By now, I think we’ve all come to see that GM Brian Gutekunst’s job performance has been all over the map: a crazy series of successes and failures. At the very top of the GM’s failings list, however, has to be the team’s efforts to acquire competent wide receivers.
If you want to point to why the Packers went from perennially being in the Super Bowl hunt to losing records in 2017 and 2018, you need look no further than the team’s acquisition and development of its pass receivers.
At the top of the list has to be Gutey’s decision to part ways, after the 2017 season, with the sainted Jordy Nelson – when the Rodgers/Nelson combo still should have had at least another two years of solid productivity. Jordy, one of the Packers’ greatest receivers of all time, was let go at age 32 – and just one year removed from a 97-catch, 1,257-yard, 14-touchdown season. Gutey released Jordy after just three months on the job. He ought to be placing a call to Kansas right now!
Gutekunst’s plan ever since he let Jordy go seems to be: quantity over quality – and it’s been a disaster. It started in that 2018 draft, when Gutey selected three WRs – all taken in the middle to late rounds.
After the 2018 season, when the Pack finished below .500 for the second straight time, his response was to not pursue a new contract with 8-year vet Randall Cobb. His strategy: let’s stand pat with what we’ve got.
As to the team’s three receiver draftees of 2018, J’Mon Moore never did a thing, and is out of the league at this time. Marquez Valdes-Scantling is blazingly fast, but in his third season with the team he appears to be at a tipping point – it’s unclear whether he’s an asset or a debit. The third receiver in Green Bay’s draft class of 2018 is Equanimeous St. Brown, who has been plagued with injuries – he’s been on Injured Reserve ever since before the 2019 season.
After the 2019 campaign, the GM parted ways with Geronimo Allison, an undrafted guy who it took the Packers four years to realize lacked NFL-grade athleticism or talent. The fifth-year pro then signed on with Detroit, but in August he cited the COVID-19 pandemic and opted out of the 2020 season.
Here’s one I’ll bet you forgot: Trevor Davis, taken by Green Bay in the fifth round in 2016. Beset with hamstring problems, in his three-plus years here Davis had but nine catches, and no touchdowns. But for his kick and punt return prowess (though he had no TDs there either) he undoubtedly would have exited earlier. He has since played for three teams, but mostly as a return specialist. Currently he’s a free agent.
Leading into 2020, Gutekunst decided to replace his several departed receivers with one average, stop-gap guy. He chose 5-year veteran Devin Funchess, and worked out a goofy deal with him: one year, with a base of $1.25M, though with incentives that could have made it worth as much as $6.25M.
A word or two on Funchess. Ed Rooney reports that he opted out to spend “time caring for family members that have contracted COVID-19.” Normally I wouldn’t question one’s family-related decisions, but this virus isn’t like cancer – you basically either recover or die in a matter of a few weeks. I’d say that Devin is burned out on football, and that Gutekunst and the team got badly burned by him.
In response to his initial failed efforts to find an NFL-quality receiver, Gutekunst opted to do some frenzied bargain rack shopping.
He experimented with Canadian Football League star Reggie Begelton, signing him in January, waiving him in September, and then adding him to the practice squad. The team doesn’t appear to be very impressed with him.
Tyler Ervin, a round four pick by Houston in 2016, has been with Green Bay only since December of last year. I like this versatile guy (RB, WR, kick and punt returner), but he’s in his fifth year, and on his fourth team. Barring injuries, Ervin isn’t likely to ever become a multi-year starting receiver with the team.
Gutenkust also set his sights on Robert Foster. Yes, who? Though he went undrafted in 2018, he signed with the Bills and actually had a decent rookie year with them: 27 catches for 541 yards (20-yard average) and 3TDs. But 2019 was a bust for him, and the Bills waived him just prior to the start of this season. Gutekunst signed him up and put him on the practice squad on September 9. He has yet to be moved up to the active roster. The 26-year-old is a deep-ball specialist, in the mold of Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
Then there’s Malik Taylor. In 2019 Green Bay signed, waived, and re-signed him to the practice squad. This season he was one of the last players to make the initial 53-man roster. To date, the guy who was a big wheel in college at Ferris State (get it?), has gotten 20 offensive snaps, but no stats.
