Let's Face It: It's Over.

Posted May 5th, 2021 @ 02:05pm

Supposedly, there are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I think after number two, I went straight to number five.

Let's face it Packer fans, it appears the Aaron Rodgers era in Titletown is over. It's ending two or three years prematurely, but it's ending. There is too much solid reporting from credible, long time football reporters to believe there is any chance for reconciliation between Rodgers and Brian Gutekunst.

When Bob McGinn reports that Rodgers secretly refers to Gutey as Jerry Krause (the longtime Bulls GM who famously lost Michael Jordan's respect) to his buddies on the team, it's difficult to see a partnership continuing.

Gutey's mistake was a lack of communication and a failure to understand how best to deal with the fragile relationship a team will have with an all-time great. Yes, he should have kept Rodgers in the loop when he decided to draft Jordan Love, even if that choice was made as the draft was unfolding. He should have cared more about fringe roster decisions that might irritate Rodgers.

It's not about coddling a superstar, it's about understanding what makes him tick and working with him in a way that will ensure that as long as he is healthy and playing at a high level, it would be the organization, not the superstar, that would determine when it would be time to move on.

Rodgers is an unusual guy for an all-world athlete. He has many disparate interests; he is always on a quest to learn and try new things. His back story: forced to start at a junior college because no big schools came calling, the notorious plunge on draft day, have molded him into a man who feels self-made, who has had to fight for respect throughout his life and now feels he has earned the right to be, to paraphrase a song from Hamilton, in the room where it happens.  Like Brady is, like Jordan was.

And now he has dug in. It would be nice to hear it from his own lips, but reliable sources say he won't return as long as Gutekunst is running the show. Sure, the Pack could call his bluff and dare him to retire. Let this drama play out through the summer. But I think they will slowly reach stage five, like I have. They'll admit privately that they didn't handle things as well as they should have and they will swallow hard and trade him to the AFC, likely Denver, Las Vegas or Miami.

None of us were ready for this. We all wanted a couple more swings at the Super Bowl. Instead, it's time to reach stage five. And hope that Love will find a way.

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Where Did Our Love Go? Pack Have a Supreme Problem On Their Hands.

Posted April 30th, 2021 @ 02:04pm

Well, things just got a whole lot more interesting in Titletown. Let me rephrase that. Things just got a whole lot more terrifying in Titletown. When the Schef-bomb hit on Thursday afternoon, it suddenly put months of draft speculation on the back burner. Way, way back on the back burner.

Trying to read the tea leaves here: Rodgers has been pissed off since the Jordan Love pick. We all know this. The acknowledgement by Brian Gutekunst on Thursday night that he probably shouldn't have blindsided Rodgers with the pick--maybe give him a quick heads up--was a mistake on his part. That was a monumental screw up that forever stained the relationship between Rodgers and the organization.

This is a guy who holds grudges. All the great ones do--it fuels them. From not being recruited out of high school, to the draft day slide to the surprising selection of his eventual replacement. Rodgers is driven by these slights, and it helped spur him to his third MVP trophy in 2020.

So where do we go from here? The Packers are saying exactly what they have to say. That they have no plans to trade him. That much of Thursday's reporting was faulty: that Gutey never told Rodgers he was considering trading him this offseason; that he was not fielding calls from other teams.

Every move the team has made in the offseason has been about running it back with the same team in 2021. They're all-in, with the understanding that there will have to be some tough cap decisions next year, with guys like Davante Adams and Jaire Alexander needing to get paid. And they wouldn't have let Tim Boyle go if they thought there was a chance Rodgers' time in Green Bay was done.

It's been reported that Murphy, Gutey and LaFleur have all flown out to California to meet with Rodgers this spring. That leads me to think that this feels like a Thibs-Jimmy Butler situation. Maybe Rodgers told the team after the playoffs that he was out, to move him and let the Love era begin. And maybe the Packers brass didn't think he was serious. But maybe he's made up his mind and figures he can make things exceedingly difficult this summer and force the Packers' hand.

