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Gutekunst Couldn’t Have Planned It Better If He Tried

The dust has settled, and the Green Bay Packers have emerged in an ideal position to reach the Super Bowl.

It appears the drama engaged in by Aaron Rodgers, and later on joined by his ace receiver, has (for 2021) been resolved. The Packers will have their future Hall of Fame quarterback on board and eager for the coming season. It’s also a near certainty that he will not be with the team in 2022.

As a preliminary matter, there will be differing opinions as to how much motivation enters into a professional NFLer’s annual performance. Some players are strongly self-motivated, whether to simply do their best, make more money, become famous, win one or more Super Bowl rings, go down, in their sport’s history, or to be a credit to their teammates and fans. Almost any way you slice it, the Packers should be the most motivated team in the league this year. For this, we largely have Aaron Rodgers to thank.

Green Bay Packers Davante Adams (17), Aaron Rodgers (12), Amari Rodgers (8) and Randall Cobb (18) participate in training camp at Ray Nitschke Field, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021, in Green Bay, Wis. Samantha Madar/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
Gpg Green Bay Packers Training Camp 08022021 0002

Aaron Rodgers

By ending his holdout when he did – prior to the start of training camp – Aaron has prevented his beautiful mystery tour from negatively impacting the team’s prospects to any substantial degree. In fact, by nearly all accounts the Packers’ players are so glad that normalcy has returned, and disaster has been averted, that the training camp atmosphere is one of happiness, camaraderie, and great anticipation.

You often hear it said that one of the best motivators a player can have is entering a “contract year.” The failed negotiations that took place just before Aaron showed up at camp render the 2021 season as essentially a contract year for Rodgers. How well he plays this time around will dictate how much he’ll be offered by teams that will be competing for his services in 2022 and beyond.

If all goes well for him, Rodgers will enter the realm of the $40 million-plus QB – a region currently inhabited only by the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes. (Dak Prescott is at an even $40M.) Rodgers doesn’t need to match last year’s MVP play. I’d say that a passer rating of 110 or better is a realistic and achievable goal – and one that would likely propel the team into the big game. In 2020, Aaron’s passer rating of 121.5 bested Mahomes by over 13 points. In terms of motivation, it hasn’t hurt that many analysts have ranked Mahomes as the top QB even though he handily had the superior statistics las season.

While money per se has never been at the forefront of Rodgers’ thinking, huge contracts have come to symbolize how great a player is. Many, and probably most, NFL superstars regard the amount of their pay as the ultimate indication of their value as a player. It also forms a basis for being accorded special entitlements and status. Look at it this way: these huge egos need frequent feeding.

Using passer ratings as a measuring stick, Aaron technically hit his peak in 2011, with an all-time NFL best 122.5 rating; he turned 28 that season. From 2012 through 2014, his performance slipped just a bit, as he averaged a 108.4 rating, which is still top-tier. From 2015 through 2019, however, Aaron’s average rating plummeted to 97.4, a number which placed him at the edge of having a top 10 league-wide score.

Aaron of course then turned in a marvelous season in 2020, resulting in a passer rating of 121.5, the second-best such annual rating ever. The question for the forecasters and analysts is: has Aaron returned to being one of the league’s top two or three QBs, or was last season’s rating one he’ll never approach again as he closes in on his forties? The answer might have as much to do with Matt LaFleur’s offensive strategies as with Rodgers’ skills.

Davante Adams

Though Aaron has a tremendous incentive to perform exceptionally well this season, he’s hardly the only guy on the team that should be supremely motivated. After seven years of ascension, receiver Davante Adams has also reached the pinnacle of his position group.

A new entry to the NFL’s diva ranks, the Pack’s star receiver recently and abruptly closed down extension negotiations. Shortly after Rodgers’ recent lengthy press conference, Davante followed it up by confirming that he intends to be paid in accordance with being the league’s top wide receiver. Furthermore, Tom Silverstein tweeted on July 28 that Adams, referring to wide receivers, said “I’ve earned the right to be paid the highest in the league.” Davante is slated to make about $16.8 million in this the final year of the four-year deal he signed in December 2017. It’s clear what is motivating Davante this season.

