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Inbox: The next few months will be critical

The work must continue to get where this team wants to go

Head Coach Matt LaFleur
Head Coach Matt LaFleur

Dan from Richmond, VA

Just a simple "Thank you" to Joe Barry and his family. I have no idea if letting our DC go was the right move or not – only time will tell. But as impatient and demanding fans, I think we sometimes fail to appreciate the sacrifices these coaches make. Whether it's the hassle of changing zip codes or putting in ridiculous hours at the expense of family time, it ain't easy. Here's hoping Coach Barry lands on his feet and gets another opportunity soon.

Barry is one of the best men I've come across in this business. When Matt LaFleur hired Barry in 2021, he lauded him for his positivity and being the same guy every day he walked in the business. Barry lived up to that billing. Being an NFL defensive coordinator is no easy gig. If he had a bad day, Barry never let it show. Green Bay's defense had some great moments the past three years, with the 2021-22 NFC Divisional playoff game against San Francisco near the top of that list. This year, there were plenty of challenges out of Barry's control, but he kept the defense together. Like Spoff outlined, consistency was an issue and I'm sure that's something the Packers will look to address with the next hire. But I have deep respect for how Barry conducted himself throughout his three years in that high-profile spot.

TK from Grafton, WI

So, the Joe Barry thing has come to pass. When interviewing for the new DC, would big, schematic changes be expected? Or, somehow, could it be doing much of the same, only "better?"

That's up for Matt LaFleur to decide, but I have one single request of this forum: Don't make this all about 3-4 or 4-3 until a new defensive coordinator is named. The base front is a small part of how a defense performs. General philosophy, track record, and evolution will play a much larger role in finding Barry's replacement.

Kyle from St. Charles, MO

With the announcement that the team is moving on from Joe Barry, do you get the sense we'll have a decent pool of eligible candidates? Personally, biased perhaps, Green Bay seems like an ideal place for an established play caller or eager up-and-comer to want to land. A historic franchise, a great fan base, a formidable offense, and you could be the guy who solidifies a potentially potent defense that could really push this team over the edge.

Oh, for sure. You're working for a successful and level-headed head coach with a 25-year-old franchise quarterback and a lot of returning talent on the defensive side of the ball. Coming off the season the Packers had, I'd argue this is one of the best DC job openings of the offseason.

Ron from Wichita, KS

Word from the NFL Network has DC Joe Barry being released. Who would the Packers look at to fill that spot? I think Iowa's DC would be a great choice.

I lost my rolodex for NFL defensive coordinators, Ron. I couldn't tell you. Fortunately, LaFleur is heading up that search – not the website writer.

Blake from Kaukauna, WI

Best wishes to Coach Barry in the future. That being said, I agree with Spoff in that not knowing what you're going to get every week is no way to compete. I saw a Packers team that can stand up and strike with any team in the league and they know it. They found consistency on the O-line, lending itself to a powerful run game in December and January while protecting JL10 exceptionally well. A play or two on defense and/or special teams throughout the year would've made big differences.

That's the game…and why the consistency is so important…and why the Baltimore Ravens are the team I favor to win the Super Bowl.

Nicholas from Washington D.C.

I understand the hype for the future. The end of this season was very exciting. So, what does LaFleur do to keep these young players' heads firmly placed on their shoulders and not up in the sky? At the end of the day, this team finished 10-9 and looked pretty sketchy just a month ago.

I think he's already done it with the speech he gave the team after the season ended. The 2023 Packers silenced a lot of doubters, but that guarantees nothing next season. The work must continue to get where this team wants to go.

Hugh from Penn State, PA

OK. Season over. Many people wrote declaring Jordan Love as the answer for us or that Love was a wasted pick. My thought was it's too early to tell. Even now, though I feel very good about Love, the second season is the big one to find out. Why? Other teams now have a full year's tape on this Packers team and Love in particular. NFL coaches are very versed in taking away QB's strong points. Next season is going to be interesting! We have some very good coaches and I tend to think we will do well!

The next few months will be critical. While the Packers must identify the right individual to take charge of the defense, adjustments also will be required in the offensive and special-teams rooms. This league stops for no one. While fans often clamor for change, change for the sake of change isn't what yields results. It's what happens after change is implemented that determines the direction your team is headed.

Roger from McGrath, AK

Our rookies got far more playing time than most so I'd posit that the second-year jump will begin from a higher rung on the ladder. If true, does that also mean that the landing for this jump is also higher, or is there a plateau for that second-year player and maybe our guys will just get there sooner? Thoughts?

A strong rookie debut doesn't predestine second-year success, but it sure does help. The example I've been giving in recent days is Romeo Doubs. Not only did Doubs better all his rookie numbers in the regular season but he also was one of the best players on the entire field during the postseason. All the rookies who stood out this year have a chance to do the same in 2024.

Andy from Lancaster, PA

Hello Inbox! If you were the Packers GM, and you had a high pick in the first round that you could use on a player who would contribute to the team's success in 2024, what position, ideally, would that player play? In other words, what position is most in need of youth and growth as opposed to veteran presence and stardom?

Probably defensive back. Once again, this season proved you can never have enough. I would've never predicted Carrington Valentine and Corey Ballentine would combine for nearly 1,200 defensive snaps.

