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The Packers Have a Peculiar Way of Filling Roster Holes

Nick Perry sacks Bradford at Lambeau

Nick Perry (53) hits Minnesota Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford as he throws in the third quarter at Lambeau Field. Adam Wesley/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

I don’t think it’s even arguable: over the past few years the Packers have not prioritized drafting players who might fill its most urgent needs. It’s a particularly grave mistake if the hole to be filled is on defense. If you’ve got no quality tight ends, for instance, you can choose not to throw to the tight end very often, whereas if you got a weak cornerback, the other team can focus it’s whole offensive game plan on exploiting that deficiency.

Here’s what’s so peculiar: over that last three years at least – and with two different general managers: the Packers have made almost no serious efforts to fill two of its most pressing needs.

Wide Receiver

The selection of Davante Adams in Round 2 in 2014 has worked out nicely, though it took three years for a return on this investment. By the end of the 2015 season, however, the Packers, who for years had three capable wide receivers, had an obvious weakness at the position: Randall Cobb went from 1,287 to 829 yards gained, and his number of injuries escalated. And James Jones, who led the team in yardage in 2015, was let go.

So what did the Packers do in the 2016 draft? They brought in Trevor Davis, who never showed much promise, in the sixth round.

Though Jordy returned strongly from his ACL injury in 2016, Cobb’s decline worsened – his yardage dropped to 610 on the year. Additionally, Ty Montgomery, a third-round pick in 2015, was moved from receiver to a running back.

What did Green Bay do in the Spring of 2017? They drafted DeAngelo Yancey in Round 5.and Malachi Dupre in Round 7.

Things only worsened during the 2017 season. Jordy Nelson slumped to 53 catches and 482 receiving yards. Cobb went through his third consecutive subpar season: 66 catches, for only 653 yards and four TDs.

Even if you thought Jordy would bounce back, wasn’t it obvious that Packers receivers were getting long in the tooth: 2018 would be Jordy’s 11th season (counting the lost 2015 campaign), and Cobb’s 8th. Shouldn’t they have been looking for a high-quality receiver with the next five or so seasons in mind?

What did the Packers’ front office do prior to the 2018 season. First, they let Jordy go. Then they chose quantity over quality. The Pack waited until late in the fourth round (pick # 133 overall), to select WR J’Mon Moore. Not satisfied, they selected two more big and fast, though not highly rated, receivers in rounds five and six. It was a foregone conclusion that these guys were going to take years to develop.

Let’s suppose that one or even two of this threesome becomes a solid starting NFL wide receiver. That probably won’t be before 2020 or maybe 2021.

Vince Biegel 45

Vince Biegel (45) celebrates after recovering a fumble during the fourth quarter against the Tennessee Titans at Lambeau Field. Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Edge Rusher

We’ve known that Clay Matthews hasn’t had a good sack season since he had 11 in 2014. We also have known for that length of time that he’s been injury-prone. In addition, the other starter on the edge, Nick Perry has had only one season in seven years with over seven sacks – and Nick is even more susceptible to injury than Clay. That’s one, or even two, gaping holes at one of the most important positions on the team.

So what has the Ted Thompson group, and the Brian Gutekunst group last year, done to fill these holes?

In 2015, the closest they came was drafting defensive end Christian Ringo in Round 6.

In 2016, they went with OLB Kyler Fackrell in Round 3 – though he wasn’t envisioned as a dominant edge rusher. In his third year, Fackrell surprised almost everyone by recording 10.5 sacks. Whether he’s a one-year wonder is uncertain, but either way it took three years for Fackrell to begin to be a force on the edge.

In 2017, the Pack waited until the fourth round, and then selected linebacker Vince Biegel. Some thought Biegel could become the next Clay Matthews, though he seemed to lack size, power and quickness.

In 2018, as the lack of a strong edge rusher had become glaring, the Packers made the surprising choice of Oren Burks in the third round. But Burks was envisioned as an inside backer, not an outside edge rusher.

