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Character Still Matters to Packers

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Character Still Matters to Packers

Recently, Green Bay Packers General Manager Brian Gutekunst said that he would pass on acquiring a talented player if he didn't feel that the player wasn't a good fit for the team's locker room.  

This from CheeseheadTV's co-founder and PackersNews Social Media Strategist Aaron Nagler's Twitter account last week:

One look at the image above is a reminder of what can happen when the bad side of a player's character overtakes the good.  That particular player is the most recent example of a Packers player gone bad.

When former Packers GM Ted Thompson added said player last spring, there were rumblings about the player's eccentric personality and whether or not he would mesh well with the roster, at the time.

At first, it seemed as though the team embraced him, including quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who is a key voice among Packers players.  Mid-way though the 2017 season and after Rodgers was hurt, the player in question decided to quit on the Packers and lie his way out of Green Bay.

I'll admit, I went for the low-hanging fruit with that example and feature image, but it's still a relevant one.

Thompson was often criticized for not taking more risks when it came to players with talent but who also had potentially combustible personalities.  We can argue that the aforementioned player didn't have anywhere near the talent to overcome his crazy side, but it's still ironic that Thompson finally took a risk and it backfired.

With Gutekunst, we've seen a different approach.  In just the last two weeks, he's added two more veteran players to provide valuable depth to the roster.  But like his predecessor, Gute also prefers players of high character.

In order to get top talent, teams sometimes have to weigh the downside to their egos and personalities in order to get the production on the field.  Each person has their own opinion of how much risk they're willing to assume in order to attain the success.

Most fans' top want for their team is for that team to win.  That doesn't mean that they're also OK with their team signing a bevy of guys with a mile-long rap sheet, but if we're being honest, most of us focus on what we see on the field when we're judging a player's value to the team.

There are obvious exceptions and I don't speak for everyone with that statement, but Packers fans want to see the Packers win another Super Bowl.

So the question is, how much risk are you willing to watch the team assume in order for them to be competitive enough to do just that?

While some personalities simply don't mix, a team that wins will often find themselves able to overcome more of those diversities than teams that don't win. 

Receiver Dez Bryant is still on the market after turning down a deal with the Baltimore Ravens.  Is it possible that the Packers are hesitant about Bryant beyond his age and declining skill set?  Could his big personality be part of the reason?

Other recent examples include Rolando McClain, Greg Hardy and Aldon Smith.  All three had incredible upside when they were peaking on the field, but their off field issues have them all out of football right now.  Great football talents but they each became unavailable to their teams at times during their career.  As is often said about football players, the best ability is availability.

How much are you willing to risk a valuable roster spot for a player who could turn out to be a problem off the field?  Do you agree that Gutekunst's aversion to players with character issues will hold the Packers back in building the best roster possible?




Jason is a freelance writer on staff since 2012 and also co-hosts Pulse of the Pack podcast.  You can follow him on Twitter here

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (51) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

PackEyedOptimist's picture

I think it's important to remember three things: 1. Not all "Character issues" are the same, the concept covers a wide range of behaviors and attitudes; 2: "Keeping character in mind" is a gray scale, the cost/benefit analysis is going to slide in each individual case; 3: Football is a team sport which relies heavily on morale, we regularly hear coaches praised or scorned for "changing the attitude/mindset of their new team" (Pettine comes to mind...), so we're pretty much conceding that a "bad apple" CAN affect the team's success.

jeremyjjbrown's picture


Martellius Bennet may have been a big jerk, but he didn't throw a woman onto a bed covered in guns and tell her to pick on out.

Mojo's picture

Speaking of Bennett, it would be nice if the NFL would rule on GB's appeal for the $4.2 mil bonus money he... ahem... earned from GB.

If GB wins they can use it sign a late mid-level FA or as part of ARod's extension. Don't know why it takes so long to rule on this.

Lare's picture

Typical of the NFL, they usually do things way too slow and way too wrong.

They'll probably rule in favor of Bennett not because it's correct, but just to be politically correct.

Oppy's picture

I could have sworn the NFL denied the Packers' attempt to reclaim the bonus money months and months ago.

Oppy's picture

I see now that I am thinking of the original claim which was nixed by an independent arbitrator.

