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Is There Enough History to Compare Gutekunst, Wolf, and Thompson?

Brian Gutekunst has now had four drafts and his latest draft has had 12 games to evaluate player potential. There is enough tape to look at all four drafts and his other managerial decisions. Wolf, Thompson and Gutekunst have all had to hire coaches, to take the franchise in a new direction, and all three have attempted to find a franchise quarterback. Gutekunst’s final evaluation may hinge on how far the 2021 Packer team goes, or Jordan Love’s future, but for now his coaching selection and four drafts are enough to have fun discussions at halftime comparing how he measures up against two Super Bowl winning prior general managers.

To evaluate the decisions objectively coaching choices, impact trades, and free agent signings must be evaluated in addition to draft picks. A general manager must evaluate a draft, all of his teams needs, and find players to fill every starting and backup position. If a GM determines there is not a draft pick that can fill the need, trades and free agent signings must be completed to fill the void.

Ron Wolf Way

Ron Wolf’s trade of a draft pick for Brett Favre is arguably the greatest acquisition of any GM in NFL history. Wolf had the luxury of two first round picks and traded the second pick, pick 17 of the draft, for Favre. In hindsight, their was no quality quarterback in the draft, making Favre’s acquisition even more important for the Packers. The quarterbacks drafted in 1992 in order were:

 

1) David Klinger
2) Tommy Maddox
3) Matt Blundin
4) Tony Saca
5) Craig Erickson
6) Casey Weldon
7) Will Furrer

 

The best QB drafted in 1992 may have been Brad Johnson, taken in the 9th round by the Vikings. There was no franchise QB in the draft and yet Wolf found one for a draft pick that ended up being defensive back Kevin Smith. That and a subsequent Super Bowl ring is how you get to the Hall of Fame.

Thompson had a franchise quarterback fall to him at pick number 23. He is credited for drafting Rodgers even though he had a franchise QB in Favre and did not need another passer at the time. Now, Favre had mentioned the word retirement about a thousand times before that draft and vocalized his distaste for offseason work and practice. Looking for a successor made sense despite Favre’s continued years of play. In hind sight there is no way Thompson could have known Rodgers would drop to him. But, Thompson should get credit for having the diligence to know more than the 22 teams ahead of him that passed on Aaron.

Gutekunst traded up to draft Jordan Love when his franchise quarterback had adamantly professed his desire to play into his forties. The subsequent handling of Rodgers’ contract can be held against the general manager while some will pin more blame on Rodgers. The next off season will settle some of the debate but most of us will be arguing with friends about this for at least two years into Love’s career as a starter, even if he starts for another team.

Free Agent signings by Thompson is a line sometimes used as the start of a joke, but his alleged low budget mentality still produced quality additions. Charles Woodson and Ryan Pickett are really the only two difference makers. His release of two All-Pro guards and signings of Matt O’Dwyer and Adrian Klemm, then not drafting a guard till the 5th round (Julius Coston) still land on my top three worst GM moves in the last 30 years by a GM.

Wolf’s best free agent signing cannot be topped. Reggie White. Enough said.

 

Brian Gutekunst with Ted Thompson

© Adam Wesley/USA TODAY NETWORK

 

Gutekunst has seen benefits from his free agent signings. The Smith Brothers brought a pass rush and help to Kenny Clark. It was the greatest need on the defense that needed help on every level. Adrian Amos continues to be a solid starter and defensive leader. Even with Za’Darius’ injury and upcoming cap issues, those three signings have contributed to multiple wins. Gutekunst’s low budget pickups have also shined. Rasul Douglass, Corey Bojoquez, De’Vondre Campbell, Billy Turner, and yes, Randall Cobb have paid dividends.

Ron Wolf is famous for saying that he was always trying to find three quality starters from each draft. With that being Wolf’s goal, has Gutekunst met that standard? His first draft in 2018 has produced one All-Pro in Jaire Alexander. Corner was a huge need position and when healthy, Alexander is one of the best in the NFL. The next best player from that draft is Marquez Valdez-Scantling. While MVS has been slow to become a complete wideout, his play every year has improved, he is a diligent worker, and his speed is elite. He also became a decent blocker. The next best 2018 drafted player is Equanimeous St. Brown. St. Brown probably had his best game last week against the Rams. He started the season on the practice squad but has played well on Special Teams and is catching the ball better than Allen Lazard the past couple weeks. The only other player still on the roster from the 2018 draft is Owen Burks, a career special teamer.

