Brian Gutekunst

Packers Extend Matt LaFleur, Brian Gutekunst, Russ Ball?

The Packers are happy with the core of leaders they’ve built over the years and they’re determined to keep key pieces in place for years to come. Head coach Matt LaFleur, general manager Brian Gutekunst, and executive vice president Russ Ball all received extensions this offseason, according to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky.

Interestingly, the team’s president and CEO, Mark Murphy, refused to confirm the extensions, saying only, “I’ll just say I’m confident not only Matt and Brian but (Ball) will continue to be Packers’ employees for years to come.” 

LaFleur was hired as head coach in 2019 after two starkly different seasons as an offensive coordinator with the Rams and with the Titans. As offensive coordinator in Los Angeles, LaFleur didn’t call plays, but still gets credit for coordinating the league’s top scoring offense that year. The next year he took over play-calling duties in Tennessee and, after an onslaught of injuries, the team finished with the 27th ranked scoring offense. Still, the Packers saw enough coaching potential to hire him to replace Mike McCarthy.

Since LaFleur took over in 2019, the Packers have been a league best 39-10. Unfortunately, though, LaFleur has struggled to take the league’s best regular season team to the Super Bowl, losing two straight NFC Championship games in his first two seasons and exiting in the Divisional Round of last year’s playoffs. LaFleur’s contract was set to expire at the end of the season, so an extension was expected.

Gutekunst was promoted to his current role one year before the hire of LaFleur. After entering the league as a Chiefs scouting assistant in 1998, Gutekunst quickly made his way to Wisconsin where he rose through the ranks over the following 20 years from area scout to director of college scouting to director of player personnel to his eventual general manager position in 2018. Gutekunst was granted the promotion when former general manager Ted Thompson took a reduced role with the organization after being diagnosed with neurodegenerative disorder. In Gutekunst’s five years of heading the personnel departments, the team has drafted starters like cornerback Jaire Alexander and defensive lineman Rashan Gary while bringing in impact players like Preston Smith, Za’Darius Smith, Christian Kirksey, Jaylon Smith, and Whitney Mercilus. Gutekunst’s contract was also set to expire at the end of the season, so his extension, while not guaranteed, was also expected.

Ball has been with the franchise since 2008, spending ten years as vice president of football administration/player finance and getting promoted to executive vice president/director of football operations in 2018. Ball has held the unenviable responsibility of managing the team’s salary cap, a task that hasn’t been made any easier with the demands of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. His masterful management during the pandemic was something that drew praise from Murphy, according to Matt Schneidman of The Athletic. Ball was promoted the same year Gutekunst was, so his deal was likely also nearing an end.

This isn’t the first time Murphy and the Packers have kept silent about contract moves with the staff. The past scenario was a bit more tense as McCarthy was quietly given a one-year extension for what would eventually be his last season. Regarding the lack of an announcement or confirmation, Murphy said, “I’d prefer to keep (contract extensions) internal, but, obviously, you can see from my comments that I feel like they’re doing an outstanding job.”

With the extension of key pieces to the team’s core leadership, the Packers brass is putting forth a vote of confidence. They are likely also posing two daunting tests: 1) take the next step and win a Super Bowl and 2) keep the boat afloat when Rodgers is finally gone. The three men will apparently have another few years to complete those assignments.

The NFL’s Longest-Tenured GMs

Wednesday, we took a look at how the 2022 offseason changed the HC landscape. While 10 new sideline leaders are in place for 2022, not quite as much turnover transpired on the general manager front. Five new decision-makers, however, have moved to the top of teams’ front office hierarchies over the past six months.

The Bears, Giants, Raiders and Vikings rebooted their entire operations, hiring new HC-GM combos. The Minnesota move bumped out one of the previous top-10 longest-tenured GMs, with 16-year Vikings exec Rick Spielman no longer in power in the Twin Cities. The Steelers’ shakeup took the NFL’s longest-tenured pure GM out of the mix. Kevin Colbert was with the Steelers since 2000, and although he is still expected to remain with the team in a reduced capacity, the 22-year decision-maker stepped down shortly after Ben Roethlisberger wrapped his career.

Twelve teams have now hired a new GM in the past two offseasons, though a bit more staying power exists here compared to the HC ranks. Two GMs (the Cardinals’ Steve Keim and Chargers’ Tom Telesco) have begun their 10th years at the helms of their respective front offices. They have hired three HCs apiece. The Buccaneers’ Jason Licht is closing in on a decade in power in Tampa Bay; Licht will now work with his fourth HC in Todd Bowles. Beyond that, a bit of a gap exists. But a handful of other executives have been in power for at least five seasons.

