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Inbox: The answers are never simple

Perspective matters

Head Coach Matt LaFleur
Head Coach Matt LaFleur

Brian from Arlington, VA

No question. Just a thank you to the coaches, front office, journalists and most of all, players for an enjoyable season. I love the team spirit. It was fun to watch and dream again. Thank you all!

Thanks for the kind words, and thanks to all for your readership and viewership. We don't say that enough.

Jason from Albuquerque, NM

Is it me, or are the 49ers of today starting to look like the Packers' nemesis the Cowboys of the mid-'90s were?

The Alex Smith-Colin Kaepernick 49ers of 2012-13 definitely felt like that, but this was only one year, two games. The teams are scheduled to play in San Francisco each of the next two regular seasons, though, and another playoff meeting wouldn't be a shock. I guess we'll find out.

Blayne from Fort Myers, FL

With the Kyler Fackrell being a free agent and the Packers using a 2019 draft pick on Rashan Gary, do you see the Packers letting Fackrell go and sliding Gary more into those snaps? What are your thoughts?

This is going to be my answer on pretty much every free-agent question: It depends on the price. The players are going to want to get the best contracts they can. The Packers are going to want to spend their money wisely. It's never about one piece. It's about the whole puzzle.

Tom from Omaha, NE

I have been reading the comments and both your responses the past two days about how could this have happened and what do we do in the offseason to not have it happen again. Seems the consensus is that the 49ers were the better team Sunday night. So are the thoughts we need drastic changes on defense? Allow Matt LaFleur's offensive scheme to further mature in Year 2? I don't see simple answers/solutions. What gets us to that level for next year?

The answers are never simple, no matter what some talking head on TV says. Progress on offense in Year 2 is a must. More consistency, more playmakers, more tempo variety. I don't think ninth in the league in points allowed and a rough playoff exit scream for drastic changes on defense. Some upgrades are needed in the front seven to defend the run better, but it's a complementary game. The offense also has to do its part so the Packers don't get caught on the wrong end of a one-dimensional contest.

Gary from Hayward, WI

I saw an internet blurb about the 49ers really concentrating on blocking the Smiths, which might be why their tight ends didn't catch many passes. Since the two only had five tackles and two assists between them, I think it was a big reason for the run yards allowed. If other teams start doing that to us next year, how are we going to compensate? The good news is we found out how to keep the tight ends under control.

Getting blocked is part of the deal. The keys are to maintain proper leverage while getting blocked so the rest of the fits aren't messed up, and to not stay blocked for long. And whoever's free has to take good angles and make tackles. The amount of improper leverage, inability to get off blocks, poor angles and missed tackles was mountainous. It wasn't about the 49ers focusing on this guy or that guy, in my opinion.

Troy from Houston, TX

I'm not buying the "top defensive priority this offseason is stopping the run" angle. Pettine made it clear from Day 1 that his goal was to not get beat by the pass. And, for the first time since 2014, I felt we did that better than a lot of teams (minus a few big plays). It's just unfortunately ironic that the team to beat in the NFC was also the best rushing team. But, I think that's going to be the exception, not the norm. Pettine's strategy should not waver. It has worked.

I tend to agree. Tweak and adjust, don't overhaul again. The Packers have made a ton of progress defensively in two years, but they obviously can still improve. The 49ers are not a blueprint other teams can follow offensively because their personnel is not standard. Three running backs – who all had between 123 and 137 carries in the regular season, so each was fresh for the playoffs – plus the best tight end and fullback in the league is not a combination that's around every corner.

Chad from Rhinelander, WI

Given how this season ended, which of our free agents do you see as a priority to re-sign (if any)? Do you think we can fill the gaps in the upcoming draft?

