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Inbox: The player who jumps out …

A blend is ideal

LB Quay Walker
LB Quay Walker

LA from Sammamish, WA

Wait a second! Groundbreaking news when Hod is out of town? Surely a sign of the Apocalypse!

I know, right?

TK from Grafton, WI

Have I been banned? For the last couple days my "submit" button hasn't worked!

As I posted at the top of yesterday's column after it went up, there's currently a glitch in the system that is not acknowledging to users their submissions are sent, but rest assured they are coming through. Please do not keep re-sending your submission. To paraphrase cousin Timmy from Seinfeld, "Just take one click and end it!" We are getting them all and the league is working on the issue.

Margo from Solvang, CA

Hi Mike, with regard to all the well-deserved praise of Jordan Love's growth this year into a bona fide starter and answering the question about whether or not he is the answer at QB, I think one thing has been overlooked – his durability. Outside of some mop-up snaps, he played every snap this year! Was he even ever on the injury report? Some credit certainly goes to his O-line, but having a QB you can count on every week is certainly the sauerkraut on the brat!

Shhhh. Margo, c'mon. You know better. And in this column it's apparently asparagus on the brat, per Weston.

Bill from Brooklyn Park, MN

Mike, regarding DC Hafley, you said, "It sounds like a lot of emphasis on hands in the dirt up front and press man on the outside, but we'll see what he feels is best with Green Bay's personnel." In general, for a new NFL DC, which is usually more true? Do they figure out the best dish they can make with the ingredients they have, or do they go get the ingredients to make their specialty dish?

It's usually a combination. You have to maximize the talents of your players and put them in positions to succeed. That's the job of a coach. But, for the many asking about the impact of this hire on free agency and the draft, new ideas and philosophies can also foster different acquisition targets as well. A blend is ideal, to avoid either a full-scale reboot or too much square-peg, round-hole stuff.

Benjamin from Bear, DE

I've read several articles on the hiring of the Packers' new DC. One underlying theme was the coach's ability to develop players. In his role as DC, will he be more hands-on player development as opposed to scheme and game planning? If he is "hands on" who do you see on the current roster that he's just dying to get his hands on?

When you're in charge of the game plan and its implementation, you have a hand in player development based on the challenges you give a particular player, broadening his role, putting him in playmaking spots, etc. In that vein, the player who jumps out at me I think Hafley will be really excited about is Quay Walker.

Josh from Adams, WI

Boy, how times have changed … we once lost a coordinator named Jeff (Jagodzinski) to BC to become their head coach and are now "stealing" BC's new Jeff HC to make the opposite transition. Do you see this as a coincidence or a harbinger of what is to come for many schools in this post NIL/open transfer portal landscape? Unfortunately I think it's the latter.

I agree. College football is changing dramatically and the job requires a lot more time and energy spent not coaching football. It's not for every coach.

Arndt from Munster, Germany

Hi II, as we have a new DC there is a question that comes to mind. We talk a lot about how hard it is for college players to adapt to the NFL when it comes to speed, strength, etc. How hard is it for college coaches to adapt to the NFL style? Is there a big difference as well?

Scheme-wise, they have to learn what might've worked in college that won't work at this level, which doesn't take long. But, for the most part, teaching and demanding is still the gig. They just have to know they're dealing with pros who will see through anything fake and instantly lose respect for anyone who's not genuine.

William from Palmdale, CA

Hi II, for clarity is it a fact ML and he alone makes the DC decision? MS wrote, "Leadership qualities are paramount, especially for a DC under an offensive head coach." One quality to really appreciate about GB is that they keep a lot of stuff under wraps. It would appear the choice for premier coaching positions and players (for that matter) have to be a culture match as the community/history is so very unique. Your thoughts?

The coaching staff is the head coach's purview, and culture fit is paramount. Not so much community/history but the culture being fostered within the building. Coaching hires by the head man and player acquisition by the GM routinely take this into account.

Thomas from Oviedo, FL

This is in response to anyone hating on the Packers' new DC pick. After last season I have adopted a new rule, never criticize the Packers' management decisions until after at least a full season comes to an end. After how Love and these young receivers panned out there should be zero reason to complain about Gute's and LaFleur's decisions. I think we all owe them that at this point.

Such a sensible post. You made my day.

Craig from Brookfield, WI

Happy Ground Hog Day, Mike. Happy Ground Hog Day, Mike. After what we just saw in 2023, I'm very happy to leave all player acquisitions and coach hirings to Gutey and ML – and assume they know what they're doing until proven otherwise! But I am curious to know your thoughts on drafting vs. acquiring a proven free agent at the safety position. Is safety one of the more difficult or less difficult positions for a college stud to come into the NFL and contribute immediately?

I think it depends what you're asking that safety to do. If you want one who's like a defensive QB, handling all the communication and adjustments in the back end, that can be a lot for a rookie. If you're asking him to play a specific role within the scheme, different story.

Richard from Telford, TN

The starting line solidified in Pittsburgh with Walker, Jenkins, Myers, Runyan, Tom. For 11 games including Pittsburgh and the playoffs the average for GB was 125.5 yards rushing (4.57 YPR), 251 yards passing (total 377/game) and only 12 sacks (1.1/game). This against four of the top eight defenses. Have we established a darn good offensive line?

The group came together, no doubt, but it may not remain static. Sean Rhyan might take over for Runyan at right guard. A high draft pick could compete with Walker at left tackle. Depth will be a priority regardless.

