Whatever happens in what remains of their 2022 season, the Packers will have some crucial calls to make this offseason. And, once again, the majority of those decisions will center around their quarterbacks.
The Packers will have to make at least two major decisions at QB next spring, starting with Aaron Rodgers’ future with the team. They’ll also have to make a call one way or another on Jordan Love’s fifth-year option.
The consequences of both decisions will shape the team for years to come, and Brian Gutekunst has a lot riding on what happens. The problem is, I don’t know if we have a lot of reason to be confident in Gutekunst’s decision-making on quarterbacks.
Dating back to 2015, Gutekunst has been a part of a series of bad calls on quarterbacks, including at least one near miss that could have sparked the drama with Aaron Rodgers a year sooner.
The story starts in 2015, when Brian Gutekunst was the Packers’ director of college scouting. That year, they traded up to grab UCLA’s Brett Hundley in the fifth round. While there was good reason to be optimistic about the pick at the time, Hundley peaked as a barely adequate backup and has bounced around the league after failing in his stint as the Packers’ starting quarterback in 2017.
It’s an interesting coincidence that Hundley’s opportunity with the Packers came in 2017, because that same spring the Packers had shown serious interest in Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer. They ultimately picked Kevin King instead, and may have wanted to pick and trade Kizer, but that interest carried over into 2018. In one of his first big moves as GM, Gutekunst sent defensive back Damarious Randall to the Browns for Kizer, later dealing Hundley to the Seahawks. Kizer, like Hundley before him, didn’t fare so well in a brief stint replacing Rodgers. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s still jumping at the mention of Khalil Mack’s name today.
In 2019, Gutekunst was reportedly infatuated with Missouri quarterback Drew Lock. The Packers brought Lock in for a visit and he was thought to be in play for the Packers’ 30th overall pick. They ultimately traded out of that spot and jumped to 21 to get Darnell Savage, but reportedly would have taken Lock with the 44th pick had Denver not traded up and grabbed him at 42. The 44th overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft ended up being Elgton Jenkins.
We all know the story fairly well in 2020, but it’s worth pulling on the thread a little bit because this is actually two quarterback evaluations in one. The Packers traded up to get Jordan Love in part because they believed the end was near for Aaron Rodgers. And look, it was at least somewhat understandable at the time. Rodgers wasn’t outstanding in 2019 and 2018 wasn’t that far in the rearview mirror. But two MVPs later, that looks like a pretty bad miss.
And as for the Love pick, recent praise aside, they’re approaching his fourth year and can’t really say they have a firm idea of what they have. Approaching a rebuild, that seems like a bad place to be.
But in 2022, perhaps as an overcorrection for 2020, the Gutekunst-led Packers dropped big money on Rodgers, counting on the 38-year-old to continue to perform at an MVP level while other pieces fell into place around him. He hasn’t, and he might have had to be better than he was the last two years to elevate the team’s stagnant offense anyway. Betting on a third-consecutive MVP-level season from your late-30s quarterback seems like a fraught proposition either way.
I realize that a lot of this is playing the results. But football is a results-based business. No matter how good your process is, if it’s not bearing fruit, you’re not long for your job. As far as Gutekunst’s calls on quarterbacks over the last few years, I think it’s fair to judge both the process and results with quite a bit of skepticism. As the Packers prepare for some big quarterback decisions in the near future, let’s hope their next calls turn out better than their last few. There’s still hope for Jordan Love, I suppose.