My priorities might not be ranked the same as the Packers', but it's hard for me not to put Crosby high on the list, because we've seen how other teams, especially close to home in the NFC North, have struggled to find the right kicker. In general, it's never as simple as saying "keep this guy." The personnel department has the whole picture in mind – the cap, the market, the draft, the future beyond this year. Whether you're talking about guys like Bulaga and Martinez who play every snap or players with lesser roles, it'll come down to whether their value in the Packers' eyes and their market value can meet. Sometimes those numbers intersect, sometimes they don't. We probably won't know until March.

Paul from Gorham, ME

Hi Insiders, so when do we start paying attention to the mock drafts?

My draft studying doesn't start until the scouting combine. Even then, I only look at mock drafts to get a gauge of the range of where players may be picked. Who's assigned to which team is meaningless.

Matt from Hawthorne, NJ

I think this was mentioned already, but the fumbled snap down 17-0 changed everything. Especially with a QB and center that have snapped thousands with no issues. Secondly, the pick before half on an uncharacteristic Aaron Rodgers throw ended any hope. Take away even just one of those turnovers and we are potentially looking at a one-score game in the fourth. As bad as they played early, they were moving the ball up and down the field in the second half. Even if we still lost I would have loved a wild ending.

Six possessions in the first half – four punts and two turnovers. Sure, you'd love to see fewer than 27 points on the other side, but the 49ers traveled all of 82 yards for 17 of those points (15 FG, 37 TD, 30 TD). Field position was a huge factor, too.

Sean from Baltimore, MD

Adrian Amos got paid $14M in 2019 to grab two INTs and garner just one sack. Safe to say Gutey and Co. missed on this one?

If that's how you view that signing, I can't help you.

Tom from Westfield, MA

I asked this before and not sure if it was answered and I just didn't see it. When an alternate is named to the Pro Bowl, does that come with any asterisks or are they a Pro Bowler like any other?

It counts the same. The only difference is for players with Pro Bowl incentives in their contracts. Generally speaking, they have to be selected through the initial process to earn the incentive.

A look at Green Bay's recent Pro Bowl selections at the annual all-star game.

Jess from Little Chute, WI

I see a lot of negativity and pessimism from people, it's kind of disheartening. I think these are the same people thinking the team wouldn't win more than eight games this season. All of a sudden the team is in the playoffs and that still isn't good enough? Come on. Taking MANY steps in the right direction on an offseason retool was a success. When will people learn that placing expectations on things out of their control is a fool's errand? Same process, same results for these "fans."

From riding high to crashing hard. It's baked into the playoff pastry. (Yikes, now I'm starting to sound like Wes.) A 13-3 team's season ended two weeks before Green Bay's. A 14-2 team's, one week before. One of two fan bases still riding high is going to crash even harder the night of Feb. 2. Perspective matters.

Tyler from Fargo, ND

Compared to the Pack, the Ravens won more games, had 10 more first-selection Pro Bowl players and likely league MVP, and were considered by many to be the favorite to win it all. A No. 6 seed convincingly beat them in their only playoff game. That provides some perspective on the Packers season. I love this game.

There's that word again.

Al from Green Bay, WI

It wouldn't have mattered … but I was hoping Green Bay would go for it on fourth-and-1 at midfield on the first possession. Isn't it necessary to take a couple extra chances against an opponent as talented as SF?

A popular thought. Down 10-0 in the second quarter of the Week 12 game, the Packers went for it on fourth-and-1 from the SF 28, got stuffed, and never recovered. In a scoreless game when the defense began with a three-and-out, the decision made sense to me.

Drew from Vincennes, IN

While I'm disappointed as a Packers fan, I might be more disappointed as a general sports fan because of all the great storylines for a Packers-Chiefs Super Bowl. What would've been the most fun to write about – repeat of the first Super Bowl for the NFL's 100th season, Andy Reid coaching against the team that gave him his NFL start, rookie vs. veteran coach, one of the last remaining old guard QBs vs. one of the new superstars?

Five years ago, the sport was robbed of a Rodgers-Brady Super Bowl, and this year the Rodgers-Mahomes regular-season matchup was unfortunately taken away, and we have to wait until 2023 for the next one. I hope we're talking about those two meeting for all the marbles before then.