As I indicated back on July 24, by closing off extension negotiations, Adams has all but assures that his next contract won’t be with the Packers. Let’s not begrudge Adams, who has well earned the right to an enormous payday. It’s the route most top NFL players take after they’ve established themselves as superstars.

There is actually a favorable aspect to Adams’ likely departure at this season’s end: he’ll be extremely motivated to excel in 2021. Had he signed an extension deal this would not be the case. Davante’s rise to the top of the heap has been methodical. In seven years, he’s only surpassed the 1,000 yard mark in receiving twice. De’Andre Hopkins has done it six times in eight years; Julio Jones has done it seven times in ten years.

Davante has chosen to talk the talk, so now he needs to walk the walk for a second consecutive season. Unless he puts up numbers like he did in 2018 (1,386) and 2020 (1,374), he’s unlikely to become the NFL’s highest paid receiver in 2022. Adams has willingly put extra pressure on himself to excel this season.

The truth is that contract extensions are performance disincentives. A player gets top money regardless of how he performs over the life of the contract. In terms of incentives, I believe the Packers are better off not having extended Aaron’s or Davante’s contact. In sum, both Rodgers and Adams should be exceptionally motivated this season to back up their boasts by playing at the highest levels. Both are already blowing people away at training camp, even though the pads are just being put on.

Brian Gutekunst

Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst speaks at the annual shareholders meeting on July 26, 2021, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis.

Their Teammates

To a man, the entire Green Bay roster will have an extra incentive to play to their utmost. The consensus is that the Packers are about to field their best team in a decade. The fans, the media, and the players should all realize that 2021 is the team’s best chance to win the Super Bowl for years to come.

Green Bay’s motivation should be greater than that of Tampa Bay, who has already achieved their dream. The fact is there hasn’t been a repeat Super Bowl winner since New England accomplished the feat in 2005. I’d say this is strong evidence that teams who have just won the Super Bowl are less motivated to win it the following season.

Other than the Bucs, only the Chiefs are likely to muster up nearly as much motivation as the Packers – but it has to be on their minds that they’ll have numerous chances to win a ring over the next decade with Mahomes’ contract having just been extended for ten years.

In case there are still fans out there who don’t realize it, 2021 is a make or break year for Green Bay’s Super Bowl dreams. Beginning next year, the Packers will assume a rebuilding mode. Looking ahead to 2022, spotrac.com lists only four teams that are currently at least $4 million above the projected salary cap: the Giants ($13M), the Cowboys ($23M), the Saints ($26M), and the Packers ($46,200,154). Twenty-six teams are under the projected cap. Amazingly, five are more than $50 million under the projected cap at the moment.

It’s a brutal reality, as these are mind-boggling numbers. They make it inevitable that Green Bay will lose anywhere from three to six of their top 20 players by this time next season. GM Brian Gutekunst has truly shown himself to be all-in for the 2021 season – he’s retained nearly all of the best players from last year’s roster, and to do so he’s pushed much of the team’s 2021 payroll back to 2022 or beyond. These salary cap nightmares are the consequences of the GM’s commitment.

It’s now or never. The Packers have the strongest of incentives to give it their all this season. This is the year, Packers fans, for your Super Bowl dreams to come true.

Rob Born

Smart drafters don’t select the best available players, they fill a team’s positions of greatest need.



  1. Whale August 3, 2021

    Rob Born… Stick to whatever you do for a living, you’ll never make it as a GM

    1. NobodysBurfect August 3, 2021

      I shit on Rob all the time, but this is objectively the best article he’s written in ages. Welcome to the commentariat whale, you’re a dunce.

      Solid write up Rob, though I agree with Pf4L – misleading title.

    2. PF4L August 3, 2021

      I believe Rob is retired and living the good life.
      Which, my guess is,,,he’s earned.
      But…welcome new guy.