The 2019 draft has three quality starters, Rashan Gary, Darnell Savage and Elgton Jenkins. All three could end up with a pro bowl in their careers. If true, that is a phenomenal draft. Kingsley Keke has added snaps and pressures at defensive tackle but has been slowed by concussions. Ty Summers is a key special teamer. Even though tight end Jace Sternberger never really overcame his gruesome injury as a rookie, the draft is as good as any not involving a franchise quarterback.

In 2020, Gutekunst went for the controversial Love pick. This draft has been panned by fans since the first pick. More piling on came with the A.J. Dillon pick. The Packers had two good backs, why pick him when the Packers had other needs? This season has shown Dillon to be a game changer and quality receiver. Deguara is still developing after losing his rookie year to injury but his potential is starting to show. Jon Runyan has been a quality guard who’s best years are ahead of him and Vernon Scott is a reliable backup. Jonathan Garvin was getting a chance to play big minutes before being put on the Covid list last week.

Gutekunst’s 2021 draft of Eric Stokes, Josh Meyers, and Royce Newman could be three quality starters in 2022 and beyond if they can stay healthy. Other picks showing potential are T.J. Slaton, and Amari Rodgers, although Rodgers still needs to work on route details to create separation. Gutekunst has also been able to find non drafted players and picked players from other practice squads to round out the roster. Kris Barnes, Yosh Nijman, Allen Lazard, Tyler Lancaster, Jack Heflin, Chandon Sullivan and even Tipa Galeai are all making contributions that have helped this team to nine victories. He has also been willing to cut ties with underperforming draft picks. J.K. Scott, Josh Jackson, J’Mon Moore, and Sternberger are examples.

High grades have to be given to whoever picked LaFleur as head coach. The Packers have an improved offensive plan. They run the ball to set up the pass. There is confidence in every teammate and they believe in the game plan. They are united. Gutekunst gets credit no matter how much Mark Murphy boasted to the press his influence.

Ultimately, Gutekunst needs a ring to be revered like his predecessors, and his quarterback picks need to reach MVP status before anyone crowns him the best. High expectations, but he knew what the definition of success was when he took the job. I will be the first to admit I have to eat crow over the bashing I gave him for some of his picks. (Dillon and the three receiver draft ) The Packers were a score away from the Super Bowl last year and are contending in 2021. I for one would love to crown him the best GM in Packer history, because that would mean at least one more SB victory.

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Paul Edwards

Paul Edwards is a lawyer, victim advocate, writer, and long term Packer fan and Packer history enthusiast.

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12 Comments

  1. Ferris December 1, 2021

    Almost all bad draft picks are forgotten with Super Bowl Championships. One will be enough for Gute…but he better hurry. Just ask the Vikings. One ring would erase a lifetime of futility. It did for the Saints.

  2. PF4L December 1, 2021

    Wow. Lol
    .
    Talk about drinking the kook-aid.
    Royce Newman…Really?
    .
    Gute gets 5 years like the others if he is going to be judged against Wolf and TT.
    .
    With that said….Wolf is still the man regardless.
    He had to turn the whole franchise around top to bottom and he didn’t have the head start
    that Ted and Cute had.
    .
    Bottom line… V. O. R.