You are correct, it looks like the NFL has not heard the Packers' appeal.

realitybytez's picture

speaking of the "original", i wonder if someone would care to tell us about their first job out of high school?

Savage57's picture

When you build a football roster, you're going to have a lot of character issues, so to say you won't take one who has some is probably an overstatement.

I think what Gute was trying to get across, is more so than character issues, the Packers will tend to avoid players with an absence of it.

Ryan Graham's picture

I think you bring up some good points Optimost. I dont think Gute made his character comments in a black and white sense but in more of a spectrum weighing value vs character. We've seen through TT tenure that there is a high standard it seems in GB and I think Gute will follow suit with that culture. Makes for a healthy locker room keeping a positive mindset throughout the org. Poor character guys tend to find themselves suspended more often generally speaking for reason A, B or C and a suspended player is of no value to your team, period.

4thand1's picture

The M Bennett debacle is leaving a bad taste in everyone's mouth. So Gute I'm sure doesn't want to make that mistake so early in his tenure as GM. Dez has the me first attitude before team it appears, maybe someone like AR could temper that, I'm not sure. The trade that would put the defense over the top would be, send Ha Ha to Seattle for Earl Thomas but Earl wants like 12 to 14 mil. Don't see that happening.

Bearmeat's picture

First of all, you might as well put up a picture of a Viking if you're going to put up a pic of that chum bucket of a "man." Yes, I said it. Don't put that crap on our beautiful green and gold blog.

Second, Ted obviously wanted guys of high character, or at least high football motivation. He just didn't talk about anything having to do about anything with his job. It's nice to have a GM not feel like he is giving away the farm if he's stating the obvious.

Third, in the case of Dez, the personnel is an obvious fit. They need a boundary WR2. The rooks aren't ready, and Allison is JAG at best. If Davante goes down, we're looking at 2015 spectrum of WRs again. That said, because of "that man" pictured above, it's more likely than not that management waits until someone gets hurt or the rooks (IMO almost inevitably) prove they're not ready.

WR is a sneaky need on this team.

blue eyes's picture

I agree with you Dez has a higher upside than Jordy does now. James Jones isn't waiting in the wings to save the season again incase Adams or Graham gets hurt.
Unless one of the rookie wrs is looking like Randy Moss right now i think they should sign Dez.

Bearmeat's picture

It wouldn't even have to be Dez, but they NEED competition/upgrade over Allison. Anything the rooks provide this year would be a bonus.

Lare's picture

Unless and until the Packers and Bryant get really desperate, he isn't coming to Green Bay. They've gotten rid of the last few guys that were problems in the locker room (Bennett, Randall & Sitton).

Flow49's picture

Problem with a Dez signing is he would be a third or fourth option in the progression . Hard to see that making him happy and or getting him the big long term deal he wants. He’s more childish than a locker room cancer and I think he would end up throwing temper tantrums on the sidelines. Probably not worth it.

Bearmeat's picture

Agreed. Which is why I'm not saying it HAS to be Dez. He is the most proven and capable WR left on the market right now, but he is a headcase. They just need another vet to hedge their bets against the rooks and Allison contributing. That's all I'm saying.

holmesmd's picture

Nelson has not only been more productive, but is still much better than DB. What are you talking about?

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

For me, the key word would be, "Distraction."

A diva WR may have terrific off-field character, but still be a real distraction from the team's overall goal. Likewise, Bennett's incredible focus on politics was sure to deeply offend half the fan base that didn't vote like him--new rookie Oren Burks shares this high risk--so even on a team of athletes overwhelmingly sharing the same politics, such public offensiveness can distract from the team's singular goal. I think Tim Tebow provided his team similar distraction on the other end of the spectrum.

Sometimes the distraction can be laziness, thus annoying fellow players like Mike Daniels who are killing themselves to be the best they can be. Sometimes the distraction can be the opposite--a fierce competitor who calls out teammates with unwise public comments.

The big thing is, this isn't tennis. This is the ultimate team sport, linking drastically different skillsets for super-precise operations in bursts of a few seconds per play. If you're a drug addict, you'll distract from the extreme focus and chemistry needed to compete as a team. Same is true if you're a malcontent, a public political disruptor, a me-first diva, or any other character issue damaging the whole.

