signing their own players, and laughed at an allusion to the long-snapper competition.  Still, I suspect they will at least look at cap casualties later.

E.  Gutekunst noted the Packers have done a lot of work already to generate cap space.  He did not say those modifications were the easier ones or even implied that.  Some fans seemed to have inferred that the contracts that were modified were low-hanging fruit, so to speak, and of course Gutekunst really was not specifically asked why modifying the contracts of Rodgers, Adams, and Lowry would be harder or more complicated to do, or simply why they had not yet been done.  

Overall, I think General Manager Gutekunst's draft-related comments were more interesting and possibly provided more insight to fans.  While opting out or having medical issues seems to concern the Packers, it is not clear how much, if at all, either of those concerns will affect actual behavior.  While Gutekunst gave a pretty lengthy answer about height and weight thresholds, general managers have been known to blow smoke prior to drafts before.  Fit means more than just a gadget player, of course.  I have looked closely at cornerbacks who excel in zone coverage, but it is fair to say that no matter how much zone Joe Barry runs, CBs will be asked to play man as well.  Similarly, I have looked at offensive linemen who fit in a zone based blocking scheme, but a good mauler has uses as well.  I certainly do not have any better notion as to whether the Packers will trade up, back or sideways.  As to general matters, everyone knows the Packers will modify more contracts because they have to.  I did not glean anything that suggests whose contracts will be modified, or to what extent or in what manner.  Well, that is typical for a pre-draft press conference. 

 

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Comments (22)

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Handsback's picture

April 29, 2021 at 07:22 am

Thanks for the report. Well done to highlight important stuff and point out political speak that can have multiple meanings.

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murf7777's picture

April 29, 2021 at 07:33 am

Thanks for the in-depth write up TGR. My wish is to trade down in first and trade up into the Second and get three 2nd round picks. We are in need of two to three contributors and it’s unlikely to find them after the first 100 or so. Sure, you might get lucky but you cannot expect a first year contributor much after 100. Let’s get three cracks in the top 62. GPG

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MarkinMadison's picture

April 29, 2021 at 07:35 am

Good write-up. Impossible to tell what is a smoke-screen at this point. Despite any physical thresholds, I expect to see a WR or RB picked who can work the Ervin role and return punts and kicks. There are only so many guys who can do that and stay healthy. The need has been neglected for too long though and it shows in the perennially bad special teams rankings.

Contract speculation is tough. It is hard to see the team not doing something for Davante Adams. I think Z and #12 are on deck too, but I'm not sure what they are willing to do for #12. There are angles on this choice beyond his ability on the field in the regular season. He has not been strong in big playoff games. He is not Tom Brady - who I think is very beatable now - but guys want to play with him. Veterans are not taking discounts to come play with Rodgers and win another Super Bowl in the cold. I could see this playing out a lot of different ways. I don't think the Packers really want to make a major commitment until they decide what they have in Love, and so far the sample size is too small to tell.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

April 29, 2021 at 07:53 am

At least I found a new photo of Brian Gutekunst.

I thought Fitterer's (first year GM who worked for Seattle for years) comments were remarkably forthright. Carolina has pick 8. Seattle has moved back almost every year in the last decade, but they were picking later in the round one usually. I've read in the past that teams often don't have 256 names on their board, but 155 seems like a small number to me.

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flackcatcher's picture

April 30, 2021 at 12:25 am

Depends on Cap and roster slots. I've been told that most of the high end numbers are UFA that were scouted but dropped out of the draft for one reason or another. Still teams would like to sign them after the draft. Most teams board in a average draft year only hold about 155-170 that they consider draftable in their system and scheme. But that can be radically expanded if a team is doing a rebuild like Houston or the Ravens are.

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ScottW's picture

April 29, 2021 at 07:54 am

Thanks, excellent summary and thanks for posting.

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nostradanus's picture

April 29, 2021 at 08:19 am

Gutey has learned well from Ron & Ted, he seems a bit more accessible without giving out too much.

The best part about Gutey is he seems like a guy you could just sit and have a beer with in his garage.

I’m glad he’s our GM

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PackfanNY's picture

April 29, 2021 at 08:22 am

I listened to the press conference and my takeaway was the “two year cap crunch”. He clearly said we worked through some things but we have more things to work through. I heard that as this off-season and next. As you have seen the Packers have resigned many of their own players but no one from the outside. Sure sounded like next off-season would be more of the same. Now Gute didn’t rule anything out but sure sounds like the Packers “own” players like Davante Adams will be priority not leaving much room for other signings.

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murf7777's picture

April 29, 2021 at 08:33 am

It has been a successful strategy, take care of your own first because they know your systems and you know their abilities in your system. Less risk vs going after outside FA's.

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Since'61's picture

April 29, 2021 at 09:14 am

Good job TGR! Thanks for providing us with this information. Stay well. Since '61

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

April 29, 2021 at 09:23 am

Okay, the numbers on how many players decided to return to college are hard to find. I found the following numbers, but I did not find clarity about whether the draft talent might be thin on day three this year.