Conclusions

It would be hard to pick between wide receiver and outside linebacker as being the most gaping hole, or holes, in the team’s lineup – but each has been a weakness for three years running. Green Bay has done virtually nothing to fill either need through free agent market or trades. Will that change in 2019?

While the defensive backfield positions have also been weak spots, it hasn’t been for lack of trying. The allocation of high draft selections over the past five drafts for defensive backs – three first-rounders and four second-rounders – is the primary reason so many holes have emerged elsewhere.

Given the team’s recent draft history, I won’t even venture a guess at which holes the Packers will address foremost in the upcoming draft. With almost two months to go before the draft, it’s the silly season for prognosticators, with some calling for a safety, a guard, a tight end, or a defensive end to be selected early on.

From 2010 through 2014, the Packers never finished below ninth in passing yardage. From 2015 through 2018, they’ve never finished above seventh, and twice they’ve finished 25th. For Aaron Rodgers to have commanded the ninth best passing attack (yardage-wise) in 2018 was quite an accomplishment – considering he was supplied with only one productive and experienced wide receiver.

Speaking of accomplishments, DC Mike Pettine had little to work with to produce a pass rush in 2018. Clay Mathews and Nick Perry managed just five sacks – not each, but combined. Without these two, his defenders still managed to finish the season with 44 sacks – eighth best in the league.

He did it by using a lot of deception, and involving all of the positions. The linebacker corps, led by Kyler Fackrell, had 24; The D-line, led by Kenny Clark, had over a dozen, and six different DBs accumulated 5.5 more. Another unexpected strong contributor was ILB Blake Martinez, who was third best on the team with five sacks.

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Rob Born

Due to Aaron Rodgers’ reckless ways, I’m officially launching the Campaign for GM Gutekunst to Acquire the Best Available (Veteran) Backup Quarterback – NOW.

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35 Comments

  1. PF4L February 27, 2019

    I think you meant to say Jordy Nelson slumped after week 5 of 2017. I’ve thought long and hard and i still can’t imagine why that happened.

    If i remember correctly, that’s about the time he got old and lost a step.so a decision was made in 2018, get rid of Nelson instead of Cobb, because Cobb is still young. That may very well matter……to his next team amirite?

    The infinite wisdom of this team continues to impress.

  2. PF4L February 27, 2019

    Here we go again with commenting issues.

  3. PF4L February 27, 2019

    Yes….Jordy Nelson slumped during the 2017 season. Maybe put more accurately is that he slumped after week 5. Call me crazy, but if a guy catches 6 td passes in 5 games, i’m not calling that a slump. But then again….what do i know?

    So then the Packers felt they had to make a decision for 2018…keep a guy who led the NFL in TD’s in 2016 and lit it the fuck up in the beginning of 2017, or go with Randall Cobb.

    Well, the decision was made to go with Cobb, he was far less productive, but he was younger at 28. So here we are on the verge of the 2019 season, where Cobb’s age means absolutely nothing. I’d blame this on Gute, but we all know Gute can’t blow his nose without Daddy holding the tissue..

    Mark Murphy….Large and in charge…kicking ass and taking names since 2017. the results speak for themselves people. 7-9 in 2017. 6-9-1 in 2018.

    We as fans are understandably hungry to see what the 2019 season has in store for us under Murphy’s watch.

    Broken

  4. Cheese February 27, 2019

    No shit hey. There’s something that I said in a previous post that hasn’t left my head ever since.

    “It’s almost scary to think that any GM would value Cobb over Nelson.”

    With those evaluation skills what does that mean for the future of this team? It’s not like this was the draft where you don’t know how a guy is going to adapt to the NFL. You have a player who has proven to be highly successful with your QB, and then you have a player who is nothing more than just a guy except that he’s younger which ends up being irrelevant anyway because Cobb is most likely gone just one year later.

    It’s also strange that Cobb said Gute sought him out in the building to tell him he didn’t have to worry about getting cut after media rumors circulated. “Don’t worry Cobby, we’d rather your half ass production for $10mil than Jordy’s league leading production for $4-5mil.” Whatever, I’m done thinking about it. But yeah, completely retarded.