Let’s throw in the similarly named Malik Turner. He spent two years with the Seahawks before signing with the Packers, then being waived prior to the current season, and finally being swept up by the Cowboys – his only snaps with Dallas have been on special teams.
Let’s not forget about Darrius Shepherd. After he was unceremoniously dumped by the Packers in October of last year, it appeared the NFL, had seen the last of him. Not so, as the scatback/receiver out of North Dakota State was re-signed by Green Bay in January, then waived in December, then put back on the practice squad. On September 26 he was brought up to the active roster. He actually got 23 snaps on offense, and was targeted once, against New Orleans.
In the front office’s next move, the Pack signed former Seahawks receiver Caleb Scott. He has decent, but not jaw-dropping athleticism. As to college achievements, in four years at Vanderbilt, he caught 72 passes for 1,061 yards and four TDs. Is there any surprise that this guy, who averaged just over 250 yards and one touchdown per season, went undrafted in 2018? In all his time in Seattle, he never appeared in an NFL game.
It came as a surprise to many that the Packers’ original 2020 roster list failed to include Jake Kumerow. Out of Wisconsin-Whitewater, Jake has spent five years, with four NFL teams, without gaining much traction in the league. Kumerow joined up with the Bills after being let go by Green Bay.
Allison, Begelton, Foster, Kumerow, Scott, Shepherd, Taylor, and Turner all went undrafted out of college.
The latest move by the Pack’s personnel swami (sorry, PF) came on October 1, and it’s a doozy. Receiver Juwann Winfree is now on the Pack’s practice squad. His resume includes: playing for three different colleges from 2014-18; a best NCAAF season of 325 yards and two TDs (he also played a season with a community/junior college); being dismissed from one of these teams for a conduct code violation; an injury-riddled college career, including a torn ACL; somehow being drafted in the sixth round by the Broncos, and quickly going on Injured Reserve; and mediocre Pro Day athletic scores (4.50 dash, 33-inch vertical jump).
Allen Lazard is the one undrafted (in 2018) receiver who appears to be panning out nicely – in fact very nicely, for Green Bay. You know his recent exploits, though he got his start with the Jaguars and was waived and made available to the rest of the league as recently as the end of August 2019.
Despite all of Gutey’s wheeling and dealing, the Packers seriously lack depth at receiver. After Davante Adams, Lazard, and MVS, the other receivers on the roster are Tyler Ervin, Malik Taylor, and Darrius Shepherd – two of whom sometimes line up in the backfield.
And now we have the breaking news that Lazard just had surgery and will be out indefinitely! (Note: I wrote the rest of this post a day before the bad news about Lazard came out.)
For all three of his years as GM, and even a year or two before that, there’s been a painfully obvious need for the Packers to acquire higher-quality wide receivers. Gutekunst’s continual thrift-store shopping and playing of musical chairs with his wide receivers now puts the 2020 season in jeopardy.
OK Rob…i thought you were going in a different direction. The, (we could have had) scenario. That’s ok, as this article is equally legit, if not more.
Gutes plan was to gut and replace our experienced wide receivers and their high salary’s by drafting 3 receivers in middle (late rounds. I’m sure that plan looked better on paper than it turned out. The sad thing was, Nelson would have taken a deep pay cut and stayed to continue being a TD making machine with Rodgers at a bottom bargain price. But Gute didn’t see the wisdom in doing that. Instead opting to make Jimmy G the highest paid tight end in the league. I don’t have to explain to anyone what a colossal fuck up those were in Gutes first moves as Packer GM. Although…i pointed them out when they happened.
I don’t like referring to Adams, Lazard, and MVS as if those are our solid core of receivers. Adams is obviously legit.
After that, we have Lazard. Like everyone else, he has shown moments of holy shit, did he catch that? Or…man that dude can get open, how refreshing. Same with MVS on a smaller scale, minus the getting open part. Being blazingly fast, or running a sub 4.4 in shorts, gives you no guarantee of anything in the NFL. Now put on the pads, and go get open against NFL caliber defenders, that impresses me. I’m impressed with how Lazard gets himself open.
DON’T get me wrong, i’m as happy as anyone when these guys make plays, or have a career game.
BUT…..these guys still have to earn their stripes, that takes time, more games, and most of all consistency. THEN….you are a proven starting wide receiver.
