OK everybody, let's get right to it. I do think QB should be on the table starting in the first round. I'm not seeing it with Carr, though. He's OK, maybe an average NFL starter, somewhere in that range. They should aim higher than that. And it's not like they have to add a QB this year. It's just that this is the time to start looking, because there's a lot of truth the old adage that the hardest time to find a QB is when you need one.
I'd agree that he's on the back nine of his career but he still has the ability to make his teammates better, and yeah, they didn't have much talent in the receiving game besides Adams. Rodgers needs more help than he used to but he still has great arm talent and has so much experience reading defenses and all that. Tom Silverstein had a column last week saying Rodgers needs to adapt to his evolving circumstances, he's not as good making plays out of the pocket anymore and needs to more often do things by the book, get the ball out fast and all that, and it's hard not to agree. Tom didn't say it this way, but Rodgers needs to play a little more like Brady and Brees always have, that's another way to look at it. I don't know how hard it will be for him to change in that way. I don't think he's fallen off the cliff either.
Can't say I can tell you much. All I know is what we saw in camp and the preseason. He's got a strong NFL throwing arm and great size, and he's a good athlete for a big guy. He showed improvement last year from his rookie season, not a monumental leap or anything but after kind of a slow start in camp he picked up, definitely outplayed Kizer. He's still young and it's early in his career. Looks to me like he can be a bona fide backup in the league. I just have no clue if he can keep improving enough to be a starter. That's a big jump, and very few can make it. But he's got some tools.
Look, it's no secret I was very much in the camp of not liking the new structure. I like the clean lines of authority and accountability with a GM at the top, the coach and cap guy working for him. That setup turned this organization around when Harlan hired Wolf and gave him that authority. That said, there's more than one way to do it, and every structure has its weaknesses, there's no perfect way to do it. I still prefer the GM is football czar setup. And any potential problems in the current setup weren't likely to show up in the first year, those are things that might manifest themselves a couple years down the road. If there's sustained success, there could be jockeying with Murphy for who deserves the credit it for it, and who should have the more influence over football decisions if there's disagreement. If there's failure, with all three (Gutekunst, LaFleur and Ball) reporting directly to Murphy you have an opening for backstabbing and undermining in apportioning responsibility. It doesn't mean those things will happen, but it's very much in human nature for them to happen, especially with so much at stake. Murphy likes the advantages and talked right after the season about improved communication because of bi-weekly meetings consisting of him and the other three principals. So far, so good. But the success or failure of the setup will be determined over a longer haul, four or five years, not just one or two. As to the other part of your question, it's tough to precisely apportion credit for the improvement this year. But yeah, I think it skews toward personnel, the signings of the Smiths and Amos were huge. Collectively a bold move that really paid off.
I've only started glancing through the FA list. Have to say I saw no one at ILB who jumped out. Not that they won't sign one, but I have to think if they do it will be a veteran on a one- or two-year deal, a stopgap, and they'll draft there too. At WR, Anderson from the Jets might be the best one available, I just don't know if the Packers have the money to get involved and also improve the roster at other positions plus re-sign Crosby and perhaps Bulaga, depending on his price. I wonder if the tight end from Atlanta, Hooper, might interest him if he's not re-signed before the start of FA. He'll be on the expensive side too. The FA lists are going to change between now and the start of free agency, because some guys are going to re-sign, others tagged, and some decent players under contract will cut for cap purposes.
I'm sure the thinking was, you can't have enough good pass rushers in this league. If Gary blossoms, there are plenty of ways to get him on the field even with the Smiths on the roster. In the dime all three can play. On early downs they can use that package that includes two defensive linemen and three outside linebackers. Plus, they probably want to cut back the Smith's snaps at least a little -- both played about 84 percent of the defensive snaps. So working Gary into the rotation more can help there too. And there's the possibility of injuries to one or both Smiths. Depth at pass rusher is always good. I think Gutekunst saw what he considered a big player with rare talent for a guy his size and a potential disruptor. If that's what he saw, can't blame him at all for taking him even with the Smiths on the roster. The question is, was Gutekunst's evaluation correct? That's still very much an open question after Gary's rookie season.
I haven't heard anything to suggest that's going to happen.
