The Morning After – The GM Torch Is Passed
As I write this on Saturday morning, the sun is shining in on my sofa. Is it a signal that winter is over – or that the Ted Thompson era is now firmly dead and buried?
Though the Green Bay Packers’ web site has yet to issue a statement, I assume the news about the Damarious Randall and DeShone Kizer deal is fact. It’s understandable that everyone is trying to read between the lines, as this move came out of nowhere. Here are some of my reactions and speculations.
I doubt that CEO Mark Murphy had much to do with this bold move. This is new general manager Brian Gutekunst’s way of introducing himself to Green Bay fans – and to current Green Bay players. It’s a seismic move, and one that will reverberate throughout the organization. There’s a new sheriff in town.
Gutekunst has shown himself to have the heart of a gambler – he just took a risk that Ted Thompson wouldn’t have considered in his 13 years as GM. That Gutekunst led off his tenure with such a multi-faceted deal tells me this is not only a man of great daring, but also one who has plenty of self-confidence. This deal has every chance of backfiring in its main details, but I give him credit for issuing one hell of a statement, namely: players must give full effort and they must produce.
Unmistakably, the new GM has no confidence in Brett Hundley. This isn’t to say he’ll be dropped, as he’s only making about $600K in the last year of his rookie contract. But we won’t be seeing him play again (when it counts) unless both quarterbacks ahead of him go down.
I’m inclined to agree with those who feel there’s more to the Randall story than has been revealed. While Gutekunst made the deal, I think new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine played a key role. Because coach Mike McCarthy is so hands-on regarding the offense, the DC has almost unfettered responsibility over defensive matters. I’ll bet that Pettine was more turned off by Randall’s attitude than he was by his ability. In a word, Randall is immature.
There is simply no way that Ted Thompson would have moved on from a first-round draft choice, Randall, after just three years. This deal also appears to be a big vote of confidence in Kevin King. I just don’t see the Packers expending another first- or second-round draft pick on a defensive back. Pettine must think King will do well at the press coverage he likes to employ. As I keep saying, however, King needs to get into the weight room and add from seven to 10 pounds of muscle to his 6’3” frame – he’s currently listed as a 200-pound string bean.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
Ha Ha is entering the final year of a four-year, $8.3 million deal. He has shown himself to be the exact opposite of what Pettine looks for in a defender: he’s soft, unaggressive, and he gives receivers oodles of space. If it appears that Kentrell Brice is going to take the starting job from him, it’s likely the Packers could get some value by trading Clinton-Dix.
I would think that Pettine will give him a chance during the preseason to retain his job, but he’ll have to prove he’s ready to give full effort. The signals are that the Packers’ defense is going to be remade to Pettine’s specifications. LaDarius Gunter, come back.
Draft Choice Upgrades
The Packers moved up from overall draft choices 114 and 150 to 101 and 138 with the Randall trade. This is significant – and it’s also indicative that the Packers are doing all they can to put an unprecedented number of rookies on the 2018 roster. This draft could be the team’s foundation for the next decade. Gutekunst is dealing.
I’m as mystified as anyone by this acquisition. Kizer, as a rookie, started 15 games for the Browns, so he’s had a substantial time to show some talent and instead he recorded a 60.5 passer rating. That was worst in the league among qualifiers, and over 10 points worse than Hundley.
On the other hand, he was considered the fourth best quarterback going into the 2017 draft, and he was indeed the fourth QB chosen – number 52 overall, a pretty lofty position.
The Packers, and this probably includes Gutekunst, McCarthy, and OC Joe Philbin, must be pretty high on the guy. It certainly looks like Kizer was rushed into being a starter before he was ready. His stat line was terrible: 53 percent completion rate, 22 interceptions (league-high), and only a 6.1 yards per pass attempt.
Before writing him off though, consider that he was sacked 38 times and fumbled nine times – the man was constantly harassed. And it’s not like he’s immobile. DeShone rushed 77 times for 419 yards and five TDs – fourth best among NFL quarterbacks.
He also had a bunch of no-name young wide receivers: Rashard Higgins, Bryce Treggs, Ricardo Louis, and Corey Coleman are all 23 years old. Throw in young tight ends Seth Devalve and David Nioku, veteran Kenny Britt, and mercurial Josh Gordon – and not one had more than 33 catches on the year. That left third-year running back Duke Johnson as Kizer’s main target – he caught 74 of 93 throws for 693 yards and three touchdowns.
Kizer certainly fits the profile of the modern-day quarterback: he’s 6’4” and 233 pounds, has a big arm, and is said to be able to make all the throws. He has a thick frame and showed last year that he could take a lot of punishment.
Regardless of Kizer’s potential, the Packers’ interest in him must be solely as a backup. I’d say it’s a bit of an over-reaction to Hundley’s failings – but after watching 13 years of under-reactions, I’m not prepared to be overly critical of this new regime.