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Inbox: The future is now

Maurice Drayton has the right energy to revitalize the Packers’ special-teams unit

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CB Jaire Alexander

David from Janesville, WI

So be honest Wes, did the lunches get fancier this week now that Mike isn't there to take them? Or does Spoff have Larry or John step in while he's gone?

Oh, we pulled out the premium roast beef and sourdough this week. The bologna can wait until Spoff has returned.

Jeff from Eau Claire, WI

So what's next for the Packers?

That remains a beautiful mystery, Jeff.

Dale from Palmyra, NE

Good morning Wes. Mike is gone, so I'm looking forward to seeing what all the breaking stories will be this week.

We already have the announcement of a new defensive coordinator so we're off to a good start.

Ralph from Mönchengladbach, Germany

Good morning II (good evening Wes). The video of Aaron Rodgers giving thanks after the MVP. Many fans seem to focus on the engagement thingy. I'm focusing instead on the part where he thanked the people in his private environment. The way he fires off one name after the other in a constant stream. That way I'm imagining him relating the play calls in the huddle.

The older I get, the more I appreciate how the experiences you share with friends in private are 10 times more valuable than any Facebook or Instagram post. Rodgers has a tight knit circle of friends who all played a role in his MVP season. They all know who they are. No amount of "likes" can properly do that justice.

Dale from Prescott, WI

After reading "5 Things about Joe Barry," it sure feels like the defense, while still playing most of the same personnel, will show a much different look and approach. Looking forward to it.

Barry has coached in all sorts of defenses and worked for some of the NFL's most accomplished coaches. I'm eager to learn more about what his philosophy will be in Green Bay. I understand what happened during his stints as defensive coordinator in Washington and Detroit but I also think this is a very different situation he's walking into in Green Bay. Just look at Jaire Alexander. The guy turned 24 on Tuesday and is already an All-Pro. That future we talked about for so many years. It's here. The future is now.

John from Salt Lake City, UT

Let's just say I've used up some of the tread on my tires, graduated HS in 1972. Relative to Joe Barry. Give him his chance. None of us know what he has been through, the culture or environment he worked in. I know from personal experience that it often can take time to find the right spot, space and time to be successful. There are always bumps in the road. It took me into my 40s to find that right spot. I am thankful for the person/people who gave me that chance. Same for Joe Barry!

Amen. We're all the sum of our experiences. If all you're doing is looking at Barry's time as a DC, you're missing out on the fact he's also been part of a lot of winning teams under some of the game's most innovative defensive minds.

Bill from Wilmington, DE

Wes, thanks for going solo this week! I sure hope Mo Drayton can resurrect the special team units. I'm tired of holding my breath.

The message I tried to convey with the "5 things" story I wrote on Drayton is this is a self-made man who knows the value of hard work and discipline. As I mentioned before, Drayton is held in high regard inside the building and this is the right time for him to coordinate his own unit. Having watched him in a complementary role the past three years, I just feel like Drayton has the right energy to revitalize the Packers' special teams.

Mark from Hudson, WI

A lot has been said about what a terrible Super Bowl Patrick Mahomes had. He didn't suddenly become a mediocre quarterback. He was running for his life! The SB drove home the importance of having a strong, deep offensive line. Through wise acquisitions and outstanding coaching, we had that this year and enjoyed an exciting season because of it. There will be a lot of gut-wrenching decisions to be made this offseason, but I hope we never lose sight of the importance of the "jars on the shelf."

And the Packers had plenty of them in 2020. The Packers' original starting lineup (left to right) was David Bakhtiari, Elgton Jenkins, Corey Linsley, Lane Taylor and Billy Turner. That group never played together in a regular-season game. However, Lucas Patrick, Rick Wagner and Jon Runyan were the adhesive keeping the O-line intact, along with the exceptional versatility of Jenkins and Turner.