2019: 135 juniors gave up their eligibility.
2020: 115 juniors gave up their eligibility.
2021: 185 players gave up their eligibility.

However, because the NFL gave seniors an extra year of eligibility, juniors and seniors with remaining eligibility are included in the 185 players. In previous years, seniors with no remaining eligibility did not have to declare.

In 2021, juniors and players who had completed their degree requirements had to declare by Jan 18. Seniors and FCS players (because those colleges extended their seasons) had until March 1 to declare. Seniors who had played four seasons were automatically eligible for the draft without having to declare.

It appears that there were 128 early entrants in 2021. That sounds like it is in line with previous years (the 135 early entrants in 2019 was a record high).

The linked article lists 185 early entrants including 53 seniors. Yes, I laboriously hand-counted the 185 and the 53 seniors. Still, not clear enough to put numbers in the article.

https://thedraftnetwork.com/trackers/underclassmen

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greengold's picture

April 29, 2021 at 10:02 am

Thank you for sharing these insights, TGR!

Some really good cryptic stuff there!!! Too funny. We are here. Day 1.

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packerbackerjim's picture

April 29, 2021 at 10:18 am

Props for the Mendoza Line reference. I think this could be the year that boundary is forgotten, IF Elijah Moore is available at 29. If AR can throw downfield to Aaron Jones, Moore should not present a problem.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

April 29, 2021 at 10:48 am

CHTV will have lots of coverage all day and you can join Aaron and Corey during the draft as well. You can watch the draft on ABC or ESPN tonight at 7:00 pm central and 6:00 pm central on Friday night and 11:00 am on Saturday.

I happened to come across a youtube video of Hoyt Wilhelm throwing knuckleballs. As a Chicago native and since my great uncle pitched for the White Sox and managed them, I watched quite a bit of the White Sox and Hoyt Wilhelm. It was followed by Tim Wakefield, but the slow motion is so much better that I could see that Wakefield's knuckleball often had zero spin on the pitch.

I can't wait for the draft!

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Turophile's picture

April 29, 2021 at 05:29 pm

Point 1.
This is something that will become clear after the draft (at least it will for anyone who wishes to look back and check on the history of Gute's draft choices this year).

Point 4.
This idea of "There are only 16 first round picks" is (imo) utter nonsense, you simply aren't grading them properly and have unrealistic expectations. To be believable, the amount of players with first round grades should AVERAGE (over the years) 32 picks.........................and they never do. If the top 16 were described as something different, like 'premium picks', that would be ok, as it has no relation to the round.

PS Good detail as always, TGR.

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THESZOTMAN1's picture

April 29, 2021 at 01:56 pm

Draft night, babeeee!
Bring it on!
GPG
The Szotman

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flackcatcher's picture

April 29, 2021 at 02:05 pm

A very fair and accurate assessment of the Gutekunst presser. I am pleasantly surprised by the lack of spin in his pressers. He treats the media like adults, and to their credit, the questions were well thought out and respectful of him and his position in the organization. The Aaron Nagler question in particular, drew out one of the more insightful answers in how he and his front office work though the decision process. My only quibble, is Gutekunst unlike many GM in pro football does not use GM speak as a shield to hide behind. The Barry question and his answer is pure Gute through and through. And that is something as a fan, I'm grateful for.

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Archie's picture

April 29, 2021 at 03:08 pm

Breaking News Report - Aaron Rodgers doesn't want to QB in GB again!!! Packer brass has sought to dissuade him but to no avail. Here's an idea: trade Love now.

Supposedly 49rs are offering a handsome trade package. Other offers are coming in. Packers should have expected this when they drafted Love. Trade would give Packers additional dead money in range of $40 MM. Rodgers has got them over a barrel.

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flackcatcher's picture

April 29, 2021 at 04:11 pm

NAH........ Aaron Rodgers has one real choice. Play or retire. The Packers don't have to a damn thing. Unless he wants to restructure his contract he has no real leverage here, and he knows it. Let us hope he comes to his senses and doesn't go full diva Favre. (Of course this could be phase one in agent games. More likely the reality has finally hit him that he is looking at the end of his career)

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Gman1976's picture

April 29, 2021 at 04:55 pm

Just read your informative article after driving home from work and hearing on the radio how our beloved QB has had visits during the offseason from our CEO, GM & Coach & yet still wants out of Green Bay. I haven't heard any specifics on why he wants out, but the timing of this news can't be good for the Packer organization and team. Quite bluntly, it's upsetting after seeing Gute do everything he can to "bring the band together once again" after so many cap difficulties for another Super Bowl run. In time, we'll see how this unfolds and maybe hear of why Rodgers wants out.

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Irish_Cheesehead's picture

April 29, 2021 at 06:49 pm

Maybe he learned some things from Favre after all.

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juliakane3532's picture

April 29, 2021 at 07:25 pm

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