Green Bay Packers

Are the 2023 Packers Wasting Youth On the Young?

Photo credit: Wm. Glasheen - The Post-Crescent via USA TODAY Sports

The 2023 Green Bay Packers are the youngest team in the NFL, and it shows in their inconsistent play and lack of assignment sound, attention to detail-focused football. As a result, the Packers have been tough to watch, and it’s hard to know what to expect on a week-to-week basis. That’s the hallmark of a young football team.

Let’s take a look back at the previous “youngest teams” in the NFL over the last handful of years and each of their season-long results:

2022 Cleveland Browns 2021 New York Jets 2020 Jacksonville Jaguars 2019 Miami Dolphins 2018 Cincinnati Bengals 2017 Cleveland Browns
Record 7-10 4-13 1-15 5-11 6-10 0-16
Division Finish 4th in AFC North 4th in AFC East 4th in AFC South 4th in AFC East 4th in AFC North 4th in AFC North

The overall average win total for these teams comes out to be 4-13. They also consistently miss the playoffs and finish last-place in the division. While this won’t give anyone in Green Bay comfort, we should highlight that the Packers constructed this team in a way where it was never meant to win this year. It was always about giving all of these young guys experience and, more importantly, clearing out the backlog of dead cap space on Green Bay’s books. The Packers owe $57.1 million in dead cap, the fourth-most in the NFL, to players who aren’t on the 2023 roster.

But it’s important to take a closer look at the other young rosters to understand how the Packers start to build out their next window of contention. For the previous youngest teams in the NFL, here were their top performers on offense and defense according to PFF grade (minimum 500 snaps):

2022 Cleveland Brown 2021 New York Jets 2020 Jacksonville Jaguars 2019 Miami Dolphins 2018 Cincinnati Bengals 2017 Cleveland Browns
Offense Nick Chubb (90.3) Connor McGovern (75.9) Brandon Linder (80) DeVante Parker (79.2) Tyler Boyd (84.5) Duke Johnson (84.7)
Defense Myles Garrett (92.5) John Franklin-Myers (80.3) Myles Jack (69.1) Vince Biegel (69.8) Geno Atkins (81.8) Myles Garrett (80)

Green Bay’s top performers on offense and defense are Rashan Gary with an 88.1-overall defensive grade, and Zach Tom with an 80.3-overall offensive grade. The Packers are not devoid of high-end defensive talent like the 2019 Dolphins and 2020 Jaguars. However, it highlights how essential it is for Green Bay to sign Gary long-term. In contrast, the Packers’ offense is still finding its footing, and Tom looks like a quality starter for the next few years. However, there is no go-to guy they can hang their offensive hat on to have consistent success.

Where do the Packers go the rest of this season? First, give Rashan Gary a blank check. Second, continue to play and rotate young guys on offense and hope one of them develops into a long-term difference-maker. Third, pray.

But how about the offseason? What can be learned from the previous youngest NFL teams on what could happen for the Packers? All of the teams I mentioned above experienced a change at the coordinator level or higher on the coaching side. Only two of the teams (the 2020 Jaguars and 2017 Browns) made a change at general manager. Ultimately, I think the Packers are tracking similarly to the 2022 Browns. They are a talented team but ultimately lack enough depth, experience, and quality coaching to be a serious contender. While head coach Matt LaFleur and general manager Brian Gutekunst have done a good enough job to be safe for another year, change is inevitable when a team is consistently inconsistent.

The big question will be, how does Green Bay take that next leap? While the current team’s development will dictate when it exactly happens, I do not expect them to be a playoff team this year. I just want to see a higher level of consistently good football from this team. Luckily for the Packers, they should have more resources both in free agency and draft capital to field a more well-rounded, playoff-worthy roster in 2024. Welcome to the rest of the NFL, Packers fans, dreaming of next year.

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