Bret from Hertel, WI

Dear Mike and Wes, thanks again for your awesome reporting and your team providing the best media in the NFL! This season saw many players improve: Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Rashan Gary, Darnell Savage, and Robert Tonyan. How important do others need to improve with a lower cap such as Josh Jackson, Jace Sternberger, Kingsley Keke, and other young players such as the 2020 draft class?

Like this year, the young players on this roster are going to be critical to the Packers making another run in 2021. I look specifically at that 2020 draft class. AJ Dillon, a returning Josiah Deguara, Krys Barnes and Kamal Martin will all see bigger roles next season, while Jon Runyan will be competing for a starting role in training camp. And obviously Jordan Love is the biggest insurance policy of all.

Wes from South St Paul, MN

I have submitted a question about Packers free agents two days in a row and have done so previously. Why are you hesitant to address a question that looms large for the organization and us fans?

Because I've answered this, Wes. I just didn't answer you. Yes, Aaron Jones and Corey Linsley are the Packers' top two pending free agents. But I'm not going to sit here for the next six weeks pontificating about a situation in which there is no update. I don't know whether Green Bay is going to re-sign either of them, and given the cap reduction, it seems unlikely to me the franchise tag is a viable option. It's been 11 years since the Packers tagged anyone so please excuse me if I'm not speculating enough for you on the possibility of an improbability.

Gretchen from Dousman, WI

Good morning Wes. Staying under the cap is going to be tough for every team this year. It appears that teams with players willing to restructure their contracts have an edge. Otherwise, free agency seems to me to be reshuffling players depending on need. Interesting process. It's a tough time of year as I always want our own players to stay as we have such a great group of young men.

I know a lot of folks have asked about how the Packers will make ends meet this offseason from a salary-cap perspective and I'm not really sure how it's going to play out. Not only is a cap reduction like this unprecedented in the modern era, but the Packers also never have been tight against the cap before during my time on the beat. Tough decisions will have to be made, but the Packers' predicament isn't that much different than what most contenders are experiencing.

Bubba from Kenosha, WI

All 31 points by the Bucs were scored by players who were not on the team in 2019, so you never know where help will come from. Having 10 picks (three comps for Martinez, Bulaga, Fackrell), along with the talent already assembled and Gutekunst's ability to find talent in FA and UFA has me pumped for 2021.

As we move into the offseason, I'm guessing the 2021 NFL Draft is what will draw the biggest headlines in the months ahead. There was a method to how the Packers approached free agency last March. The organization had to be practical with who it brought back and how active it was going to be in free agency. The reward will be Gutekunst and the Packers receiving their first compensatory draft picks in three years. We all know the team's track record there. The Packers gotta make 'em all count this April.

Brett from San Antonio, TX

With Charles Woodson going into the Hall of Fame, who do you think will be the next Packers player to get in? And do you think LeRoy Butler is being snubbed at this point?

Hopefully, Butler is the next Packers player to get in. The next modern-era player with Packers ties who'll likely get into Canton would probably be Julius Peppers. He's eligible for the Class of 2024.

Trevor from Carmel, NY

Rest in peace to Marty Schottenheimer, a great coach and man who indirectly 'butterfly effected' the Packers in so many ways. From him being reluctant to give information to Ron Wolf about Bill Cowher in 1992, to him giving Mike McCarthy his shot in the NFL, to his brother Kurt coaching here for a few years. Not to mention, Marty himself would've been an II All-Star had it been around back in 1999-2000 during the two HC searches. Anything else I'm missing?

Schottenheimer is a true legend, whose imprint is still felt on today's NFL. I never was able to meet him, but there were some funny stories McCarthy used to tell about what it was like coaching for Marty. My favorite of all was after Ted Thompson hired McCarthy as the Packers' head coach in 2006. A jubilant McCarthy called his mentor for some advice on becoming an NFL head coach and Schottenheimer was clear and concise, "They hired Mike McCarthy for a reason. Make sure you be Mike McCarthy." May he rest in peace.