We know the Packers have the leverage here and that barring a trade, Rodgers has two options: play in Green Bay or retire. I think Rodgers will play for the Packers in 2021. I think he timed this news to make things as uncomfortable as possible and to make a point. But I will not be shocked if Rodgers has played his last game in green and gold. If he's dug in, I think he could call the Pack's bluff. I'm pretty certain that nothing will happen before the summer. What a mess.

As for the Pack's first round pick: I'm not at all surprised they took a CB. Once again, the Packers made a pick that will likely have a bigger impact in 2022 than in 2021. Eric Stokes has a chance to beat out Kevin King, or more likely, as soon as King gets hurt. Either way, he'll be slates to take over for King in '22.

His speed is off the charts (he ran a 4.25 40 at his pro day) and should be a special teams ace. We all know that teams are making a living ignoring Jaire Alexander's side of the field and targeting King. Stokes has performed very well against the elite WRs he faced in the SEC and he sounds like a great human being off the field as well.

That makes nine defensive backs picked in the first two rounds since 2014. Most have been misses. This one can't afford to be. If either King or Josh Jackson had hit, the Pack could have turned their attention to tackle or, heaven forbid, wide receiver in the first round. Now, you would assume the Pack will target those two positions on Friday night. We know they tried to move up in the second for a wide receiver last year. That strategy might be in play again tonight.

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Buckle Up For My 7-Round Packers Mock Draft

Posted April 25th, 2021 @ 07:04pm

Draft week is such a tease. We spend way too much time trying to decipher what the Packers braintrust is planning to do. We waste time on mock draft simulators plugging in guys that fill roster needs and then Gutey and company go QB-RB-TE with their first three picks and we spend the weekend thinking about how much better we could have spent those hours geeking out on the draft.

If there was any doubt the Pack looks at the draft from a long-term perspective, we got the ultimate reminder in 2020, a draft class that's still a couple of years away from showing its worth--let's face it will be judged by what kind of player Jordan Love becomes. Nothing else will really matter.

So here we go again, with the Packers roster virtually intact from 2020, and very few, if any, day one starting spots available. There are obvious positions of need: a right tackle, a starting outside cornerback to replace Kevin King as soon as he's ready, a true slot receiver, and additional help on all three levels of the defense.

What we know is that it's unlikely the Packers will pick at 29. Gutey has ultimately moved up in the first round in all three of his drafts (he also moved down in his first one, before moving back up). And if the Packers identify a guy they want who they doubt will last, they won't hesitate to package their two #4s, or a #3 and a #4 to move up to the early 20s to get him.

For this exercise, I will make the Pack's pick at 29, but the guy I'm giving them may not last that long. Last year, I was drooling over WT Brandon Aiyuk and LB Patrick Queen, both of whom made immediate impacts with their teams. If we stick with those two same positions, I would love to see the Pack get Ole Miss WR Elijah Moore, or linebackers Zaven Collins, Tulsa or Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah from Notre Dame.

I think any of those guys would be great fits and fill needs on the 2021 roster. But they positions that the Packers front office just doesn't value highly enough in the first round. So I think they pass and turn their attention to CB and OT. Oklahoma State's Teven Jenkins could step right in to the right tackle spot and provide some needed stability to an offensive line that may have to wait for David Bakhtiari to heal completely. But ultimately, they know they need a long-term need opposite Jaire Alexander and they can't pass up

1 (29): Caleb Farley, CB Virginia Tech -- Recent back surgery has him sliding in the first round, but the converted receiver was considered a top-ten talent earlier in the draft process. He opted out in 2020 but showed enough in 2019 that he has the ball skills and overall ability to be a Pro Bowl caliber at corner. At 6'2", he's a nice complement to the vertically challenged Alexander. The Packers might prefer Northwestern's Greg Newsome, who doesn't come with injury concerns, but I think they swing for the fences. They may even part with a couple picks to move up to get him.