Dave from Gwinn, MI

Regarding roster building, I liked the years Gutey double- or triple-dipped at a particular position. Are there certain positions (lineman?) you'd draft every year? If a particular position is deep one year, and you already addressed your glaring needs, do you draft for jars on the shelf?

Offensive line. It makes up nearly half of your starting offense and the NFL now has a rule that enables you to carry an extra player on the gameday roster if you have eight on your 53.

Nate from Cedar Falls, IA

While Saturday's loss was disappointing, I'm excited about the future. We know that the sky is the limit going into next season, but what do you think are some realistic expectations of the 2024 squad given the development we saw this year? We know how expectations can take on a life of their own during the offseason and a reality check isn't always a bad thing. Also, how many total draft picks do the Packers currently hold for this year's draft?

The Packers hold eight draft picks and are estimated to receive three more through the compensatory equation, according to Over The Cap.

Adam from Rapid City, SD

Here's to hoping the new DC can get some more consistency out of our defense next year! I am excited to see what next year's version of the Packers we will see with new players, coaches, etc. I am also excited to see Emanuel Wilson's potential progress as well! He earned a spot on the 53 as a rookie then got hurt. What are your guys' take on what Wilson's role might be next season?

Wilson showed a lot this season. Unfortunately, he got shut down for a minute due to the shoulder, but I love his style and how he finishes runs, including hurdling a defender against the 49ers. Wilson still has room to grow, especially in pass protection, but he's off to a good start.

Tom from Fort Myers, FL

Many defenses across the NFL have tackling issues, not just the Packers. If a player is a quality tackler in college, does it translate well to the NFL?

Sure…as long as the physical attributes do, too.

Duane from Bangor, WI

Mike, you stated that the Packers may be positioned well at tackle with Zach Tom and Rasheed Walker but may need to add a tackle to the mix with Yosh Nijman being a FA. Can you speak about Caleb Jones, a guy on the 53 for two years but never playing, mostly inactive? It seems like he's gotta have A LOT of potential to do that?

The Packers have taken a similar course with Jones' development that they did with Yosh Nijman, who didn't see significant in-game work until midway through his third season in Green Bay. Blessed with tremendous size, Jones has trimmed down over the past two years. He'll be back in the competition again this summer.

Mary from Pewaukee, WI

When are the Packers going to bring in another kicker to challenge Anders Carlson?

Green Bay signed kicker Jack Podlesny on Wednesday. The former SEC Special Teams Player of the Year signed with Minnesota as an undrafted rookie last April and worked out for the Packers in September.

Douglas from Parker, CO

A young team with a lot of promise. What I'm curious about is contracts. We have a lot of first- and second-year talent. Can you explain how contracts for drafted players work? I believe first-rounders can sign for four years with a fifth-year option. How do the rest work? I'm curious if we are going to see a lot of contracts coming due at the same time.

Draft picks sign four-year contracts. This currently is the 2020 draft class whose deals expire in March.

Rick from El Cerrito, CA

Are players allowed to use the team facilities during the offseason? I could see young, minimum-wage players benefitting from free training facilities, free food, etc. Or are there CBA prohibitions that don't permit that? If there is a prohibition from coaches interacting with players in the offseason, can't players train without them?

Players under contract are permitted to use the facility. You might remember Jaire Alexander telling reporters he'd be in Green Bay last summer. They just can't receive coaching outside of the offseason program.

Jeff from Janesville, WI

Hard to determine which hurts worse, getting totally blown out, or losing a game you should have won. Better to be good enough to be in the playoffs.

Some say the world will end in fire. Some say in ice…

Kurt from Green Bay, WI

Hi II! Following off the Aaron Jones facemask question, I can't believe the officials missed the block in the back by Aiyuk on CMC's TD run. They were the only two out in space in front of McCaffrey. I know refs have a hard job, but blatant penalties CAN'T be missed in playoff games like this. Thank you for all you do!

As Spoff and I talked about Tuesday, there's a reason Bill Vinovich and Carl Cheffers seemingly alternate the Super Bowl every other year. They're the best in the business right now and I don't think there's anyone else particularly close.

Steve from Appleton, WI

As a sports journalist, do you have any thoughts on the demise of Sports Illustrated? When I was growing up, it was THE resource for goings-on in the big four sports, at least. Sorry to see it end.

I was a huge Sports Illustrated fan growing up. Perhaps the two biggest reasons I ventured down this career path was reading Rick Reilly's columns and then Ken Caminiti's cover story in 2002. While it is sad to see SI come to an end, I'm sort of numb to it at this point based on the volatility of the industry.

George from North Mankato, MN

The loss to the 49ers was eerily similar to our loss to the Seahawks. We had early opportunities that were squandered. Failed trips to the red zone including FGs instead of TDs. Dropped interception(s), missed tackles, poor throws and some poor special-teams play. I am glad that I have not heard of any online or social-media threats to Anders Carlson (unlike Tyler Bass). No one play cost GB the game but had any of a few plays gone differently, the outcome may have been different.

There is no comparison to the 2014 NFC title game other than you win as a team and you lose as a team.

Tom from Milton, FL

Like all Packers fans, I was deeply disappointed at the outcome vs. San Fran, but it certainly appears we got another great young QB to look forward to. Really enjoyed the Insider a bunch this year. First thing I look for in the app. Keep up the great coverage guys!

The train just keeps on moving. Have a good Thursday.

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