  3. Tom M December 1, 2021

    When Ted retired, the fan favorite, the sentimental favorite, for many was Eliot Wolf to replace him. While others wanted management to trade for local boy John Schneider. Still others preferred John Dorsey who had gotten fired from KC as GM when he lost a power struggle with Andy Reid. Virtually no one wanted Brian Gutekunst. Yet it was Gutekunst who was the finalist for GM jobs in Texas and San Francisco. Mark Murphy’s most important decision was finding Ted’s replacement. He didn’t take that responsibility lightly consulting many in the process. Most notably his good friend and former GM Charlie Casserly. Murphy got it right. Look no further than this roster. We can beat you with defense. We can beat you with a power running game. We can beat you over the top with a passing game. We can beat you so many different ways, it’s extremely difficult to defend. And the depth on this roster is why we’ve been so resilient. Going 9-3 with so many injuries is unheard of. That’s all thanks to Gutekunst. To really appreciate Brian Gutekunst GM. Compare his drafts and FA moves to that of John Schneider over the same period. Or John Dorsey when he was with Cleveland. It’s not even close. I wasn’t always a fan. I didn’t like the Jaire Alexander pick, too small and too much like Terrell Buckley and Ahmad Carroll. I didn’t like the Elgton Jenkins pick, too high to pick a guard when you can find serviceable guards in latter rounds. See Runyan and Newman. And I didn’t like spending 30 million on Billy Turner when that money could have been used to extend Brian Bulaga. I was wrong on all accounts. Someone in that front office knows what they’re doing. Alexander and Jenkins are pro bowl players. While Jenkins and Turner can play tackle at a high level. Brian Bulaga, one of my favorite Packers, is done. Many fans wanted “weapons” for Aaron Rodgers to pad his stats. But Gutekunst wasn’t interested in such nonsense. Priority number one was always getting the defense right and getting his young coach, who wants to run the ball, a power back. Blasphemy to many that our GM wasn’t coddling our temperamental diva QB. And Gutekunst’s best pick may still be on the bench. I loved the Jordan Love pick. It was bold, it was aggressive, and if it works, we’re set at QB for the next decade. If not, we still win the SB this year and extend Rodgers. It’s a win/win. So what if it upset Rodgers. Players need to be pushed. Even QB’s. I’d rather have a pissed off franchise QB than be the Pittsburgh Steelers or the New Orleans Saints who have no succession plan. We’re in good hands, even if some short sighted fans think otherwise.

    1. PF4L December 2, 2021

      You lost me 3 words in Princess.
      .
      In what world, did Ted retire?
      Nothing against Ted. it was Murphy who left Ted at the helm way too long.
      To the point where the team was regressing, we all saw it.
      .
      I mean sure….drink the kool aid if you like Ragnar.
      .
      Remember Murphy?…it was a “mutual decision.”
      It was a decision…..from the Board room.
      Because Murphy wasn’t doing his job….again.
      .
      Like relationships….it’s never a “mutual decision”.
      .
      Princess…stop pretending…end the charade.
      .
      Tell us more about when you said Murphy was a NFLPA attorney.
      Or that Garys 5th year option was guaranteed, (before he even got into town).
      .
      Go ahead…i got my crunch and munch popcorn….tell us some more stories.

      1. Tom M December 3, 2021

        Ted Thompson transition into a different job capacity. He certainly was not fired. He retired or transitioned from being GM which ever you prefer. Mark Murphy was quoted as saying he had a great relationship with Ted and he could stay with the team as long as he liked. Ted was in coming GM Brian Gutekunst’s mentor. And he often spoke of how he appreciated having Ted as a resource. Ted, a fiercely private man, was having health issue which was widely believed to be the cause for the change. If the change was made over his performance as GM as you suggest, then he would have been fired. He was not. As far as the power structure, that’s been way over played. Mark Murphy was responsible for hiring the GM, and he hired his GM’s preferred HC candidate Matt LaFleur. By all accounts Gutekunst and LaFleur have a great working relationship as did Ted and Mike. Mark Murphy does not micromanage the team, letting his GM and HC do their jobs. The only time you hear from Murphy is when he’s call out his diva QB for being a little bitch. Which has happened often this year.

        1. PF4L December 3, 2021

          Tell us more about when you said Murphy was an NFLPA attorney.
          .
          Or that Gary’s 5th year option was guaranteed (before he even got into town).
          .
          Go ahead…i got my crunch and munch popcorn. Tell us more stories about how often you feed these fine people in here your bullshit.

          1. Tom M December 4, 2021

            Quote me PF4L, you love to quote me. I never said it was Rashan Gary. I said it was Jordan Love. His 12 million dollar rookie contract has been guaranteed. They told the then 21 year old QB that this would be a process. That he would be brought along slowly. And to show good faith, the Packers guaranteed his contract. Because the 5th year option is performance based, that way he got his money regardless if he was a starter by then or not. What I said about Rashan Gary was this: he would start this year and would have 10-12 sacks. Of course I’m right. While you bitched and moaned that he was a bust. And we should have taken Brian Burns because he had a few sacks as a rookie. In the mean time, Rashan Gary is quickly becoming one of the best young pass rushers in the NFL. While Brian Burns remains a one trick pony in Carolina.

