Four Biggest Changes for Packers Over Last Year

Led by quarterback Jordan Love, plenty has changed over the last 365 days as the Green Bay Packers have re-emerged as Super Bowl contenders.
Jordan Love (10) and Dontayvion Wicks celebrate a Green Bay Packers touchdown in the playoff win at the Dallas Cowboys.
Jordan Love (10) and Dontayvion Wicks celebrate a Green Bay Packers touchdown in the playoff win at the Dallas Cowboys. / Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
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With Green Bay Packers training camp less than two weeks away, the team is looking to build on a strong finish to the 2023 season.

At this time a year ago, there was a lot of uncertainty as to whether the Packers would be good or if they were headed toward their first period of extended losing in more than three decades.

It was one year ago today that we gave you the reasons the Packers could be good, and other reasons they may not.

The expectations this year are different. There aren’t nearly as many reasons to believe the Packers won’t be good.

They’re expected to compete for a Super Bowl once again, largely due to the emergence of Jordan Love.

Led by Love, here are some of the big changes that have taken place over the last 365 days.

Quarterback Jordan Love

Love is the biggest domino to fall. Perhaps rise is a better analogy here. Love’s ascension down the stretch of the 2023 season was truly a sight to behold.

With the Packers mired at 3-6, Love and the offense took off. They outscored the likes of the Detroit Lions and Kansas City Chiefs, and scored 30-plus points in three of their last five games.

Love entered last season with the possibility of becoming a one-and-done starter. Those questions got louder with the early-season issues that plagued Love and the entire offense.

With a red-hot closing stretch, Love established himself as one of the leaders of the team and, more importantly, a dynamic quarterback capable of playing well in big games.

The season did not end in the greatest fashion – Love threw two bad interceptions in the playoff loss to the 49ers – but that does little to erase the two months of good Love put together prior to that night in Santa Clara, Calif.

There is no question who the starting quarterback will be in Green Bay for the foreseeable future. That’s not something that could have been said a year ago at this time.

Defensive Coordinator Jeff Hafley

Perhaps the biggest change on the team came on the coaching staff.

Everyone’s favorite defensive coordinator, Joe Barry, was unable to save his job after a poor December was met by a strong finish in January.

Barry was let go after three lackluster seasons. Barry being fired was not overly surprising, but his replacement was.

When a disastrous special teams performance derailed a potential Super Bowl run following the 2021 regular season, coach Matt LaFleur targeted an established, successful special teams coordinator. He landed Rich Bisaccia, who is one of the more respected minds in the sport. LaFleur has consistently raved about the culture change in that phase of the game.

LaFleur did not follow a similar blueprint in finding Barry’s replacement. He went to the college ranks and pulled Boston College head coach Jeff Hafley off campus and into the pros.

Hafley will be tasked with getting a Packers defense that has received plenty of investment in terms of salary cap space and draft capital to match that investment on the field.

Hafley might represent LaFleur’s last chance at getting the defensive coordinator hire correct. Hafley is LaFleur’s third coordinator in six seasons.

LaFleur’s hope is that a more aggressive approach will help unlock some of the best players on defense.

Running Back Josh Jacobs

If Jeff Hafley was not the biggest surprise of the offseason, it was the change at the running back position.

When the offseason began, Aaron Jones returning to the Packers was considered a slam dunk. “Absolutely,” general manager Brian Gutekunst said when asked if he expected Jones to return to the team.

Less than a month after those comments, the Packers surprised everyone by signing Josh Jacobs to a four-year, $48 million contract.

Jacobs’ addition had fans dreaming of a backfield that included Jacobs and Jones. Those dreams lasted less than two hours. Jones was released and signed with the Minnesota Vikings shortly thereafter.

Jacobs has immersed himself into the locker room, helping fill the void left by Jones, and is excited about playing with Love, believing the sky is the limit for Green Bay’s new-look offense.

If Jacobs can rediscover the form that helped him win the rushing title in 2022, Green Bay’s offense should find its way to new heights.

Safety Xavier McKinney

This time a year ago, the Packers’ safety position could have been described as Darnell Savage and the funky bunch.

Savage was far from a solid starter, and did not garner much interest from the Packers in being brought back after his contract expired. The position next to him was a revolving door, with Rudy Ford, Jonathan Owens and Anthony Johnson took turns in the starting lineup.

The disastrous performance caused general manager Brian Gutekunst to enter the free agent market, with his eyes on one big piece to add to his defense.

Xavier McKinney is the rare blend of someone whose age (turns 25 in August) and production (coming off arguably the best season of his career) warrants a big contract on the free agent market.

Typically, free agents are paid for past production and rarely hit the market at such a young age.

McKinney was not identified by the New York Giants as someone they wanted to build around. Gutekunst beat out Howie Roseman and the Philadelphia Eagles in a reported bidding war to secure the services of the top safety on the free agent market.

“When he came here, when we signed him, when we went out to dinner together, I had a really good feel – just initial gut feel – that this is a dude,” coach Matt LaFleur said. “And my experience with him up to this point is exactly that. He is a dude, and we’re fortunate to have him here.”

Assuming he’s healthy, McKinney figures to be one of the cornerstones of Green Bay’s new-look defense. 

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Jacob Westendorf


Jacob Westendorf, who has covered the Green Bay Packers since 2015, is a writer for Packer Central, a Sports Illustrated channel. E-mail: History: Westendorf started writing for Packer Central in 2023. Twitter: Background: Westendorf graduated from University of Wisconsin-Green Bay where he earned a degree in communication with an emphasis in journalism and mass media. He worked in newspapers in Green Bay and Rockford, Illinois. He also interned at Packer Report for Bill Huber while earning his degree. In 2018, he became a staff writer for, and a regular contributor on Packer Report's "Pack A Day Podcast." In 2020, he founded the media company Game On Wisconsin. In 2023, he rejoined Packer Central, which is part of Sports Illustrated Media Group.