OK everybody, let's get right to it. I really don't know what kind of changes, if any, there will be on the coaching staff. We have no history with LaFleur to base anything on. He was asked about retaining Pettine this morning and gave an ambiguous answer, "still working through everything." With no history with him to go off, it's hard to know whether that's just a stock answer or whether he is considering replacing Pettine. He could have said Pettine will be back, and he didn't say that, but there's just not much to base an interpretation of his answer on. As for the roster, there's always a decent amount of turnover, and I have to think they'll make their share of moves to upgrade several positions. Last season strongly suggests Gutekunst is going to be pretty aggressive about acquiring players. I'm sure as this chat goes on we'll get into specific positions.
I don't know what role Gutekunst and Murphy will have in this. For all the time I've been covering this team, the coaching staff has been the head coach's call, though the GM offered his recommendations/observations. I'm guessing that's still the case. All signs last year pointed to Gutekunst and Murphy liking the job Pettine did a lot and recommending LaFleur keep them. I don't know if the spotty defensive performance overall and disastrous last game have done anything to change their thinking and what either or both will recommend. I have to think a change is at least on the table -- LaFleur retained Pettine last year but didn't bring him in, and he might have someone he's worked with in the past he wants to hire, his own guy, so to speak.
I think Alexader is pretty clearly the best CB on on the team and remains an ascending player, a talented guy who also competes very hard. It's good to have someone with King's length on the field, can help with tough match-ups, though it was interesting they didn't match him with Metcalf against Seattle, which I was sure they would. Tramon Williams had a solid season as the nickel, very impressive for a 36-year-old guy. Normally at that age you'd just assume he's done, but I don't think it's out of the realm that he's back next year. After that they were OK but there's room to get better. Sullivan was OK, Redmond was OK. Hollman was a rookie and late-round pick, so this was basically a redshirt season for him. Jackson was obviously a big disappointment, couldn't get on the field even in the dime. I realize he missed a fair amount of camp, but still, he had all season to move up the depth chart and didn't. That's a high pick (second round), they need a lot more than that from him.
There has been some critical coverage on that and I'm sure there will be more this offseason. The Jackson and Burks picks really hurt because they were in the top three rounds and contributed nothing. Once you get in the later rounds it's really hit-or-miss, and St. Brown didn't play because of injury so you never know how he might turn out. But Valdes-Scantling failed to blossom, I thought he was going to be a pretty decent player this year, and instead he went from playing a lot to hardly playing at all. I think he might have had only one snap in the NFC championship game. I'm sure there will be a lot more about that class in the offseason.
I don't argue with drafting at that position, you can't have enough good rushers in this game, look at what it's done for SF. There's always a way to get them on the field. The question is whether Gutekunst picked a good player with the pick, and that's very much an open issue after Gary's rookie season.
I'm still trying to figure out how much of it was scheme and how much was really poor play. I've said it on this chat before, very early in the season an OL coach in the league told me that from his experience (and from what he's been told by guys who knows who have worked on the staffs) the Rex Ryan/Pettine scheme isn't as detailed on teaching gap control and assignments as other defenses because it emphasizes getting the DL upfield and disrupting. So that's probably part of the issue, and very well could be the main issue. It didn't seem like Pettine tried much as far as a lot of different fronts -- he tried different personnel, but for instance didn't do much of the six-man front that New England used against the Rams' run in the SB last year. But re-watching the game this week, the Smiths were surprisingly bad on the ends, and even today at his press conference LaFleur said the defense didn't set the edge like it had during the regular season. He didn't say the Smiths by name, by they were the guys out there, so that's who he's talking about.
I'm not sure college football produces many of these guys, they have to be able to catch and block to be worth playing very much. Juszczyk averages $5.25M a year, that's off the charts for a fullback. Even though not many teams use fullbacks much, there just aren't many of them out there from what I can tell.
I guess I'm not convinced he's any different than Favre was at the same age, or Elway at the same stage in his career. Favre had a couple more really good seasons (one in GB, one in Minnesota). Elway won two Super Bowls with an offense built around a Hall of Fame running back (Terrell Davis). Obviously Rodgers doesn't make the players around him better in the way he used to -- he isn't as good scrambling and turning nothing into something; not that he can't do it, but he can't do it as routinely. He definitely needs more help. But there are other ways he can make a difference, with his knowledge of defenses, and he still has great arm talent. He's also been in the offense for a year, so that should help next season. He just needs a little more around him than he used to, just as Favre and Elway did. Rodgers' cap number next year is $21.1M, that's low for the position.