    I saw a headline recently mentioning that Murphy said Rodgers needs to “embrace change” with this new coaching staff. Thanks for the insight, Mark. Don’t let us forget who’s in charge.

    1. PF4L February 27, 2019

      Yea…and there is more coming, if you listened to Gutes comments on Jimmy today. Which i’ll hit on at another time. Check it out and tell me if something hit’s you strange (not a good strange) about his comments on Jimmy G.

      But first i wanted to go on record. I have no knowledge but a gut feeling, but i don’t think i’d be shocked if Cobb or Mathews (maybe both) got resigned for somewhere in the 7 mill/year neighborhood. These guys have to know they aren’t getting 10 mill/year elsewhere, so they maybe trying to cut a deal. Just thinking out loud.

      The more i listen to Gute, the more i think i’m listening to Ted’s ghost.

      I had a bit of a problem moving forward with people within the old failed system and i don’t feel any better about it a year later.

  5. Stiggy February 27, 2019

    Not sure why you are ragging on perhaps… the smartest thing our beloved mark davis doppleganger has said.

    Rodgers does need to embrace change. Change he rightfully lobbied for.

    1. Cheese February 27, 2019

      I wouldn’t call it smart, I would call it blatantly obvious. Kind of like talking over somebody so you can try to make a point, except that point has already been made. That is something Murphy loves to do since naming himself large and in charge after being completely M.I.A in anything football related for around tens years.

      I’m probably being nitpicky but oh well. I can’t stand Murphy’s schtick anymore

  6. Stiggy February 27, 2019

    No sweat. See the thing is… Murphy was hired to make the packers money… and hes actually been quite visionary in the business direction the packers have taken.

    With that being said… he should focus on building the brand… it’s not his fault the idiot powers that be let him manage the football.

    1. Cheese February 27, 2019

      Murphy can call himself a visionary or whatever he wants, but an overgrown artificial sledding hill and trendy condos are about the last thing the Packers need right now. Getting rid of a mentally deteriorating Ted Thompson about five years sooner and making sure there wasn’t any communication silos would have been great. Now Murphy is sticking his hands into everything trying to make up for the mess that ensued under his watch.

      On a lighter note, all we can do is have zero expectations and laugh at all of the nonsense that goes on.

      1. PF4L February 27, 2019

        Yea…lol

        It’s comical when i hear or read people say that Murphy’s job is the business side. Like he bears no responsibility for the job performance of the GM. Those people have no understanding that he’s also the watchful eye (President) overseeing the teams direction and making sure it doesn’t go off course.

        He refused to do that part of his job over the years, now he’s over compensating for his ineptness. Problem is, it looks like he’s doing more harm than good because he’s out of his element.

        It doesn’t take a genius to see this, a little common sense goes a long way.

  7. stiggy February 27, 2019

    I agree hes not equipped to deal with the football side but thats also a lack of organizational structure. They had no checks and balances to assess the football side.

    And those sledding hills and other money makers are being built to fortify the packers cash reserves. While the salary cap is very good for NFL business now… there is no guarantee it will remain in tact 10 years from now. Things can change fast… especially in the landscape of tv revenue driven sports.

    The packers need any way to generate money they can think of to hedge against that possibility down the road. Without artificially suppressed wages mr rodgers could have signed a 8-10 year 50-75 million a year contract (and possibly more) guaranteed on the open market.

    Could you imagine mr Jerruh and some other big market owners saying fuck the little guy… hording all the talent.. and coinciding it with a launch of their own streaming/entertainment records? The cowboys could afford the above contract… and still add guys like Khalil Mack to the roster at market value.

    The packers would be lucky to have Brett Hundley under those economics. Hence why they have such an immense focus on building any and all revenue streams.

    1. PF4L February 27, 2019

      Stiggy?

      The lack of organizational structure kept Murphy from doing his job, of assessing Ted’s job performance over the years? Is that what i’m getting from you? It was Murphy’s job to be the check and balance. His one and only job related to football operations.

      Holy shit.

  8. PF4L February 27, 2019

    Ok Jason….Maybe it’s my laptop, but i haven’t changed any settings or anything. But here we are with more posting problems. It said something about Javascript, then told me i couldn’t post a duplicate comment, which i didn’t, or even attempt to.

