General manager Brian Gutekunst has seen his name dragged through the mud ever since Aaron Rodgers returned to the Green Bay Packers on a compromised deal. Just a few weeks back, many Packers fans were angling for the team to just trade “that diva” and get rid of the reigning MVP. Now that he’s returning, the backpedaling has begun.
It’s quite interesting. Gutekunst has gone from half the fanbase taking his side to seemingly a vast majority re-rolling out the red carpet for Rodgers and sliding Gutekunst underneath the bus. However, Gutekunst can suck it up and take these lumps because he’s eventually going to get his master plan to work out in the end.
Gutekunst spoke to the media on Thursday and surprisingly, he was fairly straightforward on some of the questions he was asked. When asked about the trade for Randall Cobb, he made it clear that it was a move made for Rodgers. Sure, he praised Cobb as being a positive influence on the team. But make no mistake about it, Gutekunst sent a message with his answer.
“Obviously without Aaron, I don’t think we would probably be pursuing that, but he’s still a really good player,” Gutekunst said of Cobb. “Seeing him last night just kind of reminded me of what kind of impact he’ll have in our locker room for our football team. This is a very important thing for Aaron, and that’s why we did it.”
That’s about as straightforward as he can be. It might qualify as a jab back at Rodgers, but Gutekunst would certainly deny that premise. So, he absorbed the anger directed at him and tried making the superstar quarterback happy by acquiring one of his old buddies. Again, this plays into Gutekunst’s hand for the long game.
What’s the long game here? Well, when the Packers drafted Jordan Love, they had absolutely no intention of starting him right away. 1) They have Aaron freaking Rodgers, and 2) they viewed him as a quarterback who needed to sit and learn before being tossed into the gauntlet.
Rodgers realized that Gutekunst wanted the best of both worlds and that he had little job security past this upcoming season, so boom, the conflict is started. But even with Rodgers’ reworked contract, the quarterback’s ability to help dictate what happens after this year, and Cobb’s return, Gutekunst still has the upper hand. Because if Rodgers wants out after this upcoming season, Green Bay gets their wish of having Love sit for two years before taking over. Is this strategy the correct one or is the front office filled with morons? That’s to be determined. But there’s no doubt that despite the choppy path to get there, that this was Gutekunst’s plan all along.
So he’ll take the hate now and roll with it. Remember when Rodgers said that many past Packers players weren’t treated correctly on their way out and that they were lowballed on offers to return? Gutekunst responded appropriately to that as well.
“When it comes to an end for any player, I don’t think it usually goes well, I don’t think they usually feel good about it. We are always very sensitive to what those players have given this organization, and when we go through that, it’s always with class and dignity. But again, it’s a hard business…While those decisions are hard, they have to be made for the team to grow…Players should have those feelings. It’s hard, and you play as long as Aaron has, you’re going to see a lot of that.”
Rodgers may be right about a lot of this. And maybe he is justified in his stance that he should have a more prevalent role in helping with evaluations and the decisions that impact the offense. It would set a unique precedent, but he might not be wrong. However, right now it remains a moot point because the writing is on the wall. Rodgers will play out this year and the best-case scenario is obvious: The Packers win the Super Bowl and the MVP gets to decide what he wants after that.
And as crazy as it may sound, even if they were to win it all with No. 12 under center this season, Gutekunst might not oppose Rodgers moving on at the end of the season. It would be incredibly rare to see: An MVP quarterback wins the Super Bowl and then has his trade request granted by a front office that didn’t seem too hellbent on trying to keep him around. But this is all part of the plan: Turn the program over to Love two years after he was drafted.
Two years is right in that sweet spot when it comes to developing a young QB. One year apparently wasn’t enough, so they cajole Rodgers into coming back. Three years of sitting would be way too many. Two might just be the perfect amount.
It may seem like Rodgers is getting his way and winning this battle and in some aspects, and he absolutely is this year. But in the long run, this may turn out exactly how Gutekunst wanted it to, despite the winding road to get there.