GREEN BAY – Packers General Manager Brian Gutekunst met with the media for about a half hour Friday to wrap up the 2022 season.
Here are five things learned from his remarks:
1. QB Aaron Rodgers will be given the time he needs to decide on his future.
Gutekunst said the organization will give Rodgers the time and space to figure out what's next for him – whether he wants to continue playing and where – and then all parties will reconvene at some point and map out a path forward.
There were conversations this past week about the season, but those talks were not focused on the future.
"I really respect the process that he goes through after the season," Gutekunst said. "He's done this for a long time. What he goes through during the offseason to be prepared for a season is significant, and I understand the decision he has to make and whether he wants to go through that. So, I've always tried to give him that time."
Gutekunst indicated the Packers want him back, and the contract extension worked out last spring puts the ball in Rodgers' court for 2023.
"We made a really big commitment to him last offseason, so I think as we did that it wasn't certainly for just this year," Gutekunst said.
"He's going to take his time and the communication will be pretty constant as we move forward.
"I think this was a tough season. This was not what we expected. That stretch in the middle was really hard, so, I think all of our players, not just Aaron, there's different feelings as you go through that."
2. If Rodgers returns, Gutekunst foresees Jordan Love remaining his backup for a fourth year.
The GM who drafted Love in the first round in 2020 "definitely" believes he's ready to play, but Gutekunst would have no qualms about staying with the status quo at the QB position for another year.
"We really like the development of where Jordan is," Gutkeunst said. "I think he's ready to play. I think that's the next step in his development. Those guys work well together in the room."
With any quarterback, the belief in his readiness comes with the caveat he still must prove it, which is why, as things currently stand, Rodgers still gives the team the best chance to win.
As for the struggles in must-win games, Gutekunst said that's as much an overall team issue as one specifically with Rodgers.
"We are very excited about Jordan and where he's at, there's no doubt about that," Gutekunst said. "But Jordan's never played a 16-, 17-game season and gone through all that stuff. So, it's no different than when we moved from Brett (Favre) to Aaron, right?
"When they haven't done it, you go into that and there's some unknowns. They've got to handle a lot of different things, see a lot of different things before they can get to a point where they can win games in this league."
3. Head Coach Matt LaFleur's comments about David Bakhtiari remaining the team's starting left tackle were reiterated.
It's been a long road back for the five-time All-Pro, but the team believes Bakhtiari got back to his old self in 2022.
"I think we're hopeful that he's kind of cleared some of those injury hurdles that he had the last few years," Gutekunst said. "I thought he got into a really good groove before the appendectomy, which set him back. But then when he came back, he kind of like, he stepped in like he hadn't missed any time.
"He's unique that way. I think he got into a really good rhythm of learning what he needed to practice to get to the games, and I'm hopeful as we get beyond this season that rhythm will serve him well as we go forward."
He added that various players could be in line for restructured contracts to create salary cap space for 2023, and Bakhtiari likely qualifies.
4. Running back Aaron Jones could be in the same boat.
Jones is another player whose contract may need to be reworked for cap purposes, because Gutekunst is indicating he'd much rather have him on the team than move on without him.
Jones set a career-high this past season with 1,121 rushing yards, and he added 395 receiving yards and five receiving TDs, both second-best in his career.
"We expect to have him back. Obviously, he's a dynamic player," Gutekunst said. "For a guy his size, to bring it every day, he rarely misses a practice, rarely misses a rep. The way he leads that football team, his consistency is amazing.
"In this league, you can't have just one. Obviously, having AJ (Dillon), it's nice to have that one-two punch but Aaron … when we got first here, you're thinking, 'Hey, this probably won't last long because the way he's built and his size,' and he just keeps on defying the odds."
5. An 8-9 season was certainly disappointing, but it may not bring about a level of change much different than other offseasons around here.
LaFleur said earlier this week he plans to keep the coaching staff intact, and Gutekunst confirmed that's the head coach's realm and he'll receive the support necessary.
Roster turnover is annual and inevitable in the NFL, and while plenty of decisions will be made on pending free agents in the coming months, a major purge of personnel does not appear to be forthcoming.
"I believe in our group, I really do," Gutekunst said. "I think every year's new and this is a hard league, but I believe in the players – certainly there's going to be change within our roster, there's no doubt about that – but I believe in the organization, how we do things. I believe in the process.
"Sometimes things don't go your way and you look at it and you've got to be able to tweak things, but I believe in the people in this building and I'm excited for 2023."