You can't distract from team preparation and execution and still provide optimum value. Gute seems to recognize this, though I'm honestly concerned with Burks--not because he lacks character (the opposite is true), and not because I don't share his politics (my views are inconsequential)--but because the public divisiveness with which he states his views can create a real distraction from the singular team goal. Even if most teammates share Burks's views--which they do--they may not want offending half the fan base to be "the story." They want to focus on elite execution, not answer questions regarding what they think of Burks's next public protest.

Distraction. That's my key word. The message for every player? DON'T BE ONE.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture


Since '61's picture

With a 53 man roster (63 if we count the PS) it will be difficult to complete that roster without a few of the players having some type of issues. A player with a major lack of character or with a major issue can divide and/or ruin a locker room and his team's season with it.

To some degree the players need to police themselves and of course to a greater extent the coaches need to step in as well.

I would never want an Adrian Peterson or Michael Vick type to play for the Packers or any other player who is abusive to women, children and/or animals. I don't care how good they are.

However, in this era it is very difficult to avoid the Letroy Guion or John Jolly type of player who suffer from addictive behavior, DUIs, etc. Each team must determine how much distraction they will accept relative to the players contributions on the field.

I think that the Packers, under MM/TT/Gute have a good job of minimizing distractions and divisive impacts on the team and I expect they will continue to do so. Yet you can never know when a player will choose a self-destructive path.

Some players will begin to suffer the affects from too many hits (CTE) which can begin to change their behavior and their decision making abilities both on and off the field. At this point the team needs to bring in their medical staff if they can even recognize the problem. I still contend that Brett Favre may have been suffering the effects of too many untreated concussions when he began making some very questionable decisions on and off the field towards the end of his career. Thanks, Since '61

Handsback's picture

A team needs some characters on it so that they can get over the rough spots. Think Horning, and Max in the 60s and Brett during the 90s/00s. I suspect that all the NFL teams have those character guys. It shouldn't stop Gutsey from looking at anyone with talent that is also a half a bubble off.

marpag1's picture

Nagler seems to be reading way too much into this. This is just what a GM needs to say these days. A GM can't say, "Hell, I'd sign Hitler if it made us better." Besides, there is so much leeway in the statement. What is a "talented player?" Even the guys who flop are "talented." Neither does Gute define what "a bad character fit" means. HOW BAD a fit does it need to be?

GMs need to weigh the pros and cons. If a guy legitimately improves the team, most GMs will sign him. If his distractions harm the team (either on the field, off the field or in public perception), then he won't. I think that's all Gute is saying... "Yes, we consider these things. And if a guy is too big a problem we won't sign him."

I don't see anything remarkable at all about Gute's statement.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

How was Hitler's 40 time?

marpag1's picture

He did it in his car, with a driver and motorcycle escort, so I don't think it's apples with apples.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

Good point.

4thand1's picture

Jesse Owens still beat him in his car.

Bearmeat's picture

I wonder if that was before or after this:

dobber's picture

Yes. His time came in the 40s.

Oppy's picture

Insanely well played, good sir.

Just glad his time passed as quickly as it came.

4thand1's picture

If they legalized pot, would the NFL still ban it's use?

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

I don't see it causing any big distraction, but I wish players could do the Donald Driver thing and set aside smoking any sort of leaves while competing with the team.

But I'm a liberty guy, so I favor legalization.

stockholder's picture

I do disagree. Bring back steroids then. It's a DANGER to a cover-up. Capability! Or anything to help a player. Everyone must adhere to the rules. This is a business, not a social club. (ETC.)
Everyone who joins the military has one thing in common, they must swear-in by repeating the enlisted or officer Oath. Where is the Honor in smoking pot, Kneeling, starting distractions, or sucking in others? IT pollutes the atmosphere for which I'm paying for!

Oppy's picture

"Bring back steroids then."

So you actually believe they went anywhere to begin with?

croatpackfan's picture

It is not that TT turned his head from players with character issues. I will remid you of some: Colt Keliikoa Lyerla, Johnny Jolly, Eddie Lacy, Martellus Lier Bennett...

Some of them pan out, some did not. That is the life...

croatpackfan's picture

Eddie Lacy have/had character issue with overindulgence. That is also character issue, believe it or not!