As far as Funchess, we didn’t lose anything, because he’s never done anything for us. I’ll repeat myself…he was a token receiver signing on the cheap to “appease” the outside chatter how Gute was ignoring the wide out positions on our team.
I also mentioned his 51.8% target catch rate. Predictably…people came back and pointed out it’s Newtons fault and his sub 60% completion percentage. But a funny thing happened to Newton since Funchess was cut, his completion percentage shot up to 66% plus after Funchess was gone, and he’s still at that level, albeit with the Patriots.
Funchess was a poor excuse for a public relations band aid.
Tyler Earvin….yea, it was fun to watch him beat the edge a couple times recently. But what have you really got there?
10 career rushing attempts in 6 years?
20 career receptions in that same time period.
Zero TD’s combined
P/K returner? After a few cocktails you might grade him as average.
Zero TD’s there as well.
So…what are we talking about?
3 targets in 2 years
1 catch for 1 yard…..
That’s a good way to conclude this.
I like a bargain as much as the next guy. What bugs me is the dearth of accomplishments of most of the low-ceiling players who Gutey has been pursuing – and spending years failing to “develop.” Very few of them had impressive college careers, were sought out by any NFL team at draft time, registered desirable Combine numbers, or performed notably when they got some playing opportunities in the league. For just one example, playerprofiler.com rated Darrius Shepherd 17th percentile or below among his peers in four of its five combine metrics, and even the fifth (burst) was well below the 50th percentile. I know people are suddenly high on him, but his lack of athleticism gives him a very low ceiling. nfltraderumors.com has a current list, by position, of free agents, and it contains 105 FAs. I’m not a big follower of other NFL teams, so I recognize only a handful of these guys. Even so, there are some players there who have previously performed solidly in the league – why has Gutey skipped over them, especially since we merely need to plug a hole short-term, not look for a guy who’ll be a starter for the next five years. How about Taylor Gabriel, Jordan Matthews, Demaryius Thomas, J.J. Nelson (if his knee is better)? I’m sure there are many lesser-known players on that list who have better credentials than, say, Juwann Winfree. Lazard, on the other hand, was all-Big 12 three years, and first-team his last two, and his Combine numbers were all well above average (except dash time).
Ted was also a bargain hunter, but……he hit on enough draft picks and signed quality free agents to compete for a Super Bowl.
When i speak of Ted, in the positive sense, i’m largely thinking pre Super Bowl. But for all his later faults, one thing about Ted, even post Super Bowl….on offense, he knew who his best player and meal ticket was, and provided him with skilled weapons to compete. In hindsight, his biggest mistake on offense during that era, was letting Cook go and signing the head case. Since Bennett, the tight end position has been a train wreck. Now we have one elder tight end who can make a play here and there, and two guys trying to reach 10 catches for their career and another 25 catches.
I think, much like McCarthy was….Gutey is learnin as he goes in my opinion…he’s picked up too many bad habits from Ted.
Sure…he got into free agency and made a name for himself by binge shopping one year spending almost all he could. 182 million? Now the cap is going down next season. IDK man…we’ll see what happens. That boy needs some draft picks to come through….badly.
To be fair to Gutenkunst, although I don’t always want to be, when you’re operating on the fringe levels of player acquisitions – going through practice squad players, waiver wires, and undrafted players – there isn’t going to be a whole lot of game changers. So yes, his recent acquisitions haven’t been impressive, like bringing Darrious Sheppard back, but I don’t know what else to expect during the season unless Gutenkunst made a trade, which is the first thing I wanted him to do once Lazard got hurt. However, trades are difficult and I don’t know who is really available.
I am as disappointed though and as frustrated with Gutenkunst handing of the receiver position overall since he got the GM role. It’s even now more frustrating that some NFC contenders have taken a step back this year, and the NFC is wide open for the Packers. If only they had just a bit more, then they could be the top team. There doesn’t seem to be one dominant team, but 4 teams right now that could each make a super bowl run in the Packers, Seahawks, Rams, and Buccaneers.
My fear is though this neglect will catch up eventually if it hasn’t already. Lazard was actually looking like the one receiver to develop into a number two starter, but he’s likely out for the season. I still don’t know what to think about Scantling. He’s had a few big catches so far, but I couldn’t say he’s a starter.