    1. Kato February 28, 2019

      That’s weird. What web browser do you use? I haven’t had a single problem on google chrome on my smartphone.

    2. KILLER March 1, 2019

      Piffle, maybe Jason heard you’re a cancerous growth on this web site and not a quality contributor like Howard, MM2, or myself……

      1. PF4L March 1, 2019

        Lonely Boy, maybe Robert Kraft heard your momma was still doing $5 rub and tugs at Asia Day Spa.

        I thought she retired, but maybe she needed some money to get her tooth cleaned.

  9. Stiggy February 28, 2019

    Then I may have missed something. I seem to recall (possibly incorrectly) that upon Murphy’s signing the Packers hired him due to his experience in football (a bonus) with an emphasis on the business side of the organization (meat and potatoes). Makes sense to hire a kellog business school mba to handle business operations..maybe not so much football decision making in a league he has no experience in.

    I did a couple of cursory searches on the role of team president and it seems to be a position exactly as i described… a business leader focused on the branding and finances of a particular organization. It is also true the packers are an anomaly given no owner to step in.. so the role in green bay may be a little different which may have lead to potential misunderstanding of all the duties in the role.

    However a caveat I did discover is under the ceo role…they assume responsibility for the organizational heads of each department. So in essence when murphy proclaimed himself the king of kings this year… he was assuming roles he would have already had in most NFL front offices.

    The entire organizational structure is complicit in the failure. I do agree with your notion of B-R-O-K-E-N but that was primarily exposed once Ted fell off his game and the team lost the strong leaders of the past in the mold of Harlan, Mccarthy (before he lost his locker room and started bullying high school basketball refs) Ron Wolf, and of course Holmgren.

    This end of the mccarthy/thompson tenure was eerily reminiscent of the Rhodes/Sherman window. No leadership whatsoever. Hopefully they can turn this around and gute and lafleur can be leaders while Murphy continues to make the franchise money hand over fist.

    1. PF4L February 28, 2019

      Stiggy….

      You can’t take the job as President (defacto owner) of a NFL Team. Have a General Manager that ONLY answers to the President (per team bylaws). Then, as that same General Manager you have the responsibility of supervising is not doing his job well, and is realistically hurting the team. You can’t just excuse him of that responsibilty by saying he wasn’t hired for that, only the business side. That’s insane

      If that was the case Stiggy, tell me who Ted reported to? If Ted didn’t have to report to anyone, why was he fired?

      Murphy not wanting to ever question Ted (his own words), or acknowledge in any way that he was his superior. does not mean that Murphy wasn’t responsible for Ted’s performance.

      If Murphy wasn’t responsible for Ted’s job performance, who was? The 3rd shift head custodian?

      There was no “misunderstandings” about Murphy’s job duties concerning Ted. But there was blatant disregard.

      With no previous NFL executive experience of any kind, Murphy got in over his head, and still is.

      The disease is still in the building.

      1. PF4L February 28, 2019

        “Ted will let me know when he wants to retire” – Mark Murphy

        That’s….our leader.

  10. Cheese February 28, 2019

    The organizational structure wasn’t a problem for Harlan, probably because he did his job correctly. And you can’t say that Murphy wasn’t aware that it was his responsibility to hold Ted accountable when he makes comments like “Ted will let me know when he want’s to retire.”

  11. Cheese February 28, 2019

    For some reason I can’t reply to individual comments. Oh well..

    @PF4L- Yeah I saw the comments by Gute. Maybe he’s just paying lip service to the media, or maybe he’s just that clueless. I don’t know.

    “Gutekunst suggested that the Packers like what Jimmy Graham brought to the team last season.”
    “Yeah, obviously Jimmy had a productive year for us last year,” Gutekunst said. ““Was really, really proud of him. He fought through a lot of things just to be out there. Guys who have played as long as he has don’t have to do that.”

