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Inbox: They did it once, and they can do it again

There are 32 teams and only one Lombardi Trophy

Defensive huddle

John from Austin, TX

Owner/player George Halas?

Mr. Halas, God rest his soul, is not a current NFL owner. Nor is former Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, whom others mentioned and who passed away Wednesday. Of the 31 majority owners in the current NFL, none played in the league.

Lori from Cherry Valley, IL

Do Larry and Wes take turns buying lunch or do they just flip a coin and head for Steak 'n Shake? They can stop here in Rockford on the way home to fill up on gas and food before they proceed back to the frozen tundra.

We had a great time in Indianapolis, but there were no exchanges of lunches. However, my colleagues, Tyler Gajewski and Nick McGahan, and I did enjoy some tasty milkshakes courtesy of a wonderful long-time Inbox reader. Thank you for that, Dan. Onto your questions.

Doug from Lafayette, OH

I agree with your assessment regarding the Samuel from Skokie post yesterday, Mike. The quarterback situation is a delicate matter right now. I appreciate Gutey's response to the inquiry, though. It definitely left some windows open. I'm constantly amazed by the intellect and consciousness required to be an eminent NFL GM. To date, what do you feel is BG's claim to fame during his tenure?

Gutekunst has accomplished a lot in a short time. He and his staff rebuilt the Packers in short order with the moves the Packers made in free agency in 2019 and also drafting Jaire Alexander and Rashan Gary in back-to-back years. The Packers came within an eyelash of the Super Bowl in 2020 and assembled a talented nucleus around Aaron Rodgers that aided in the first-ballot Hall of Famer in earning back-to-back MVP awards. It's why I feel confident in saying the Packers will get the train moving again in short order. They did it once, and they can do it again.

Michael from Berrien Springs, MI

Hi Mike. You wrote, "(Christian) Watson, Romeo Doubs, Quay Walker, (Devonte) Wyatt, Zach Tom and Kingsley Enagbare won't be rookies anymore." No one knows who can make that second-year jump or where injuries will fall but, through my rose-colored glasses, that lineup sure looks like a pretty great draft.

It's only the beginning. We still have a long way to go, but it was an encouraging first step for the Packers' rookie class.

Bob from Rome, NY

Gentlemen, a lot of talk about needing an upgrade to the safety position. When Darnell Savage broke in as a rookie with Adrian Amos he played extremely well. He still has the same partner and production has fallen off. Do you think the Packers are looking to upgrade from Savage or both safety positions?

I don't think anything has been decided about what the Packers' secondary will look like next season. If getting the best five DBs on the field means Darnell Savage playing the slot and Rasul Douglas moving to safety, the Packers won't hesitate to do that. I have a lot of respect for Savage. He handled last season as well as any entrenched starter could and seemed to regain confidence playing closer to the line of scrimmage by the end of the year. We'll see what the Packers chose to do, but there's something to be said for reshuffling the deck and trying something new.

Al from Green Bay, WI

Looking ahead to the Packers' 2023 defense, I've heard rumblings that Rasul Douglas may be a strong candidate to replace Amos at the safety position. I recall that Micah Hyde was effective at corner as well as safety. What are the attributes that make a corner a good candidate to play safety?

Hyde's 40 time was a big reason there was such a push externally to move him to safety, but stellar field awareness and natural ball-hawking skills are what made him an All-Pro on the back end. Douglas has both of those attributes. My only hesitation is how much more comfortable he looked playing outside after playing the slot early on.

John from Livermore, CA

The draft class appears to be fairly even with only a few standouts. Is this a season to trade down and build future draft stock for the Packers?

No moss grows under Brian Gutekunst's feet. Whether it's moving up or moving down during draft weekend, I think it's a safe bet the Packers' GM won't stay still. Given their salary-cap constraints, the Packers will have plenty of work to do during those three days in April and Gutekunst is prepared for that.

Bruce from Madison, WI

You answered a question on Thursday with how the team would better if AR returns by mentioning a whole litany of offensive players would show improvement over last year, but on defense you mentioned Rashan and Eric Stokes returning from injury. But even early in the year with those two at full strength, the defense underperformed. How do you see the defense being better next year?

The defense was very good in spurts, but consistency was the issue. That's where I feel like this current young unit can grow the most next season. Alexander, Gary, Preston Smith, Kenny Clark, and De'Vondre Campbell are among the best players at their respective positions and provide a solid foundation for any defense to build on. The question is who's going to join them?

David from Goldsboro, NC

I've always been in favor of sitting a rookie QB and letting him acclimate to the NFL if possible. It's rare that a rookie QB can come in and be successful. Why risk a first-round pick if you don't have the line to protect them? It's been awhile since Jordan Love was drafted. Who were some of the other QBs taken that year and how have they fared?

Love was part of one of the most celebrated quarterback classes of the modern era, at least through the first two rounds. Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert played right away and have been exceptional. Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts sat during the early part of their rookie campaigns before later graduating into starting roles. The QB run ended after Hurts, though. No signal-caller taken after Hurts (second round, No. 53) is still with the team that drafted them, while several have already washed out of the league.

Connor from Grand Rapids, MI

On Wednesday, Mike answered a question that you doubted the Packers can afford to keep both Aaron Rodgers and Love if the former decides he wants to play in GB. A good starting QB, let alone elite ones, are hard to find and so valuable. So, my question is this: Is it really worth throwing away the "ready," if still unproven talent of a first-round draft pick that the Packers have spent so much time developing that could play in the NFL for years, for one, maybe two, more with an aging superstar?