“…this virus isn’t like cancer – you basically either recover or die in a matter of a few weeks.” Ok doctor.
Rob how old are you? 55+ from the looks of your picture or so? What’s your 40 time these days? I ask because we all tanked the economy with shut downs to protect people around your age, and yet you’re the only person on this site who seems hell bent on opening games to thousands of people. You realize thousands of people are dealing with lingering effects from this virus.
Sometimes I wish these Packers beat writers would stick to sports and politics, leave health and medicine to the doctors and scientists. Rest of the article was solid though – good write up. Same could be said of MLB.
“Recover or die in a matter of a few weeks” is a statistical claim, not a medical opinion – if it’s not generally/basically true, but I think it is, I stand corrected.
You’re downplaying it man – the article insisting fans need to be in the audience did the same. And that’s not a correct statistic either; as I said, an enormous amount of people are saying they have lingering aide effects, and it’s entirely possible to catch the thing multiple times too. Read what the CDC themself have to say about it:
Annnnd Cam Newton has the Rona. Wear a mask, social distance, and stay healthy all.
Bring back Kumerow!!!! I like his hair. Or sign Dez. I should be a GM, it’s just not that hard.
Ferris’s press conference after being hired as new Packer GM.
Rob Demovsky : Ferris, congratulations on the new job
Ferris: Thanks dude, it was gettin kinda tight money wise.
Rob Demovsky: Anyway….I see you claimed Kumerow off of the Bills practice squad. What motivated that move?
Ferris: His hair is so long man, you can’t even read his name on the back of his jersey man…how cool is that?
Plus his arms, you see them guns? He’s ripped. Besides, he just looks good in green and gold.
Another aspect to Gutey’s head scratching decision to move up for Love is whether an ILB, DL, or WR was used on those picks, Adams is a free agent after next season. So, not only is there no one in the pipeline, but what if they can’t get a deal done? If it takes a year or two for a WR draftee to mature and contribute, WR should have been a priority in the 2020 draft. Love was a luxury pick in the midst of a big time financial commitment to ARod for the ensuing couple of seasons. The first and a fourth could have been utilized much better.
So Kirksey is now going on IR….a reasonable, but failed signing. I’d cut him after this year and accept the $2M dead money hit but save $6M in cap space. Packers’ quest for an ILB is like searching for the Holy Grail in a unicorn’s saddlebags.
Why is the NFL rescheduling a game because a QB, and a practice squad player tested positive? I can see if there was more negative test, but one active player? What…because it’s Cam Newton and their playing Mahomes? BS…just play.
I would say its to give the league a chance over an extra day for testing of other players to show positive if an outbreak is occurring among the Patriots so they don’t expose the Chiefs to it.
Yea Kzoo….after i posted the comment i realized that they wanted more time to continue testing. You are completely correct, as usual.
Since your here, i wish that you commented more often in here.
I understand if you….are in Huber with work release privilege’s, or….your wife has a strict limit on your internet usage.
I’m just sayin :)
Pack gonna shell out 100 mil both for Bak and Jaire sometime in the next year and a half. Unreal.
Christian Kirksey wants to put his name back on the NFL map – With injuries behind him, new Packers linebacker hopes for a “Cinderella story” in Green Bay.
That didn’t take long.
McFatass looking like a good hire. Maybe the Cowboys will hire me as a GM. I know what my first move would be. I need to know what size hoodie he was wearing for that game. I didn’t know they had XXXXXXL. They have 500 yards passing, score 38 and lose by double digits.
Meanwhile the newest crowned “Genius” Kliff K’s team looking pretty ordinary. We’ll see at the end of the season, (which may be in 2 weeks for COVID) but so far his NFL record is 7-12-1. His college record was 35-40.
I saw a headline that said Dallas was “soft defensively” in their loss to Cleveland. That just about describes McCarthy’s entire tenure in GB, sans 2010.
500 yards, 38 pts and they still lose. That sure sounds familiar.
LOL! First three games at a 460 yard average clip.With Adams out! U R A Moron. You just don’t get it.
Thinking out loud……would Dallas have given up their 1st or 2nd round pick in a trade for Kevin King?
I bring that up because of the very real possibility King is no longer a Packer next season.