  4. Deepsky December 2, 2021

    Wolf got lucky with the Favre trade. When Wolf arrived in Green Bay, he realized immediately the Packers needed a good quarterback (Mike Tomczak was starting), but people forget those first few months, Wolf was talking a LOT in the press about getting either Mirer or Klingler. Before the Favre trade, Wolf mentioned that he loved Klingler, but didn’t think the Packers had the draft firepower to get him because Wolf thought he was going first in the draft. I believe that Wolf and Holmgren were then targeting Mirer, who Holmgren loved because Bill Walsh called him the next Joe Montana. However, in January 1992, Mirer decided stay in college one more year. Holmgren, the day of the Favre trade, said Mirer’s decision to stay in college “changed everyone’s thinking”. So, thinking the Packers couldn’t get Klingler and with Mirer gone, Wolf decided to trade one of his two first round picks to Atlanta. The pick used by the Packers on Favre came from the Eagles in a trade Tom Braatz made, getting two first round picks from the Eagles for their single first round pick. Maybe Braatz deserves credit because without the extra first round pick, there would be no Favre on the Packers. As for Mirer and Klinger, the Packers would later bring in both players to the Packers.

    Years later Wolf would claim he knew Favre was going to be great and he claims he rated him the top player in the draft in 1991, but in that draft that year with the Jets, one spot after Favre was drafted, Wolf took Browning Nagle, a bust. If Wolf really thought Favre was such a great QB, why didn’t he move up ONE SPOT in the second round to take Favre instead of Nagle?

    Now Ted Thompson realized that Rodgers might fall and did a lot of work himself to see if it would be a viable pick and drafted him even though he had a good QB on the team. I credit Thompson more with the Rodgers pick than I credit Wolf with the Favre trade. On top of that, Wolf relied on Thompson to look at film of Favre prior to the trade and Thompson thought the trade was a good one.

  5. PF4L December 2, 2021

    He got lucky?

    Ok :)
    .
    So is that all Wolf did, got lucky picking Favre?
    .
    Before Wolf…it was a losing Franchise, that was content for decades…..not winning.
    .
    I’m not so sure why any of this would be confusing. Unless you became a Packer fan…..after Favre arrived.
    .
    Read Wolfs book….yea, he wrote a book. Learn.

    1. Deepsky December 3, 2021

      I think Wolf brought a lot, mainly a respect for the scouts and a process to evaluate talent. Wolf didn’t bring in his own scouts (unlike Braatz). My opinion, take it or leave it, is that it wasn’t Wolf who turned around the franchise. It was Harlan. Up until Harlan came along the team was run by the executive committee and they would frequently meddle and pull strings and try to get involved with the team coaching and personnel decisions. The executive committee gave the coach ultimate power over the team trying to replicate the control Lombardi had, then the individual members of the executive committee would try to influence the coach. It was not a professionally run organization, it was a run like a country club. Harlan, who wasn’t even really a football guy but a marketing guy, sat year after year with the scouts during the drafts and they would tell him “Starr or Gregg just ignored our advice” and stuff like that. So, the Packers ended up with guys like Rich Campbell. In fact, Wolf had been offered the job by Parins, but Wolf didn’t take it because Paris said, “You work for me”. Harlan told Wolf; you have complete control, and he told the executive committee they could no longer talk to the team. The first winning season of the Packers in almost 20 years came when Harlan demoted the coach and put him on an even level with the GM.

  6. Howard December 2, 2021

    Gute has some work to do before he can be compared to Thompson, and NFL Hall of Fame GM Ron Wolf. To me one Super Bowl winning team maybe puts Gute in the conversation of comparisons with Thompson. Two super Bowl winning teams takes Gute above Thompson and maybe Wolf. It would take one hell of a run for Gute to be crowned the “best GM in Packer history.” I don’t believe Vince Lombardi is going to give up that crown so easy, or I should say Lombardi shall not give up that crown.

    1. Mick December 3, 2021

      As a fan since the early to mid 60’s, I couldn’t agree more Howard!