  2. PF4L August 3, 2021

    The Title of this article…a bit misleading perhaps?
    Reading the whole article…i’m anticipating explanation of how Gute planned out this whole deal.
    Instead he gets one mention of being “all in”.
    The premise of the message is true…this is the one and last chance (for awhile anyway) of the Packers having a shot at the Super Bowl. Without a doubt.
    But lets be honest about a few things.
    It’s been a near certainty that Rodgers would be gone after the 2021 season, well over a year ago. Waiting for his dead cap number to go down to 17 million. Plus giving Love a couple years to sit and absorb.
    That timeline hasn’t changed.
    As Rob noted…the salary cap is going to be hell next season. But to be truthful… it wasn’t going to be roses before all the restructures.
    Yes…i guess you can say Gute restructuring deals is what kept this team together.
    But what other choices did he really have?
    He boxed himself in with record number of dollars spent on free agent signings in 2019.
    If you don’t want salary cap problems, don’t…
    A) Give a big contract extension to somebody your looking to replace.
    B) Spend 182 million dollars in 2 weeks.
    Yes…Covid didn’t help, but that wasn’t the main issue.
    A lot of other teams went through Covid and dealt with the same salary cap, but most of them stayed in the black.
    Rodgers dead cap money was 17 million, before his restructure. With the restructure after the 2021 season, his dead cap money climbs to 26.8 million, with cap savings of 19.3 million.
    Right now, the Packers are at 50 million over for 2022, That’s without a Adams deal, Alexander deal, Jenkins will want his money, and Tonyan will get paid (from somebody) if he has another good season. Plus a decision on Gary’s 5th year option at the end of 2021.
    Keep in mind…some think signing Adams for top dollar, isn’t worth it and they won’t get an argument from me, of anything over 20 million.
    But if gone next season…Love will have one of the weakest wide receiver groups in the NFL to start his career.
    Again…good planning?
    Four of Gutes free agents from 2019 will count 70 million against the cap next season. For reference…If they cut all of them in 2020. They would save about 33 million off the cap.
    Not even half of the 70 million.
    Good planning?….sure, lets go with that.

    1. Tom M August 5, 2021

      Look sweetheart, if we win the SB then it’s all worth it. And if we don’t, this team gets dismantled anyway. Gutekunst is all in with Rodgers and Adams last year with the team. They want contract extensions and Gutekunst wants a trophy. It’s up to them now.

  3. PF4L August 3, 2021

    The nice thing about Rob, is that you may not agree with him all the time, but other times he just stone cold nails it.
    Like the time some years back when he was clamoring for a wide receiver in the first and/or 2nd round.
    Or this quote from early 2018…..
    “Other than Aaron Rodgers, the heart of the Green Bay offense going back to 2011 has been Jordy Nelson – but he was let go and it was done before his talents were depleted.”

  4. PF4L August 4, 2021

    Tom M July 31, 2021
    “Last I checked it was a free country so you can’t mandate the vaccine.” – Mr. Know It All
    Tyson Foods will require its 120,000 U.S. workforce to get vaccinated.
    You can’t fix stupid.
    Stay in school kids.

    1. Tom M August 4, 2021

      Are we here to talk football or healthcare? Constitutionally no, the vaccine cannot be mandated. Something about a free country and all that. Your employer can mandated it. You then have a choice to get the vaccine or be unemployed such as yourself. Last I checked I didn’t see Tyson Foods as signers of the Declaration of Independence.

      1. PF4L August 4, 2021

        You tell us what we’re hear to talk about Gomer.
        Tom M July 30, 2021
        Sure, just as soon as I’m finished with you mom
        Or this….?
        Tom M July 30, 2021
        I’m moving there with your mom. Hope you’ll come visit! And yes, you can call me daddy!!
        Or this….?
        Tom M July 31, 2021
        Now don’t get jealous cheesy. I’ll get around to your mom next. Or maybe your sister. Tell me, which one is best?
        Tell us again how educated you are….little man.