Spoff's answer there was in reference to the '24 season, not '23. There are so many questions that can come out of the Packers' quarterback quandary, but I left Indianapolis with one prevailing thought in my head: Every hypothetical outcome starts with a conversation between the Packers and Aaron Rodgers. That conversation needs to happen before any of these scenarios can be broached.

Dwight from Brooklyn, NY

Your comment to Brendyn from Howard, WI, regarding lack of Super Bowl victories for the talented SF teams of the Harbaugh and Shanahan eras underscores how hard winning is even with the best of talent, like what we have had regarding 30-plus years with Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers under center.

For all the success the 49ers have had over the last decade, they remain in a nearly 30-year Super Bowl drought. There are 32 teams and only one Lombardi Trophy. You need both luck and talent on your side to prevail. San Fran has had the talent in recent years, but injuries and circumstances have stood in its way.

Anthony from Sturgeon Bay, WI

II guys, is there any advantage or disadvantage from not having private owner(s) of the team but rather a hired president (Mark Murphy)? I would suspect the "Packers Way" would benefit us especially during the upcoming draft and free-agent market? Thanks for your thoughts.

It's an advantage for a small-market team like the Packers to have the ownership structure that it does because the team is community owned and community supported. When the Packers win, everyone benefits – the players, the city, the fans, the coaches, and the employees. We all have a hand in it and everything the Packers have done over the last 20 years with Lambeau Field ensures it'll stay that way for generations to come.

Jim from Rancho Cucamonga, CA

Weighing in on the going-for-it-on-fourth-down debate, I am reading the "Greatest Story in Sports." In 1924, the Packers signed Verne Lewellen. He was so good at punting the coffin-corner kicks that he would punt on any down and often inside the opponent's 45-yard line. In 1929, he punted 25 times on first down. In your years of football coverage, have you ever seen a team punt on anything other than fourth down?

Bill Belichick has had a penchant for having the quarterback punt on third down. Tom Brady punted three times during his career, including a third-and-32 punt in a regular-season finale against Buffalo and another on third-and-10 while leading 45-10 over Denver. Matt Cassel also pinned the Bills back at their own 1 in 2007.

Hannes from Glendale, WI

This morning I listened to a lengthy radio conversation trying to artificially interpret meaning into the coaches not being at the combine. To me, the obvious reason would be the combine is an event for public smokescreens, scouts, and Weston, so the coaches' time is better spent elsewhere. Am I overlooking something?

Nope, you pretty much hit the trifecta – smokescreens, scouts, and spectacled sportswriters. The truth is Zoom and video technology have changed the scouting landscape. There were probably fewer coaches than ever before in Indy, as many teams chose to stay locked into their offseason studies.

Jeff from Indian Lake, NY

Has there ever been a bigger breaking news story at the combine than what's going on with Jalen Carter?

That definitely caught me off-guard Wednesday, especially with the report surfacing less than an hour before Carter was scheduled to address the media. It's a very serious situation that needs proper vetting.

Take a look at photos of Green Bay Packers S Rudy Ford during the 2022 NFL season.

Sue from Three Lakes, WI

Just read the NFLPA survey. Wow, so interesting. What are your thoughts? Seems this could really impact where a free agent chooses to go. Happy to see GB right at the top.

I was glad to see the Packers ranked as high as they were because I know how much time, effort and resources the organization and support staff put into making the players' experience in Green Bay the best it can be. After talking to others around the NFL, I knew this was a special place in that regard. Based on many of those same conversations, I also wasn't surprised to see other teams rank as low as they did.

Rich from Manitou Springs, CO

How does all this restructuring of contracts affect the cap down the road?

It's pushing money into future years. That debt still needs to be paid, but like Syrio Forel once said to a young Arya Stark, "Not today."

Mike from New Orleans, LA

If a team declines a fifth-year option, does the player automatically become an unrestricted free agent at the end of their fourth year? Is there any advantage you could think of in declining the option, and then signing the player to a longer deal instead?

The advantage now is the team avoids having to guarantee that fifth year. After the 2011 CBA, teams only had to guarantee the fifth-year option for injury. The most recent CBA agreement guaranteed the option for both injury and skill. And yes, that player becomes an unrestricted free agent if the option isn't exercised before his fourth NFL season. There has been one case where the Packers have declined the fifth-year option but re-signed the player: Nick Perry. After Perry's fourth season, Green Bay signed him to a one-year deal before eventually agreeing to a contract extension after Perry's career year in 2016.

Derek from Eau Claire, WI

How many Badgers are participating in the combine?

Three (OL Joe Tippmann, DL Keeanu Benton and LB Nick Herbig).

Caleb from Knoxville, TN

Worst uniform has got to be the LA Rams or the Atlanta Falcons. Rams' look like Best Buy got in a fight with IKEA, and the Falcons' are just ugly.

Whether they're in yellow or gold, I've never been a fan of the Rams' unis. The Falcons, Cardinals and Buccaneers are also in my bottom tier.

Luke from Appleton, WI

As long as basketball is being discussed, how about we show the Marquette Golden Eagles some love? The men's Big East champs and the best men's college basketball team in the state!

As a lifelong Marquette fan and husband to a Golden Eagle, it's great seeing Shaka Smart come back to Wisconsin and turn the program around. Basketball in this state is better when Marquette is relevant.

Johnny from Salt Lake City, UT

Mike, I've never seen the word "copacetic" spelled out before. In addition to top-notch Packers Insider coverage, the Inbox is making me a smarter human being. Do you guys have challenge words you try to furtively place in the column?

Spofford and I made a bet in 2016 about who could find a justifiable reason to use "copacetic" in the column. It took seven years but looks like it's time to pay up. On to our next one: Nudiustertian. I'll be with you again on Saturday before taking a little time off. Have a great day, folks.

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