Here is how long every GM or de facto GM has been in place with his respective franchise:

  1. Jerry Jones (Dallas Cowboys): April 18, 1989[1]
  2. Mike Brown (Cincinnati Bengals): August 5, 1991[2]
  3. Bill Belichick (New England Patriots): January 27, 2000[3]
  4. Mickey Loomis (New Orleans Saints): May 14, 2002
  5. John Schneider (Seattle Seahawks): January 19, 2010; signed extension in 2021
  6. Howie Roseman (Philadelphia Eagles): January 29, 2010; signed extension in 2022
  7. Les Snead (Los Angeles Rams): February 10, 2012; signed extension in 2019
  8. Steve Keim (Arizona Cardinals): January 8, 2013; signed extension in 2022
  9. Tom Telesco (Los Angeles Chargers): January 9, 2013; signed extension in 2018
  10. Jason Licht (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): January 21, 2014; signed extension in 2021
  11. Chris Grier (Miami Dolphins): January 4, 2016[4]
  12. Jon Robinson (Tennessee Titans): January 14, 2016; signed extension in 2022
  13. John Lynch (San Francisco 49ers): January 29, 2017; signed extension in 2020
  14. Chris Ballard (Indianapolis Colts): January 30, 2017; signed extension in 2021
  15. Brandon Beane (Buffalo Bills): May 9, 2017; signed extension in 2020
  16. Brett Veach (Kansas City Chiefs): July 11, 2017; signed extension in 2020
  17. Brian Gutekunst (Green Bay Packers): January 7, 2018
  18. Eric DeCosta (Baltimore Ravens): January 7, 2019
  19. Joe Douglas (New York Jets): June 7, 2019
  20. Andrew Berry (Cleveland Browns): January 27, 2020
  21. Nick Caserio (Houston Texans): January 5, 2021
  22. George Paton (Denver Broncos): January 13, 2021
  23. Scott Fitterer (Carolina Panthers): January 14, 2021
  24. Brad Holmes (Detroit Lions): January 14, 2021
  25. Terry Fontenot (Atlanta Falcons): January 19, 2021
  26. Trent Baalke (Jacksonville Jaguars): January 21, 2021
  27. Martin Mayhew (Washington Commanders): January 22, 2021
  28. Joe Schoen (New York Giants): January 21, 2022
  29. Ryan Poles (Chicago Bears): January 25, 2022
  30. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah (Minnesota Vikings): January 26, 2022
  31. Dave Ziegler (Las Vegas Raiders): January 30, 2022
  32. Omar Khan (Pittsburgh Steelers): May 24, 2022

Footnotes:

  1. Jones has been the Cowboys’ de facto general manager since former GM Tex Schramm resigned in April 1989.
  2. Brown has been the Bengals’ de facto GM since taking over as the team’s owner in August 1991.
  3. Belichick has been the Patriots’ de facto GM since shortly after being hired as the team’s head coach in January 2000.
  4. Although Grier was hired in 2016, he became the Dolphins’ top football exec on Dec. 31, 2018

Packers GM On Rodgers, Adams, Cap

Can the Packers still have a competitive team in 2022 if they retain quarterback Aaron Rodgers and wide receiver Davante Adams at market-leading salaries? Green Bay GM Brian Gutekunst says yes, adding that he’s “very confident about that,” (Twitter link via Matt Schneidman of The Athletic). 

[RELATED: Packers Rework Clark’s Contract]

Even after restructuring Kenny Clark‘s contract, the Packers are facing an enormous numbers crunch. Aaron Rodgers’ forthcoming decision should provide some clarity for the offseason ahead, though it’s hard to imagine a future with both players at their expected rates. The Packers are reportedly prepared to use the franchise tag on Adams, though Gutekunst says that’s “not something we’d like to do.” Instead, he hopes to hammer out a long-term contract that works for both sides. By the same token, he didn’t rule out the possibility of Adams reaching the open market in March (Twitter link via Lily Zhao of FOX 6.

Meanwhile, Gutekunst declined to talk about a hypothetical Rodgers trade, should the QB request one. For what it’s worth, he did confirm that Rodgers was involved in the team’s decision to hire Tom Clements as its quarterbacks coach (Twitter link via Schneidman)— a sign that his relationship with Rodgers is in a better place than it was just one year ago.

