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Inbox: The Packers' next defensive coordinator will have a lot of talent to build around

It’s a new day for Green Bay’s special-teams unit

LB Za'Darius Smith
LB Za'Darius Smith

Brian from Urbana, IL

Hey fellas, so Nikolai from Greenbush quoted you as saying "We're still good." But I did a quick Google Search and couldn't find you guys using that phrase at any point in the last few years. So either you need to work on your SEO or you've been misquoted.

Shame on you, Nikolai. Nobody misquotes the Insiders. Nobody! To be fair, I also was wrong. Spoff isn't back yet. So you're gonna have to wait another day for Spoff to lay the smackdown.

Jim from McLean, VA

In your answer to Mike from Holton on how the Packers can improve next season to make a Super Bowl push, you mentioned smart free agency moves and a good draft. Which younger players already on the roster do you see making big strides in Year 2 or 3 to get us back in the mix?

I really think Rashan Gary is going to be a special player. The sky's the limit for that guy. He's an all-around player who puts as much effort into his run defense as he does his pass rush. I'm also excited to see more of AJ Dillon. I think everyone knew what the Packers were getting when they drafted him but his performance against Tennessee was still eye-opening.

John from Los Angeles, CA

I know everyone sees Jordan Love as the eventual Aaron Rodgers' replacement, but if Aaron Rodgers keeps balling out and shows no signs of slowing down, could you envision a Jimmy G-type scenario here? Am I naive to think there's a world where the Packers and Rodgers reach an agreement of when Rodgers will retire and start developing a new QB accordingly? Unlike Favre, Rodgers seems less wish-washy about his career timeline.

My takeaway from Monday's news conferences was Rodgers is going to be the Packers' quarterback for years to come. But much like Ron Wolf did in Green Bay, the Packers want to keep a young QB in the system. Jimmy Garoppolo is a great example of how valuable that can be, but what came to mind for me on Monday was what happened in Indianapolis when Peyton Manning missed the 2011 season. The Colts went from a Super Bowl contender to a two-win season almost overnight.

Maximilian from Pasadena, CA

While the Packers will undoubtedly look differently next year, I'm most looking forward to hopefully having a better special teams unit. In 2020, the Packers were bottom 10 in kickoff coverage, 31st in kickoff return average, 30th in net-punting average, last in punt coverage, and 31st in punt-return average. Poor kick/punt coverage and returns affect the other phases of the game. Forget big plays; just give me some consistency. Having almost nowhere to go but up in that phase gives me hope.

There was excitement and enthusiasm in LaFleur's voice when he was discussing Maurice Drayton’s promotion. Drayton, who previously interviewed for the job two years ago, is highly respected inside the building and obviously knows where the unit came up short last year. Now, it's time to get it fixed. It's a new day for the special-teams unit.

Shawn from Sun Prairie, WI

Will the Packers' defense get totally revamped next year?

I don't think so. I don't think there's a need to. The Packers have a lot of talent on the defensive side of the ball – perhaps more than any other defense Green Bay has featured since the Super Bowl XLV squad. LaFleur's task is to find the right coordinator to get the most out of that group. The Packers' next defensive coordinator will have a lot of talent to build around.

Matty from Troy, MO

It strikes me that one thing missing from our defense is an element of nastiness. Do you suppose that is more easily accomplished from coaching or is it a player mentality?

LaFleur talked about how an aggressive mindset is more than just play calls. It's how a defense attacks the field. You want to make an offense earn every inch of grass. It starts with the coaches demanding that mentality on the practice field and having it carryover to gameday. We're not talking about Oklahoma drills or anything crazy. It's understanding who you are as a defense, establishing a standard and then telling the opposition, "Hey, you will not cross this line."

Don from Foxboro, WI

I know it's early yet but all the mock drafts I've seen have the Packers, once again, taking a receiver in the draft. I see the defensive line needing a run-stuffer or someone to pressure the opposing quarterback. How do you see it?

If you're talking about the first round, your guess is as good as mine. I do think receiver and defensive line are definite possibilities after the Packers didn't draft anyone at either position last year. It's also probably not a bad idea to add another O-lineman to the mix. Just look at what a versatile guy like Elgton Jenkins has brought to the offense since Green Bay drafted him in the second round two years ago.

Glen from Leesburg, VA

Good morning guys. I just read that the Rams made a run at trading for Aaron Rodgers. Is there any truth to that and just out of curiosity, do you know what they offered in return for our superstar? I hope Guty didn't laugh too hard when he got that call.

Gutekunst doesn't like to address rumors but he made it a point to refute that report on Monday. That's telling.

Wes from South St Paul, MN

Mike/Wes, just want to say how much I appreciate the straight talk/answer from you guys. Rodgers does an interview right after a gut-wrenching loss, and knowing how many FAs the Packers have, makes a comment about the unknowns ahead, and the talking heads Bleacher Report/Yardbarker start spreading the crap that AR is unhappy and wants out of GB. Keep up the good work guys.

One thing that struck a chord with me was how Rodgers painted a vivid portrait of what the locker room was like after the loss to Tampa during his interview last week with Pat McAfee. It put you in his shoes for a moment. I could visualize that emotion and couldn't imagine what it's like having to gather yourself to talk about what had just happened. Emotions are understandably raw.

Josh from Pomona, CA

Everyone knows Jordan Love can be traded for draft picks and we can extend Rodgers' contract, right?