    I wouldn’t call two TD’s for $13mil productive, but OK. Maybe for a rookie who started playing halfway through the season. If Gute really believes what he is saying then I’ll use the word I used before, scary. Although it would never happen, it makes you wonder if Jordy had sex with Gutes wife because where the hell was all his pride and respect?

    1. PF4L February 28, 2019

      Fucking bingo…..When he brought up that Jimmy was productive, a few thoughts ran through my head.

      1) “Productive”…….Seriously Gute, that’s what you are selling? Productive, but Nelson wasn’t worth much, even at a hometown discount?

      2) Then ….i’m questioning his player assessment skills. the man who is in charge of judging and acquiring player talent,

      3) Maybe he, like Ted is reluctant to pony up to a mistake. Then it dawned on me, how eerily similar his thoughts and ideals mirror Ted’s.

      I tried giving Gute every possible benefit of the doubt. But i’m growing less and less comfortable with this dude from the “old regime”.

      Although it isn’t brought up, i will. What Gute does in free agency and the draft this season, may have direct correlation to some people’s job status. As i’ve said before, Murphy is next in line, i don’t say that for shits and grins, i say it because i really believe it. At some point if the losing continues for a 3rd year, someone on the Board and/or Exec. Committee may actually wake up and discover a problem. Go figure.
      .

    2. KILLER March 1, 2019

      No Tight End will be productive in this offense as long as Rodgers is the Qube. Rodgers just wants to throw to the sidelines where he can lead the WR or throw short. He avoids interceptions that way and pats his ego on the head but he does not utilize the whole field. It isn’t winning football. TEs use the middle of the field more and best. That is Rodgers’ verboten zone. Even with Graham last year almost all the completions were on the sideline or short TE dump offs. Remember those times he hit Graham in stride down the seam? You don’t? Know why? Because it never happened. Nothing to remember.

      Gute the Bad it bad but he’s kind of right this time. Graham was wildly productive for a Rodgers offense.

      1. PF4L March 1, 2019

        Wildly productive?…lol….Gee…maybe we should tear up his deal and give him a bigger deal. Can’t let this cat get away!!

        18 million = 2 TD’s and……..counting.

        The league better watch the fuck out, this dude is on pace to catch 6 TD passes with the Packers for a bargain 30 million.

        The same amount of TD’s that Jordy caught in his first 5 games of 2017.

        Tell me more Lonely Boy, i’m taking notes. Educate me.

  12. Stiggy February 28, 2019

    Pr 101… you don’t say “well if Ted shits the bed I’m gonna can his old ass”.

    Please draft a better response that doesnt polarize your front office team. Even to that end Ted garnered enough respect for the pr optics of him “walking away” as opposed to the reality that he was fired .

    Treating employees with respect in public is a generally recognized form of good management… who in their right mind could you attract to your organization If you threw people under the bus?

    I agree Murphy is a rather comical caricature and gives him bad optics in the pr arena.

    And Harlan did his job correctly… until he didnt anymore. The entire losing Holmgren then giving Sherman control of his front office after the failed Rhodes debacle signaled quite a demise… however… much like Ted he was retained a bit too long as he had earned that right.

    Last I checked Harlan 1 super bowl win… Murphy 1 super bowl win.

    I dont discount the obvious disfunction that has been pointed out by numerous posters on this forum but I’m willing to see If the changes will correct the direction of the franchise.

    I’m not a Murphy apologist by any stretch of the imagination but the claims of his ineptitude are a bit over the top… similar to the attitude that Harlan was a demi god who did no wrong.

    If Murphy is guilty of anything its complacency… and every organization…in every industry faces the same challenge.

    Hes acknowledged that and at least put the target on his own back. Hopefully he can get the job done.

    1. PF4L February 28, 2019

      If Murphy is guilty of doing anything, it’s not doing a segment of his job.

      It’s not knowing their is complacency. it’s not knowing their are silo’s. It’s not recognizing the team is regressing in successive years.

      If Murphy wasn’t just as guilty as the rest of “non communicative silo’s” around him, maybe he’d would have a had a clue what was going on around him.

      This isn’t that complicated to understand. But if you want to continue to justify where Murphy and the team is and how they got here….knock yourself out, but your doing it without me. I can try explaining things to you, but i can’t make you smart enough to understand it.