The 49ers do look built to last. Their D-line is youngish, the run game is built to last with three solid backs, Kittle is young, Samuel was a rookie. I didn't see the Rams taking such a big step back, though we got a hint of it when Gurley's knee issues flared up near the end of the '18 season, their offense noticeably declined, and that was a huge factor in Goff's step back this year, because Gurley just isn't the same guy anymore. The Packers will have a tough time exceeding last season at least in terms of regular-season record. They play a first-place schedule, not a third place like this year, for starters, so that's a coupe tougher games. The chances of them being as healthy next season as they were this year are relatively low, even if LaFleur's practice schedule (shorter, more jog throughs) was a factor there also was just an element of good luck. Don't get me wrong, they also get another offseason to upgrade their roster. But I know the independent analytics people would look at their point differential, which was small for a team that won 13 regular-season games, and all their close wins and say they're a team ripe to revert toward the mean. But with a couple smart signings and draft picks, they could be in good shape to contend for the SB. Really, when they made the coaching change I was thinking this was the year they were shooting for.
Practice is closed once the regular season starts (except for individual periods early so reporters can take attendance), so all I've seen of Sternberger is camp (he missed a couple weeks with the concussion and jaw injury) and then what we all saw in the games -- he missed the first half of the season with an ankle injury. So I can't say I have much more of a feel than anybody else who watched the games. He didn't do much of anything in camp, but then when he returned in midseason he slowly increased his playing time. He blocked better than I would have guessed based on the evaluations on him coming out of college. He caught that TD from Rodgers on a scramble drill in the NFC title game. Yeah, he could be a starter next season. Needs a big offseason but from the small sample we saw in the second half of the season there's something to work with there. Agreed that really good tight ends can make a huge difference in an offense, look what Gronkowski did for Brady all those years, and Kittle in SF and Kelce in KC. Hunter Henry is a FA this year but I saw he's a candidate for the franchise tag. Hooper is pretty good, don't know if his price will be too high for Gutekunst.
I could see them signing a second or third tier FA receiver, maybe a veteran slot guy. I'd think they'd want to sign a big stopper in free agency, just a guy to play some early downs or against a team like SF, a guy maybe similar to Howard Green, who helped them a lot in 2010. Just a big, stopgap veteran who's pretty good at plugging the run. Would think they could one at palatable price. Same for a veteran ILB (along with drafting a talented guy in the first two or three rounds). It's all kind of fluid, because it also depends on whether they re-sign Bulaga, and how much of a 2020 cap hit that is. If he doesn't re-sign the priorities could change a little, and whether or not he re-signs affects how much budget/cap they have to work with.
There are several possibilities. Sternberger, maybe Keke, Savage is a good candidate after all the playing time he got this year. Gary of course. I wonder how St. Brown will look after missing all season.
It's impossible to measure the impact Favre and White had there. Favre, because great QBs are the best recruiting tool besides money, and White because he was the most coveted free-agent ever, in the first year of free agency, and he chose GB, which contributed to a sense for players around the league that if GB is good enough for him, it's good enough for me. Now, let's not kid ourselves, GB, still isn't everybody's cup of tea. But as you say, those two guys gave the franchise legitimacy at a time when there were real questions whether it could viable in free agency. And it's also important that the Packers do re-invest their money into the franchise and aren't funneling a lot of it to an owner or his family. They are good about constantly upgrading their football operations, and they do have first-rate facilities, which is really important to players too.
Wasn't surprised by the hire, at least from outside looking in, it looks like a good hire to me. Good for McCarthy in the sense that he's now got a GM who will be aggressive about getting players -- he clearly grew frustrated by Thompson's inactivity in free agency. And McCarthy doesn't have to be the sole face of the franchise during rough times, Jones is always front and center. Not that there are downsides with Jones, too. But it is a good match for him in that way. And Jones got a veteran coach who's won a lot of games. The Cowboys are in win-now mode, so there's no learning curve with McCarthy. Besides Philbin, McCarthy brought along Scott McCurley (LBs), and he hired Mike Nolan as his DC -- Nolan was his boss for McCarthy's one season as SF's offensive coordinator. He also hired Rob Davis as assistant head coach, though I'm not sure what his job is, he was on staff with GB for years in player development, not as a coach. As for the play calling, I have to think he and Jones talked about that during their interview and that McCarthy was on board with retaining Moore and having him call plays, though yes, I also have to think that was Jones' wish.
It often does take a WR a year to make much impact, though that's been changing some in the past few years. Even a guy like Samuel in SF who was a second-round pick made an impact -- I don't know his numbers off the top of my head, but just watching that team play, he contributed. I'd think Rodgers would be happy to have a more talented guy to work with even if the guy is young. The one thing I wonder is, if this draft is really deep at receiver -- sounds like it is but I haven't talked to scouts yet about just how deep -- can they get a really good prospect in the second round and draft elsewhere in the first? On the last question, if you're talking this year, Jenkins had an outstanding rookie year at guard.