The offensive line had a good season overall, so I have to think Stenavich did a pretty good job. I think as the season went on they ran more outside zone and got better at it. Year 2 in a scheme is when you'd expect to see a real jump.
I definitely think the DL is a possibility for, say, a high draft pick. They don't have a lot to go with Clark. Again, look at what all that DL talent does for SF. I think they need to do all the things you talk about. Now, obviously they have only so many high picks -- they don't have multiple first-rounders this year. But there's also free agency. Maybe they can find a really good run stuffer, for instance, and play him situationally. Those guys aren't as expensive as pass rushers.
That game was mind-boggling, I just don't remember seeing a Packers defense so utterly unable to stop the run in all my time covering the team (since '93). I do think ILB was a big hole in their defense. With the way the game is now, you need a talented, multi-dimensional guy in there, and Martinez just doesn't have the speed and explosiveness to be that guy. SF has three ILBs who are better. But it'snot like you can put the whole thing on him. That defense just wasn't ready to play and never found an adjustment that worked, and that's on Pettine. Whether it will cost him his job, I'm not sure. We don't know everything that goes on inside the building, and how his chemistry is with LaFleur, etc. But I have to think all options are on the table. LaFleur said he's conducted exit interviews with the players and needs to finish with his coaching staff. I'd think he'd get that done in the next day or two.
That could happen, no question, there are no guarantees. But they have a lot of resources. No reason to think that with some good moves in FA and a good draft pick or two they can't be a lot better next season.
They won't be able to fill them all with higher-end players, that's true but they can upgrade them all if they sign and pick the right guys.In free agency, maybe Gutekunst goes for one or two expensive guys, or maybe he brings in more players at mid-level prices, for instance. You can add TE and T to that list, depending on whether they re-sign Bulaga at T. They clearly need to upgrade at WR, I'd say that and ILB are the highest priorities. But, and I realize this isn't likely but still, what if a QB they really like is there in the first or second round. How do pass that up if you're them? Anyway, I'd put WR/TE and ILB as the highest of several high priorities. But that doesn't mean they shouldn't take a DL in R1 if there's, say, a Kenny Clark there, or a T.
I'm just not sure on Pettine, didn't get a great read from LaFleur's press conference today. I'm not sure what the right move is, either, because a new DC means starting over with a new scheme, and all that entails, including whether the players added last season fit the new scheme. Maybe the biggest factor is whether LaFleur has someone in mind he really likes, maybe someone he would have hired had Pettine not impressed the Packers' front-office with his good showing last year. If LaFleur has someone he really liked, then there's probably a good chance he'll make the change. As for players, it's a given Graham is gone, right? I have to think Martinez is gone, too. Bulaga is the tough call because he had such a good season, but there's his age and injury. I'm leaning toward thinking he'll be too expensive, but I need to talk to some people around the league and think it through some more.
LaFleur definitely needs a steep growth curve. He did a lot better in his first year than I predicted, I figured his inexperience would cost them several games at minimum. The difference between him and Shanahan was pretty big, Shanahan is so much more experienced even though they're essentially the same age. But coaches can improve just like players. I have to disagree with your assessment of Rodgers. I think he's much, much better than an average QB. He's not as good as he was, but he's still really good, just has some physical limitations as a runner he didn't have, and he's not as consistent as he was. Elway went 7-7 and then 8-8 as a starter at ages 34 and 35, then went 45-8 and won two Super Bowls. Favre led the league in interceptions at age 36 and went 8-8 at 37, then went to two more NFC title games. Rodgers will have to adjust the way he plays as his mobility decreases, but he still has the arm talent. And yeah, Gutekunst really needs to find a guy at 30 who contributes a lot more than Gary did this year, I don't think the GM will be able to spend as heavily in free agency as he did last year, so he'll need to hit on a pick or two -- doesn't have to be the first rounder (look at Jenkins this season), but that's the most likely place to find one.
I'd probably work hard to extend Clark now, he's only going to get more expensive if you wait until next year. I'm thinking Bulaga might end up costing too much for a team with so many needs. Martinez walks, IMHO. I'd re-sign Crosby despite his age, kickers put points on the board and he had an excellent season.