        1. Tom M August 4, 2021

          This just in, according to PF4L, Tyson Foods is now mandating every American to receive the COVID vaccination! Declaring marshal law and Individual rights unconstitutional! Also, Aaron Rodgers the greatest QB ever has no chance of winning a SB with the Packers. PF4L proclaiming the schedule too difficult and the Vikings too good. Aaron Rodgers stands no chance going head to head with the likes of a very average Kirk Cousins. That’s why you pay Rodgers 37 million this year, to go 8-9 and miss the playoffs. God, your an idiot….

          1. PF4L August 4, 2021

            Why are you so angry Thomas?
            Rodgers is being paid $22,364,706 this season.
            But don’t let facts get in your way. We know how much you like to make things up as you go along and entertain us with all your wonderful fictional story’s.
            Carry on.

          2. Tom M August 6, 2021

            Not angry at all. Either Aaron Rodgers is the GOAT or he isn’t. And right now he isn’t. He’s running out of time. He needs to start winning championships. And it starts now. If we win it all this year, maybe he can be persuaded to return in 2022. Maybe. If not, he’ll be traded. We all know how much he means to you. I’d focus on the positives, and there are many. At some point during the playoffs he’ll have to be great. Can he do it? He’ll get one more chance in a Packer uniform. Let’s both hope he can do it.

        2. Adam August 5, 2021


          1. PF4L August 5, 2021

            Whoa whoa whoa….Someone’s after your job Ferris.
            Might be good timing, your performance lately as been lacking badly.
            Don’t expect much at your annual job performance review.
            Good catch Adam, i owe you a lollipop.
            But then again, i’m pretty sure i never claimed to be the most educated person in here, which could only mean i GNF :)

      2. PF4L August 4, 2021

        “Your employer can mandated it”
        Where did you study Tommy…
        Princeton, Yale, Harvard, Stanford, Community Outreach GED Prep?

        1. Ferris August 4, 2021

          Someone is doing my grammar check job. Thank you. It is painful to read his posts.

          1. PF4L August 4, 2021

            You’ve been AWOL soldier!!

  5. The Duke August 4, 2021

    The title of the article tells me that Gutekunst is like a blind squirrel, even he finds a nut now and then.

  6. Tom M August 4, 2021

    If Aaron Rodgers doesn’t start winning SB’s soon, his QB rating and his low number of INT’s will all he’ll be remembered for. For someone who likes to compare himself to Michael Jordan and Tom Brady he’s got nothing in the way of championships with those two. He’s best chance to get another ring has always been staying where he’s at. But he seems content to be traded to a lesser team and accumulate more stats. Next offseason he’ll get his wish.

    1. PF4L August 4, 2021

      “He’s best chance to get another ring has always been staying where he’s at.”
      Grammar is hard!
      English grammar is defined as the body of rules that describe the structure of words, phrases, clauses, and sentences in the English language. … Developing a solid foundation in basic English grammar (helps you construct sentences correctly).
      Stay in school kids.

  7. PF4L August 4, 2021

    I watched an interview with Thompson conducted by Tom Grossi.

    Murphy on Rodgers: “He wants to finish his career here, he wants to play until he’s 40 and we have the same incentive”
    4:48 – 4:52
    That’s as far as i could make it, he’s about as entertaining as watching paint dry.

  8. Ferris August 4, 2021

    This is truly a Super Bowl or bust season. Just like 1996. Anything less is a disappointment. It’s like the last night you spend with a girl that you are breaking up with the next day. Don’t think about tomorrow. Take care of business now.

  9. Tom M August 4, 2021

    UPDATE!! Tyson Foods now offering a free drumstick to every unvaccinated man woman and child who gets the COVID vaccine in the next month. And a bullet to the head if you don’t. We can all thank PF4L for this breaking development.

    1. PF4L August 4, 2021

      Smh :)
      Atta boy…let it all out Tommy.