It wasn’t long ago that Twitter was littered with accolades for Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst. Most declared “in Gute we trust”. Many believed that the fifth-year general manager could do no wrong. But as the Packers sit at 3-4, sporting a new three-game losing streak, those people have gone quiet. There is no getting around it, Brian Gutekunst and his draft failures have contributed to the Packers poor 2022 start.
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Brian Gutekunst and his Draft Failures are Haunting Current Green Bay Packers Roster
Comparable to the saying, “even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while”, the same can be said about Brian Gutekunst. Sure, he has made some solid picks throughout his five-year career as general manager. But unfortunately, he has had more misses than hits.
When Brian Gutekunst was hired to replace former general manager Ted Thompson, it appeared that he was going to be his own man. The Green Bay Packers roster, the core of it, would still be built through the NFL Draft. That is something Gutekunst learned under his mentor Thompson. But in just his second off-season, Gutekunst appeared to be doing things his way.
That off-season, Gutekunst and the Packers made a splash by signing four bigger-named free agents. Za’Darius Smith, Adrian Amos, Preston Smith, and Billy Turner all signed big-money deals with the Packers. These signings made Packers fans elated. Finally, they had a general manager who would go out and spend the required money to improve the Green Bay Packers roster.
But since that off-season, the Packers wallet has closed up. Salary cap issues have played a major part in that. Although you have to wonder how a team that rarely spends money can have salary cap issues. Due to the Packers lack of free agency moves, they have had to rely heavily on the NFL Draft. This isn’t a good thing because, under Brian Gutekunst, their draft classes haven’t been overly impressive.
Even a Blind Squirrel Finds a Nut Once in a While
Let’s give credit where credit is due. Not all of Brian Gutekunst’s picks have turned out to be disasters. Out of the 48 selections Gutekunst has made as Packers general manager, it appears three of them can be considered upper-echelon players.
Rashan Gary, Jaire Alexander, and Elgton Jenkins, all selected by Gutekunst, have turned out to be core players for this Green Bay Packers roster. While just three is laughable, you do have to credit Gutekunst and his staff for at least finding these three.
Gary is the Packers best pass rusher and appears just to be reaching his potential. His burst around the corner makes it almost impossible for an offensive tackle to stop him from getting to the quarterback. It was a risky pick by Gutekunst, but he has panned out.
Jaire Alexander, another first-round pick by Gutekunst’s, has turned out to be one the top cover corners in the league. Although, he didn’t look like it on Sunday against Washington Commanders wide receiver Terry McLaurin. Alexander, if Joe Barry actually puts him in the right spot, has the ability to cover the best of the best in the NFL.
Even with Jenkins having a difficult season, recovering from his 2021 knee injury, he is still the Packers best offensive lineman. The Packers are banking on him recovering fully because before the injury, he looked to have a very bright future.
So, those three are the standouts and there are some serviceable picks Gutekunst has hit on as well. But it isn’t a long list. In fact, it is pretty underwhelming. Those misses have hurt the Packers, and it is starting to show.
The Best of the Worst
Now, the list of picks that Brian Gutekunst has missed on, that’s a lengthy one. Because of the fear of hand cramps, we have chosen to pick the best of Gutekunst’s worst picks. The reason this is being pointed out is to show that it has played a major part in the Packers current issues.
Here are the top five whiffs of Brian Gutekunst and the Packers:
The 2018 Draft Class (excluding Jaire Alexander)
If not for Alexander, the entire 2018 Packers draft class would have been a bust. Out of the 11 picks Gutekunst made that year, only one, Alexander, is still with the Packers. That isn’t just embarrassing, it’s downright criminal.
That class would have been entering year five if they were still around. For most NFL players, year five means entering your prime and it is expected that those players would be contributors. Missing ten picks really puts a team behind.
It is difficult to pick just one bad pick since there are so many. But if you had to pick just one, it would have to be wide receiver J’Mon Moore. The Missouri product was the first of three wide receivers selected that year. He was also the least productive. He caught one pass in his rookie season and the following year, he was cut. The Packers have one if not the weakest group of wide receivers in the NFL. A decent wide receiver from that class might have helped out the current group.
After witnessing Darnell Savage play on Sunday — and give up another touchdown on the season — he was an easy pick for this list. An ultra-athletic safety out of Maryland, he appeared to be the future at the Packers safety position. When the Packers signed Amos, it meant that Amos would do the dirty work and allow Savage to make plays. Amos has kept his end of the bargain, but Savage hasn’t come close.
It appeared that he might be turning the corner in 2020 when he picked off four passes, but he has regressed since. Not only isn’t he making plays, but he is also blowing coverages. He consistently appears to be out of position. He is also one of the worst tackling safeties in the NFL.
If selecting Savage wasn’t bad enough, Brian Gutekunst doubled down this off-season. The Packers picked up Savage’s fifth-year option, guaranteeing he will be back in 2023. For how poorly Savage has played, the Packers would be better off with someone else starting opposite of Amos.
How nice would it be if the Green Bay Packers offense had another capable tight end to team up with Robert Tonyan, so they could run more two tight end sets? They might have had that if Jace Sternberger would have been able to play football well.
Gutekunst wasted a third-round pick in 2019. Since being cut, he has bounced around the league and hasn’t accomplished anything. Proving, it wasn’t the coaching staff that couldn’t get the best out of him, he just wasn’t good.
Entering the 2021 NFL Draft, you knew two things about Kamal Martin. One, he was athletic, and second, he couldn’t stay healthy. Martin showed good athletic ability when he was healthy. But the scouting report was right on the second item, he couldn’t stay healthy.
Similar to Moore, Martin lasted just one season in Green Bay. Gutekunst cut the fifth-round pick in just his second training camp. Another wasted Gutekunst picked that didn’t last long.
In 2021, Gutekunst and the Packers decided to part ways with long-time starting center Corey Linsley. With Linsley, a proven veteran, shown the door the Packers spent a second-round pick on Ohio State’s Josh Myers.
Myers wasn’t even the top-ranked center in the 2021 NFL Draft, that was Creed Humphrey from Oklahoma. Humphrey went a pick later to the Kansas Chiefs and so far, has been a better player than Myers.
Myers became the starting center in his rookie season. But so far, his play has been very unimpressive. This season, Myers has especially struggled. Spending such a high draft pick on a center is questionable, but for that center not to turn out? Again, not a good look for Gutekunst.