Wilson's mobility makes a huge difference, he's just so elusive he can single-handedly neutralize the pass rush. But with the way the Packers' run D played, I don't think it would have made a difference. Shanahan outcoached Pettine in that game, I think that's a really safe conclusion.
I asked LaFleur that this morning, and he essentially said that while Gary is versatile enough to move around, he doesn't think he'd be good playing interior DL down-in and down-out. So it looks like they have no plans to do what you're asking.
I'd say things don't look good for M Adams, he's played three seasons now and hasn't shown much. He could have a tough time making the roster next season. Burks, Valdes-Scantlng and Jackson are all in similar spots -- two seasons in and still struggling. Burks at least was a core special teams player, I think he might have led them in ST snaps, so that alone could keep him on the roster next year. There's no reason not to bring back Valdes-Scantling and Jackson for camp, they're on rookie contracts. But they will be fighting for their lives to make the roster.
As I said earlier, his cap number is only $21.2M for '20, which is only about 10.6 percent of the cap, that's really low. His cap number balloons to $36.4M in '21, though they can adjust his deal if they need to create more room. But there will be a new CBA in place then, so the team's cap number could go up more than usual (if the players get a larger share of the pie in the next negotiations).
Agree on that, that's something that's easy to overlook. Running backs get hurt, and Jones has had more than his share of injuries. You can't have the offense go down the tubes if he gets hurt. They need a more dynamic backup. Williams is a really good guy to have around, but with how LaFleur wants to run the ball, you need multiple backs, like the 49ers. Look what happened to the Rams (who run the same offense) when Gurley's knee got bad. They didn't have enough depth at that position.
I have to think Conklin will be way too expensive, they have so many other needs too. I'm wondering about Hooper myself. He's not a top TE, but he's not bad. I have no idea what his price will be though.
I don't, not yet. Obviously Wade Phillips comes to mind, but I don't know why McVay let him go. LaFleur and McVay are friends, so I'm sure LaFleur can find out what the deal was there, and if there's a red flag that would keep him from hiring Phillips.
Both of those guys have had multiple chances as a starter and failed, so I doubt either is much of a candidate to be a keeper at QB.
Yeah. Good interior DLs who can play both run and pass are hard to find, and he's only 24.
Probably need to let that play out for one more year. I wondered about Brian Burns, he's the outside rusher who had 7 1/2 sacks for Carolina this season. Simmons the interior DL Tennessee took looks pretty good too, and if I remember right the Packers liked him but he was an injury risk -- I think he tore his ACL training for the scouting combine. Savage looks pretty talented to me and he has something you can't coach, speed.
He hadn't played in a game for four months, I just wonder if there was too much rust.
That's a possibility, take a T in the first round, sign someone inexpensive such as Veldheer, and whoever plays better in camp opens the season as starter. The only thing with ILB is, I have my doubts they can find a talented one on the open market, so they still will probably need to use a high pick to get someone with real ability there. There are many possibilities with that first-round pick.
OK, this has to be the last question, other duties to get to. So many questions, the time just blew by. But the chats will continue throughout the offseason so if I didn't get to your question try again next week. It's hard to get much of a handle on Sternberger, though maybe he gave just the smallest of glimpses the last couple weeks, had three receptions including the TD on a scramble play against the 49ers. The surprising thing with him was he blocked decently, and that wasn't part of his MO coming out of college, he was pegged as more of a pure receiver. He's tough to get a handle on because he missed the first half of the season with the ankle injury, but he played more as the season went on, not less like some other guys, so that's a sign he has some promise. I don't know if they see him as a starter next year, that has to be at least a possibility, he seems to have passed up Tonyan late in the season. But he needs to make that big second-year jump to be a bona fide starter. Graham is gone, and while Lewis filled a niche, he'll be 36 next year, just not sure it's smart to bring him back at that age, they need to get younger and faster (of course, I thought the same thing last year). So the starting job is wide open. With that, we'll call it a chat. Thanks again to everyone for coming by, and I just want to say how much I've enjoyed the chats all season, very much enjoy all the varied questions and insights you take the time to share, I hope you know how much I appreciate it. You know your team, that is for sure. And a special thanks as always for our subscribers, who make our thorough coverage of this team possible. Remember, if you aren't a subscriber you can get the Packers News app for $4.99 a month, it's a great deal for all our Packers coverage, and there's a lot of it in the offseason. With that, we'll call it a day, but we'll talk again next week. Take care everybody!