GREEN BAY, Wis. – Two contrasting realities confront Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst as he and his staff get ready for next week’s Scouting Combine.
The first is his team finished one win from the Super Bowl, presumably leaving it a few moves from reaching the Super Bowl. The second is quarterback Aaron Rodgers is 36 and, at some point, it will be time to find his successor.
Gutekunst on Friday said he wouldn’t rule out drafting a quarterback this year – potentially as early as the 30th pick of the draft – even though it’s possible that player wouldn’t help the team this year or for the foreseeable future.
“You have to try to build a robust team that can handle a lot of different kinds of adversity,” Gutekuns said. “Not every quarterback is as durable as Aaron is and gets through the season, so you have to be prepared for that.”
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Gutekunst learned from predecessors Ron Wolf and Ted Thompson. Wolf traded a top pick to Atlanta for a third-string quarterback named Brett Favre in 1992. Thompson pounced when Rodgers fell into his lap in the first round in 2005, even with Favre on the roster. The Rodgers pick obviously paid long-term dividends – the team has won one Super Bowl and reached four NFC Championship Games with Rodgers directing the offense – but it didn’t help the team at all for three seasons.
“I do remember Mike Sherman was our head coach and there were a lot of people not real thrilled about that at the time,” Gutekunst recalled. “To have the courage at that time to do that, and what that one decision did for the organization for how many years later? That stuck with me. It could have been real easy to do something different. He thought that was the right thing to do, and he did it. That’s always stuck with me.”
Gutekunst said it’s a “good crop” of quarterbacks in this year’s draft. If one falls, he said he wouldn’t be afraid to make a bold move, even though Rodgers is under contract through 2023 and, in Gutekunst’s words, “has got a lot left” despite finishing 12th in passer rating, 21st in completion percentage and coming up empty in both games against the 49ers.
Gutekunst acknowledged the pressure is to win “now, now, now” but he also must keep the long-term good of the franchise in mind – like Thompson did by drafting Rodgers.
Given the team was a step from the Super Bowl, wouldn't drafting a quarterback be a waste of a precious first-round draft pick?
“I think it’s such an important part of what makes this thing go. It’s quarterbacks,” he said. “I know what you’re saying. Aaron didn’t play for three years and for three years people were probably saying, well, that was a total waste. I just don’t think developing a young quarterback is a waste.”
Gutekunst, who brought in Missouri standout Drew Lock for a predraft visit last year, could look beyond the first round for a quarterback as a developmental prospect. Tim Boyle, an undrafted free agent in 2018, served as Rodgers’ backup last season. The only other quarterback on the roster is Manny Wilkins, an undrafted free agent in 2019.
Gutekunst learned from Wolf from that standpoint, as well. When Favre was in the prime of his career, Wolf drafted the likes of Aaron Brooks, Mark Brunell and Matt Hasselbeck. All three of those players were groomed by the Packers and parlayed into draft picks.
“Ron (Wolf) traded a first-round pick for a quarterback that nobody wanted. Ted drafted a quarterback when he had a Hall of Fame guy,” Gutekunst said. “I just think the quarterback position is so important that you can never not address it if you think you have an opportunity to take a player that can play in the league.”