Evan from Appleton, WI

There was a mention in Tuesday's II about the likelihood of no first ballot Hall of Famer in 2022. The names include Andre Johnson, Tony Romo, Steve Smith, Michael Vick, DeMarcus Ware, and Vince Wilfork. I could see Ware getting enshrined (seven-time All-Pro, nine-time Pro Bowler, Super Bowl champion, ninth all-time in sacks, and leader in many statistical Cowboys categories). Those are fairly impressive credentials.

No doubt. Those were all good players. My point was there isn't a Peyton Manning, Megatron or Charles Woodson in next year's class. I don't see any obvious shoo-ins.

Jeremy from New Glarus, WI

In an era that has Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning, is there room in the HOF for the arguably "second-tier" QBs such as Matt Ryan, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, etc.? How many HOF QBs are possible from one era, especially when that era is noted for its inflated passing statistics? Are we going to put the seventh or eighth best QB from an era in the HOF? How does that not devalue the HOF?

I think so because it takes quite a bit to distinguish yourself as a "second-tier" QB, as you say, in this league. Whatever you think of Eli Manning and Rivers, I'd still argue their resumes and longevity are a cut above the rest of their peers. If you held every Pro Football Hall of Famer to the standard of Brady and Rodgers, there would be 50 people in Canton.

Evan from Durango, CO

Has there ever been a draft with three Hall of Fame QBs? Could 2004 go down as the best QB class of all-time?

I take it you were born after 1983.

Rob from Wilmington, NC

Do you guys ever pause for a moment and think about the fact that in 100 years, a new version (albeit hard to imagine as thorough) of Cliff Christl will be writing about the history of the Packers quoting your words, stories, and thoughts. I have been waiting to ask this until the season is over but I have to imagine its quite humbling to think about. Keep up the great work and someday my great grand kid might learn something from the words you write.

That's really interesting. I haven't thought about that but hopefully they spell the last name right.

Phil from Marietta, GA

Hi Mike and Wes, thanks for your diligent efforts during what turned out to be both an exciting and perhaps, surprisingly, a complete season. You each sometimes say that a given player is a great human as well as a talented player. I'm sure you won't name any names but are there some players that don't strike you as fine people, and if so, what traits engender that opinion?

That's what makes you appreciate the "good guys" that much more. The biggest thing I look for is how people treat people when nobody is watching – or in this case, how players deal with the media when the cameras are off. What I always appreciated about Linsley, Micah Hyde, Tramon Williams, Davante Adams and many others is they're the same people you see getting interviewed on your nightly news casts. It's no act. They are who they are.

Scott from De Pere, WI

Wes, when you receive questions about the officiating can you please respond with "I'm just here so I won't be fined?"

Deal.

David from Minneapolis, MN

Can someone ask Mason Crosby what a 21-year-old version of himself would have thought if he were told that he would get name-dropped in a Lil Wayne song? Cheesehead masses need to know.

That'll be the first question I ask him in the spring.

Statham from Pineview, GA

So the streaker reportedly won $374,000 by making a prop bet that there would be a streaker during the Super Bowl. Just thought I'd humor Wes with this since he said that was the most exciting part of the game earlier this week.

That's kinda gaming the system, no?

Darrel from Pueblo, CO

II, I believe the officiating crews for the SB are selected on season merit. Do crews for the regular season work together all season or are they mix and match?

Traditionally, they are the same crews during the regular season but I believe there was much more mix-and-matching this year as the league navigated the pandemic.

Kyle from Osceola, WI

Spoff said wait 'til after the Super Bowl with the crazy ideas. Here it goes: What would you think of a consolation bowl game between the losers of the AFC and NFC title games? I would've loved a Bills vs. Packers matchup. Since the Pro Bowl is all but dead, that would be a perfect weekend for it. Do you think the league could incentive it enough to make it worthwhile? The players would need to be paid well to play in it and the eliminated teams could play for a draft pick or something. Crazy idea?

On second thought, maybe wait until after next year's Super Bowl with that one.

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