2 (62): Amari Rogers, WR Clemson -- There's been some steam that the Pack loves Western Michigan's D'Wayne Eskridge and fellow alum Greg Jennings had a pretty nice career with the Pack. But the Rodgers to Rogers connection proves too enticing to pass up. If Rondale Moore is still on the board, he gets a hard look. But at 5'7" and history of injuries, the Packers turn to Rogers, who can step right into the slot and at 5'10" 210 pounds, he's got the thickness to break tackles. He's drawn comparisons to Deebo Samuel and would also take over punt return duties.

3 (92): Daviyon Nixon DT Iowa -- Here's a position the Pack could address sooner, or they may look to sign a veteran off the street after the draft (Sheldon Richardson, anyone?). The Pack has always love to draft Hawkeye defenders and Nixon has a chance to develop into a nice upgrade over the likes of Lowry and Lancaster. He's extremely athletic for his size--go watch his 71 yard interception return against Penn State. He projects as a strong run stopper and would look very nice lining up next to Kenny Clark.

4 (135): Tyree Gillespie, S Missouri -- Has a chance to step into the role of third safety, a la Raven Greene and Will Redmond. The Packers like youngsters Henry Black and Vernon Scott, but Gillespie has a higher ceiling than those guys and will be an impact player on special teams. Needs to work on his ability in coverage, but he's a run stopper and could have a shot at the dime linebacker role.

4 (142): Monty Rice, ILB Georgia -- The departure of Christian Kirksey in free agency opens up a spot to compete with intriguing second year guys Krys Barnes and Kamal Martin. Rice is a Tasmanian Devil type who's ultra aggressive and has a chance to be a perfect fit in the middle of Joe Berry's defense down the road. Ay 6'1" 235, he's a bit undersized, but he has the speed to go sideline to sideline and was the QB of the Bulldogs' defense. He was also a strong special teams player in college.

5 (173): Drake Jackson, C Kentucky -- He joins the parade of day three offensive lineman drafted by the Pack in recent years. Don't expect him to step in and replace Corey Linsley in 2021, but he'll provide some healthy competition and could push Lucas Patrick or Jake Hansen as the longterm answer at center. Unless of course, the Pack decides to move Elgton Jenkins to that spot. Jackson's best traits will serve him well in the Pack's zone scheme.

5 (178): Trevon Grimes, WR Florida -- The Pack double dips at wide receiver, since none of the guys on this year's roster are signed beyond 2021. We expect Davante Adams to sign a mega-deal, but beyond that the Pack may elect to go with youth, rather than stick with both MVS and Allen Lazard. Grimes is nearly 6'4" and has great ball skills and is tough to bring down, but won't win any racing competitions. He's also an effective blocker and could become a reliable third down target down the road a bit.

6 (214): Javian Hawkins, RB Louisville -- The departure of Jamaal Williams via free agency opens up a spot in the backfield and the Pack can't pass up the guy nicknamed "Playstation" thanks to his elusiveness. At 5'8" 183, he projects as a third down back and has proven to be a nice receiving threat as well.

6 (220): Max Duffy, P Kentucky -- If the Packers make ten picks, they can afford to draft a punter and the Australian style booting Duffy was the best in the nation in 2019 and won the Ray Guy Award. He's great at hitting the corners (just one touchback in '20) and is very experienced. He'll turn 28 when the season starts, but who cares? He would be an instant upgrade over the inconsistent JK Scott.

7 (256): Lawrence Woods, CB Truman St. -- The Pack throws a dart with its final pick at a position where you can never throw too many darts. Woods is a former wrestler who projects as a strong gunner on special teams. He hasn't faced competition that's even close to what he'll see in the NFL, but is athletic, a solid tackler and returned five kickoffs for touchdowns.

So the way my draft fell, the Packers didn't land a tackle, which could end up being their biggest need. Maybe they find one on the street (Mitchell Schwartz?) or maybe they grab one on Thursday or Friday night. But they way things fell for me, they didn't find one when it was their turn to pick. OK, take your shots at my draft and let me know what you think the Pack will do with their first pick--or what you hope they'll do.

 

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