Packers and others knew about that, but underestimated how hard that issue is/was...

So, Lacy gave 2 solid seasons in Packers uniform, but the third one open exit door for him...

I do not complaining against Eddie, just mention he had character issue!

Bearmeat's picture

All three of them were not renewed after those incidents too. Name me a player who they brought back after he was an idiot under Ted other than Johnny Jolly and Koren Robinson and I'll eat my hat.

croatpackfan's picture

Quaerless, Guion and Neal hadn't history with character issues. It boiled up while they were on the Packers roster, as well as Goodson.

But, Mike Pennel is, as well, good example...

Tarynfor12's picture

Gute may be saying...I don't want the Packers to be placed in a position that resembles that of a Sanctuary City by willingly/knowingly taking a player of character flaw into the fold and then having to retain because of his play regardless of the harm to the team as like the citizenry of that Sanctuary City. : )

Minniman's picture

Anyone who has ever played or worked in teams with a modicum of success or seriousness will also recognize that as a player\participant, you look to the leadership team to either uplift or weed out poor or negative influences for the benefit of the team - and if it doesn't happen then you lose respect for the leadership - so character matters.

That said, PackEyedOptimist nailed it by saying that that there's a lot of considerations and grayscale - but participants looking to the management to control this does not change.

zeke's picture

I doubt Gute has a subscription to the Daily Stormer, but thanks for playing.

LambeauPlain's picture

Anyone “taken aback” by what Gute said either has too much time on their hands or is just picking a fight.

After the Sitter/Quitter/Fibber Bennett and the chaos in the locker room created by Randall I would be taken aback if Gute declared he’d sign any talented FA with character issues because team chemistry is overrated.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

I think he was a Fister not a Sitter.

Lphill's picture

Someone mentioned Oren Burks in their reply but if you look into him he was designated as a student speaker to the media and he was asked about race relations and he did not make any disrespectful comments he answered everything from an intelligent viewpoint and I believe that's why he was chosen to do so , he made no disrespectful comments about the Police either , he also said about kneeling that people have a right to express their opinion but he did not say he supported kneeling.

davy jones's picture

One word...Woodson. Who signed him? He had more red flags than a golf course (a woman I was sort of dating said that to me once).

Mojo's picture

Don't think Gutey will always pass on talent because of character issues. Example one is Mo Wilkerson who fell in free agency because a lot of teams felt he gave up on the Jets. He was one of Gutes first significant signings. He was willing to gamble that Mo will be Mo-tivated to perform now that he's out of the quagmire that is the Jets organization.

I do think he will pass on the Aldon Smiths of the world, who have as many personal issues outside of the game as within.

As far as Dez specifically, I believe GB has interest but first they want to see if they have anything in the draft choices. If they don't and DB is still available (and they have the cap room) they might show some interest.

It's really a balance of risk versus reward with the character issue guys. You have to be able assess that just as much as the talent level a player will bring.

Gute doesn't need all Cub Scouts, just guys who won't be a locker room cancer. That's what I really thought he was saying.

Johnblood27's picture

I got kicked out of the cub scouts for eating a brownie

stockholder's picture

Character Matters! Let the bums go to Canada. Don't like the NFL rules? Start your own league. Oh how many of you remember the World Football League?

Johnblood27's picture

Trump remembers

Oppy's picture

Be careful what you wish for.

If all the players who feel troubled by the NFL's hard line stance on the National Anthem did start a league of their own, you wouldn't be too happy with the quality of play left on the NFL fields.

HankScorpio's picture

TT has mentioned on several occasions that he valued the make up of the locker room. And that he wouldn't bring someone into it that he thought would "jeopardize" it. It is a hot rumor that his behavior in that room was behind Sitton's release.

What Gute said is no different.

That doesn't mean everyone on the team is a choir boy. "Character issues" can have many meanings. It just means that the 3 hours of game play on Sunday is not the only element that goes into determining who is on the team.

PAPackerbacker's picture

There's nothing wrong with omitting a player because he has character issues, regardless of his skills.. Football is a team sport and a player with good skills but poor character will do more harm than good to the team. Strength builds character and character builds strength. They go hand in hand for success and poor character can contribute to failure just as quick as any other flaw in the system, if not more.

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