    2. Larry Polte March 2, 2019

      Murphy is guilty of being a gutless coward who has no freaking clue. The man has no balls or else Teddy would have been fired tears ago. Murphy was given a job he was never qualified for. The mistakes he has made is comical. There is no hope for any real fan right now. This team has so many holes, the little dutch boy would be terrified. Any one who is honest and understands the game, would give Gute a fail for his first year on the job.

      1. PF4L March 4, 2019

        Absolutely

  13. Stiggy February 28, 2019

    I was more so referring to cheeses remark on Harlan getting the job done when the team has won just as many superbowls under both men.

    Also seems this structure was in place well before Murphy arrived and complacency stretches far beyond his tenure.

    The reality is I agree Murphy is on the hot seat.. the only place we are splitting hairs is I will give him the benefit of the doubt to turn it around for another season and give him credit for at least making some changes.

    No need to insult my intelligence because I disagree with you… I just happen to consider the fact that the franchise is making a ton of money under his leadership and frankly if you think the nfl is about winning… or super bowls… you are sadly mistaken. That’s where fans miss the point…. and often times care more than the players/leadership/owners do.

    For the people who sit in the board rooms it is about money and the packers are doing quite well in that department. The franchise has modernized under Murphy and it may not be worth anything to the fan on the comment board.. but it doesn’t mean anything when you have 120000 people in line to give you their money for season tickets.

    1. PF4L February 28, 2019

      Then i guess i’m sadly mistaken, and i’ll have to live with that.

      It sounds to me, like you had no problem with how the 70’s and 80’s Green Bay Packers were run. Well…i have great news for you, we’re one short step away from being there again full cycle.

      Enjoy….and have a nice day.

      1. PF4L February 28, 2019

        BTW…lol…if you want to compare the virtues of Bob Harlan and Mark Murphy have at it, but grab a good lunch, get comfortable and do some research first. Then after you do that, i’m sure Cheese or myself would gladly engage in that exchange with you.

        That comparison is a bit deeper than…..they both won 1 Super Bowl…..C’mon man.

  14. Cheese February 28, 2019

    Yes, both Harlan and Murphy have Super Bowls but they are under vastly different conditions. Harlan had to build from the nothingness of the 80’s. He fired Tom Braatz, brought in Ron Wolf, and completely changed the losing culture that had been here for almost 30 years. Harlan turned this ship around and made it into a model franchise after being dogshit for decades.

    Murphy came on board in 2008, didn’t have to do anything, and boom two years later the Packers win the Super Bowl. Everything was already in place. The GM, the coach, and most of the players. Murphy didn’t have to do shit other than come along for the ride. Harlan built his legacy from scratch, meanwhile Murphy sat back and watched for years as this team has been crumbling under TT’s antics. Harlan and Wolf weren’t perfect, but when they saw a problem they took care of it right away. Murphy likes to wait a good 3-5 years before he addresses anything. The only reason Ted is “gone” is because Murphy was on the hotseat after TT was caught catching fly’s on TV with his gaping mouth.

    Ron wolf made a comment about Bob Harlan saying “He hired good people and let them run it. He was a man of his word. He said he was going to hire me to run the football operation and he wouldn’t get in the way, and he never got in the way.” Hmm, sounds like the polar opposite of Murphy. “MAN OF HIS WORD, NEVER GOT IN THE WAY.” Shit, within the first week of being GM Gutekunst was surprised to hear that he wasn’t able to hire his own coach after being told that he would be, and getting in the way has been Murphy’s specialty for the past year. Ask anyone in Cleveland’s front office (Green Bay West) what they think of Murphy. As Alonzo Highsmith said “I’m not the first to leave, and I won’t be the last.”

    1. PF4L March 1, 2019

      The voice of reason and knowledge.

      Thank you Sir.

    2. ay hombre March 2, 2019

      Mic drop.

    3. Cheese March 2, 2019

      Green Bay East is what I should have said. You’d think I’d know the difference between left and right by now. Whoops!