Kyle from Osceola, WI

I know it's still early to discuss it, but I, for one, am looking forward to this year's draft perhaps more than any other. While running back and safety would seem to be the priorities, it feels to me like a jars-on-the-shelf and best-player-available kind of year. Gutekunst has both the capital and active roster to sit back and let the ideal players in any position group come to him. Plus, no wide receiver fever from the fans! Thoughts?

I will certainly not miss the wide receiver fever. Big picture, whether immediate front-line players or depth/future considerations, there are enough roster needs to not stray from best available. What I'm most curious about is the stockpile of early picks and whether someone on Gutey's board will be begging to come get him. Not necessarily first round, but maybe high in the second or third.

Bruce from Las Vegas, NV

If we're talking about making penalties more even for the defense, how about making the penalty for offensive pass interference include loss of down. The penalty for defensive PI is ridiculous compared to what the offense gets.


Johnny from Tillson, NY

So Greg Olsen is out and Tom Brady is in. Do you have any thoughts on this, or on the massive contract? How do you think his talents will translate to the booth?

I'm very curious how Brady comes across in the booth. I really don't know and will reserve judgment. It's a crappy deal for Olsen, for sure, but honestly I don't understand the arms race with announcers anyway. If the game/matchup is compelling, the audience will tune in no matter who's calling it. Brady will be a novelty his first season and fans will want to check him out. Good or bad he'll generate a lot of attention, as Romo did. After the novelty wears off, it's back to business as usual. Coverage of commentators has become a cottage industry, particularly on social media, that doesn't interest me. I just focus on the games.

Tim from Olathe, KS

Mike, Chiefs players Chris Jones and L'Jarius Sneed will be free agents in March. Word here is KC cannot sign both, so one will be going elsewhere. Would Green Bay target either one? Or as Vic would say, avoid the early free-agent circus?

The Packers' approach in free agency will depend on how they set up their cap situation. They can create a ton of room if they want to with more veteran restructures that push cap charges into the future, but they may prefer to scale back on those now, particularly with Love's contract coming up and several young players they'll be looking to re-sign down the road. Maybe they create enough space to make a run at one big-dollar free agent, or a couple of mid-level guys. Or they minimize any future compromising and stick to bargain hunting for now. As usual, it'll depend on who's available and the price tags. We'll see.

Josh from Newhall, CA

With regards to extending Jordan Love ASAP, every year the money bar for QB contracts goes up, and next year Love also has the leverage of being an unrestricted FA, which would force the team to use the franchise tag if they don't want to meet his number. Would it also behoove GB to try to front-load the contract, knowing that in the next 2-3 years, all these young playmakers are going to be eligible for new deals?

On a big pending contract like that one, with a franchise-type player you anticipate being around longer than the latest deal, the opportunity exists to build in flexibility down the road that isn't necessarily available with outside free agents. In short, a balance can struck between present and future considerations, and I have every confidence Russ Ball will find it.

Stephen from Menomonee Falls, WI

We often hear about teams benefitting from a young starting QB on his rookie deal. Might there be a downside – financial or otherwise – to the Packers' approach having Rodgers/Love sit for a few years on their rookie deals and paying them considerably more when they eventually take over as starters?

Sure, you lose the benefit you mentioned. But playing a young QB too early can set him up for failure and create other, more significant problems. Plenty of teams have found that out.

Dave from New York, NY

I had a little time to think after watching the Packers and Detroit. As a psychologist by training and a leadership coach by practice, I have seen a lot of clients who fail close to the goal because they did not believe they belonged there. In 2024, some experts' way-too-early predictions have the Packers in the Super Bowl. Do you think that the significant change in expectations will overwhelm this youngish team, or will they believe they belong there?

I saw no indications this team didn't believe it belonged in the divisional round of the playoffs against the top seed. They were loose and unfazed throughout preparation. If they continue to channel properly any energy from the outside (doubters in '23, believers in '24), I don't see them being overwhelmed by expectations. But only time will tell.

Bill from Brooklyn Park, MN

Spoff, is it just me, or does it feel like the majority of GBP fans may be getting their expectations for the '24 season a bit too high? Yes, we ended '23 with a nice run – but at the end of the day, this is still a 9-8 team. The growth has been great, and the trajectory is right where we want it, but to compare to another era, it seems most fans are looking at '23 the same as '95, and are expecting '24 to be like '96. To me, '23 feels more like '94 (we were 9-7), and we're still two years out. Thoughts?

I'm not going to put arbitrary ceilings on anything or compare to other eras. I also don't feel the Packers enter '24 as a "9-8 team" after finishing 7-3 (including playoffs) with wins over the Lions, Chiefs and Cowboys, two of those on the road. I expect the Packers to contend for the playoffs, and if they're scrambling to qualify on the final weekend again, something probably went wrong. But beyond that, everyone knows I equate the playoffs to a crapshoot. Get in and take your chances.

David from Janesville, WI

Mike, the Packers checked a lot of boxes this last season. Absorb the majority of the cap hit from a veteran team moving to youth. Verify your QB1 is "the man." Hit on your draft class and get them experience. Grow your offense together. The biggest question marks seem to be the identity of your defense (new DC will play a role in that), personnel in the secondary, and determine why special teams took a step back (not just Carlson kicks). What else would you add to the list?

Performance in crunch time. Otherwise, you pretty much covered it.

Phillip from Wonder Lake, IL

What future steps can the Packers make to be assured of a Super Bowl next year?

Assured? Clearly my work here is never done. Wes has the first two columns next week, then I'll be back. Happy Friday.

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