Like I said yesterday, Love is an investment. Everyone wants to put a timeline on Rodgers but nobody knows what the future holds. Love is under contract through 2024 and could be extended through 2025 by exercising his fifth-year option.

Cam from Pekin, IL

I find it interesting how many fans are down on the Jordan Love pick. Could we have used another weapon this year? Yes, but who else couldn't. I wonder how many were down on AR when he was drafted while we still had a Brett Favre? I have no idea how well Love will play, or if he even plays at all. At some point we, as fans, have to trust management to make the right decisions. Here's hoping JL progresses as well as AR did, and when the time comes, he's up to the task.

My whole thing is we haven't even gotten past the opening credits yet and everyone keeps commenting about how movie ends. No one knows. This is franchise mode, not one season. There's so much that needs to happen before we can even have an intelligent discussion about whether it was a good pick. The critics say, "Well, they could've used a weapon this year?" OK, but what if Jordan Love becomes an All-Pro QB like Rodgers did? Or even if Rodgers plays until he's 50 and the Packers trade Love for a draft pick that develops into the next Clay Matthews or Davante Adams? If you spend $3,000 for a share of Amazon stock, that doesn't mean you lost $3,000. It means you hold equity in a stock that can appreciate. So stop acting like the Packers flushed a first-round pick into oblivion when that same pick could pay huge dividends down the line.

Douglas from Aberdeen, MD

Historically, the Super Bowl was a neutral place to play (albeit by happenstance), but it was inevitable a team was going to be able to play with homefield advantage. Outside of being able to sleep in their own beds and not have to travel, do you think the NFL will impose some restrictions to maintain some of that neutrality? I would hope they would forbid those annoying cannons from firing from the no-name pirate ship after each TB score.

The NFL runs the Super Bowl's game presentation, so the Buccaneers will be playing in their home stadium in name-only. It is interesting Kansas City won't be traveling to Tampa Bay until later this week, though. So in a way, it'll be like a normal road weekend for the Chiefs. I don't know what to make of that.

Sam from Boston, MA

"While much has been made about the Bucs' acquisition of Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Brown and Leonard Fournette last offseason, 14 of their starters for Super Bowl LV will be draft picks – six on offense and eight on defense. The Bucs' strategy has been to build through the draft and re-sign those players, while filling in the missing pieces with free agents." Relevant quote from ESPN regarding "going for it."

Again, the Bucs could've competed for a championship last year had it not been for the turnovers. Signing Brady wasn't as much about "going all-in" as it was understanding what was needed to put the Bucs over the top.

Todd from Owasso, OR

Six players at a poker table, and four go all-in. One wins the hand, and three are not even in the next hand. All in is not a viable strategy if you strive for consistent success.

As a former poker player, I can tell you it doesn't take much talent to "go all-in." If you do, it often means a lot went wrong to be put in that position.

Dan from Marshfield, WI

Looking at this year's draft, why are the Packers picking 29th and Buffalo 30th if the Packers had the better record?

Both teams finished the regular season 13-3 but the Bills had a lesser strength of schedule than the Packers.

James from Appleton, WI

Packers fans have learned that it may be OK to trade a first-round pick for a player – if you get Brett Favre – and it may be OK to trade out of the first round – if you pick Jordy Nelson right away in the second round. But to go seven years without a first-round pick? I can't even imagine it. How long do you think Packers fans could last? I say we would be holding protests in the third year.

It all depends on whether it leads the Rams back to a Super Bowl. If it does, then people will praise Los Angeles and Les Snead for their aggressiveness. If it doesn't, then they'll likely get ridiculed. That's the price of sitting in that chair.

Bill from Bloomfield Hills, MI

As a Michigan resident, I'm glad Matthew Stafford is getting his chance elsewhere. His good results reminded me of Philip Rivers, big numbers that could beat the Packers even when underdogs. But I often would harken to Woodson's "same old Jay" digs at Cutler about expected red zone and late game failures. Do you think he is more a Cutler without much upside, or like Favre would have been on a perennial non-contender, taking so many chances it was hard to judge his ceiling?

I think Stafford was a better quarterback than Cutler. In my take-it-or-leave-it opinion, Detroit never got over the hump when it came to putting talent around him to make a sustained title run. But hey, to those who pushed back at me saying Stafford is underrated, we're going to find out what his true ceiling is with this opportunity in LA.

Brianna from Farmington, MN

Do the Packers know if they will plan for Family Night 2021?

We're still months away from a decision on Family Night, but I hope it's in the cards for next season. Players' families were allowed in attendance at the playoff games, so that's a step in the right direction.

Tod from Woodbridge, VA

What are the Packers top priorities for improving the team during the offseason? Do you think these will be addressed by the draft, free agency or a combination of both?

Wishing pond.

Dar from Mansfield, TX

What does the K in Michael K. Spofford stand for? I hope it something cool like Kadiddlehopper. Or maybe, since he's a former baseball player, it's just plain K (as in strikeout)?

I could tell you…but then Spoff would have to (injure) me.

Michael from Dover, PA

I have no memory of this year's playoff run. I have COVID and spent the playoffs hospitalized. I now know what happened but I will have memories of a fabulous season and the joy of watching Rodgers' play at an incredible level. It is the work you guys put into this daily column that gives a welcome relief to the harsh realities of this Godforsaken virus. You've helped carry me thru this and I can't wait til next year. Thanks.

I'm sorry to hear that, Michael. We've missed you. I'm sorry to hear about your troubles and wish you a full and complete recovery. Thanks for being a part of the Inbox community. Spoff will be back tomorrow.