Mark from Newcastle, UK

I know this is a tough game for tough guys, but one of the greatest things about this season has been the team spirit and unity. Which has made me consider the end-of-season routine for the squad. Why do the players have to clear their lockers out immediately after getting knocked out? It seems pretty brutal. I'm not saying there should be a weeklong session of cuddles but it just feels quite severe! I'm sure there is a rationale for it but wondered if you had any insight.

After the long and exhausting grind, players and coaches cherish any break they can get, and I don't blame them for not wanting to wait around to take it. The immediate scheduling of equipment inventory, exit interviews, etc., isn't mean to be harsh. It's a courtesy to everyone involved, frankly.

Col from Ludlow, UK

Having drafted 10 top-notch wide receivers since and including Sterling Sharpe in '88, with two being first-rounders, four second, three third and Driver in the seventh, you clearly don't need to find one each draft. Having said that, Davante Adams was the last in '14. A first-round pick clearly isn't essential, but do you see a higher priority need in this year's draft? Also, thanks to both of you, the team, and the wider organization for another highly entertaining year.

Wes and I discussed this yesterday on "Unscripted." It's definitely time to find a highly talented pick who can come in and learn the game by following Adams' lead, just as Jennings and Jones followed Driver's, Nelson followed Jennings', Cobb followed Nelson's, and Adams followed Nelson's and Cobb's. Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Jake Kumerow and Equanimeous St. Brown are not finished products by any means, but the pipeline needs a new prime prospect.

Garrett from Oro Valley, AZ

"The Packers aren't in a position to sign four marquee free agents like they did last year, but they have enough room to make another potential splash if the right player is available." What position would you target for this one splash? DL to help stop the run, MLB who can stuff the run and cover, or WR to complement Adams for another offensive threat? Or elsewhere?

Let's see what the market looks like in March. If I'm Gutekunst and I've got one big move to make, I'm not going to target a spot. I'm going to target the right player.

Rod from Chugiak, AK

Our GM's performance so far produces optimism he'll make great moves to "close the gap." Reeling in San Francisco by elevating our own roster most excites me. At the same time I can't help hoping opposition built upon a five-year run of failure resulting in high draft picks cannot stay up in that rarefied air. Seattle had Wilson's cheap rookie contract helping them keep their Super Bowl teams together. With an expensive QB, how does the 49ers' dominating roster look like for sustainability?

They'll have a harder time keeping their defense together than their offense from what I can tell. They have Armstead and Ward to deal with this year, then six other starters from the 2019 defense heading into contract years in 2020 (Sherman, Tartt, Buckner, Williams, Witherspoon, Jones).

Larry from Bakersville, NC

Mike, I thought Ryan Hartwig's photos of the Packers' locker room were a poignant silent statement on our feelings at the end of this season. Half-full duffels, laundry carts waiting to be filled, semi-empty room. The picture of Bryan struck me as I wondered if he would ever again be interviewed in front of his locker. Much like a home after the children are grown and gone to their own lives. Yep, I'm sentimental. If only those walls could talk! Ryan deserves a shout-out for his work.

And now I'm hearing he might get to go to Orlando for the Pro Bowl. Can you believe that guy?

Dustin from Chippewa Falls, WI

Hey II, what am I missing? The overwhelming narrative in the media, along with some fans, is that the Packers missed their chance, they didn't belong here, and they finally got exposed. This all came after we made it farther than any expected. How could anyone who is a self-proclaimed expert, not realize this is an ascending team? It's so blatantly obvious to me that I'm baffled how others don't see it as well.

Bueller? Bueller?

Jonathan from Madison, WI

I think the biggest non-story of the season was whether Rodgers and LaFleur would co-exist. Rodgers bought in, LaFleur adjusted and there seems to be a real mutual respect. What do you think was the biggest non-story?

Whether Wes would start hiding his lunch. Happy Wednesday.