Yeah, interesting guy to bring up. Did nothing his rookie year ('95) and nothing most of camp his second year, then all of a sudden came on at the end of camp in '96, won a starting job and had a really good season. Burks is heading into his third year now, and you would think that if it were going to happen for him at LB it would have been this year. It most certainly didn't happen. He is a good special teamer, so there's a role for him, but at this point it will be a mild surprise if he emerges as a starter at ILB. You never know, some guys take longer than others, and he did miss a lot of camp both seasons, that's valuable work. Still, the fact that he got multiple chances and never was able to stay on the field both as a rookie and this year doesn't bode well.
I'd guess not, age and injury history, and his solid play at RT, I'd think anyone interested would want to keep him at RT. I just don't have a good feel what his market will be. Will somebody who badly needs a RT offer him $9M or $10M a year? I don't think so because of the age and health, even though he played all 18 games. I'm still thinking it will be more in the $6M or $7M range, but I'm just guessing. Just hard to know, the cap keeps going up, and good tackles are a commodity because they're hard to find.
Yeah, I think Butler's case is better than Atwater's and Lynch's, both statistically as you point out and impact on games. They got ahead of Butler in the HOF line, and from what I can tell it's because they were bigger names -- Atwater was a crushing hitter who made the highlight reels, and was the best D player on Broncos teams that won back-to-back SBs; Lynch was one of the three stars on the top-notch TB defenses of the late '90s and early 2000s, then when was a TV analyst immediately after his playing days. So both those guys were bigger names.And the HOF "queue," as they call it, matters. Unless you're pretty much a slam-dunk guy, you have to wait your turn because only five get in each year, and there are more than five worthy guys every year. So the line builds up. Rightly or wrongly, they got in line ahead of LeRoy. The line worked against LeRoy this year, but it will work in his favor as some point relatively soon.
I can't say I've seen that the likely outcome will be 17 games with players allowed to play in only 16. I've only seen that 17 is a real possibility. Maybe I missed the report on that, but whenever I've seen the 17/16 idea, it was just speculation by a pundit advocating it or throwing it out as a possibility. I can't say I've seen a report saying the owners and union are actually seriously considering that. I'd think they could do it with 53-man rosters, there are seven inactives every week, and rarely are all seven out because of injury. But I agree completely that 17 games is a bad idea and is just a big money grab, and if players can play in all 17 it exposes the player-safety push as a farce. I mean, 16 regular-season games probably is too many if we're going to be honest, 14 was probably the better number. But if they do to 17, it's just a big money grab no matter what arguments they come up with to justify it.
That's one of the huge questions of the offseason. He is a smart guy. I don't see how he doesn't adjust, and LaFleur has to insist on it, right? The game is swinging back a little bit toward the run, with defenses putting personnel on the field to defend the pass, the run is a more effective weapon. Pettine has to adjust somehow, someway.
I changed this answer after someone pointed out you meant Jonathan Taylor of the UW, so sorry about that. I agree they need another RB, the run game is too important to their offense, and they can't be in position where if Jones go down their offense takes a big drop. They need another dynamic runner. But I'm thinking that taking an RB in the first round unless they think the guy is a future Hall of Famer is a luxury they can't afford because of more pressing needs (from what I've seen Taylor has a decent shot at going late first round). They got Jones in the fifth round, so maybe they can find another good RB in the middle rounds.
I've said this in the past about other positions, so take it for what it's worth, but I'll be stunned if they don't take an ILB in the first two or three rounds of this year's draft.
I have great trouble seeing it go any other way.
This will have to be the last question, other duties to get to. But thanks for another lively and interesting chat, too many questions to get to, so if I didn't get to yours, try again next week. We'll be doing the chat pretty much every week through the week after the draft. As for the question, these things are fluid. so I'd like to reserve the right to change my mind based on what happens over the next month. But I guess I'd say WR first, ILB second, maybe RT third, DL fourth, TE could be near the top as a pseudo-receiver. And there's the caveat that if there's a QB they really really like and is available or within reach in the first couple rounds, they should take him. With that, we'll wrap up this chat. Thanks again to one and all for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and questions, much appreciated. And thanks especially to our subscribers, you make our thorough coverage of this team possible. As a reminder, you can get the Packers News app for $4.99 a month, that's a great deal for all our Packers coverage. Thanks again everyone, and until next week, take care!