Packers Want QB Rodgers Back

In one of the more obvious nuggets of sports news, Packers’ president and CEO Mark Murphy expressed a team interest in quarterback Aaron Rodgers returning for another season in the monthly column Murphy uses to answer fan questions. 

“(Head coach) Matt (LaFleur), (general manager) Brian (Gutekunst), executive vice president/director of football operations Russ Ball and I are all in agreement that we want Aaron to come back,” Murphy wrote.

Despite some internal disputes and Rodgers’ misleading statements about his vaccination status, the 38-year-old is in line to potentially win his 4th MVP award, his second consecutively. He helped lead Green Bay to their second-straight first-round bye in the playoffs, though they did fall short of the Super Bowl for the second-straight year as a one-seed. So while the Packers can easily express their interest in his return, there are quite a few hurdles between that and re-signing him.

It started about 9 months ago when things gradually bubbled over during a long-term contract negotiation between the Packers and Rodgers. Rodgers had reportedly been unhappy during the proceedings and became so disgruntled that he told members of the organization that he didn’t want to return to the team. This frustration continued throughout an offseason that saw loads of trade speculation, including a report that Rodgers was under the impression that the Packers had promised to trade him before reneging on their deal. The offseason also contained a Rodgers hold-out that ended with a deal that some saw as a “Last Dance” contract that would help set up his departure after the season ended.

After a tumultuous offseason, came Rodgers’ issues with COVID-19. While the team, and reportedly the league, knew about Rodgers’ vaccination status, his positive COVID-19 test led to an investigation of the Packers’ mishandling of protocols.

Immediately after the season ended, Rodgers made it clear that he has no interest in staying in Green Bay if he doesn’t think the team can win in 2022. The veteran-QB told ESPN, “I don’t want to be part of a rebuild if I’m going to keep playing.” A big part of that will rely on the return of two-time All-Pro receiver Davante Adams. Adams is set for quite the payday following a contract year that saw him rank second in the NFL in catches (123), third in receiving yards (1,553), and fifth in receiving touchdowns (11).

Another point that could factor into Rodgers’ decision is the shuffled offensive staff. Former-offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett is now the head coach of the Broncos and quarterbacks coach/passing-game coordinator Luke Getsy is the new offensive coordinator in Chicago. While Green Bay did promote a familiar face in offensive line coach/running-game coordinator Adam Stenavich, Rodgers is still without his QB coach and offensive coordinator of the last three seasons.

Lastly, and potentially most important in the list of things that undermine Murphy’s claim, is the Packers’ cap situation. Even if they can convince Rodgers to return to Wisconsin, the Packers are currently expected to be about $45MM over the cap, not including the hits from a tagged or re-signed Adams. In order to bring back both Adams and Rodgers, the team would likely have to part ways with a number of cap-heavy players.

Regardless, the Packers can cross the declaration off their list. It was the first thing they needed to do on a laundry list of tasks to bring Rodgers back. They can now move on in their pursuit and get to work on building a team that Aaron Rodgers thinks can win a Super Bowl, convincing him to return, and somehow paying for it all.

Latest On Packers, Aaron Rodgers

While the full-on stalemate between the Packers and Aaron Rodgers did not surface until last week, it has simmered throughout the offseason. Rodgers appears to have prepared teammates for his departure before that.

Following the Packers’ Jordan Love pick, Rodgers wondered if his plan of finishing his career in Green Bay was realistic. During the 2020 season, the decorated quarterback informed Packers free agents-to-be he was unlikely to play for the team in 2021, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com notes (video link).

The Broncos, Raiders and 49ers surfaced last week as acceptable Rodgers destinations, and he is believed to have briefed those teammates of this list of teams, per Garafolo. This did not end up leading to a Packer exodus, however. Longtime Rodgers blindside blocker David Bakhtiari signed a record extension to stay in Green Bay in November, and Aaron Jones agreed to a new deal just ahead of free agency. Of course, money obviously played the central role in these big-ticket deals. But both cornerstone Packers signed despite potentially knowing they could be playing for a team in transition in 2021.

[RELATED: Broncos To Aggressively Pursue Aaron Rodgers?]

Rodgers’ former teammates, however, are split on the notion he will leave. James Jones and John Kuhn do not believe this situation has passed the point of no return. The 37-year-old QB wants the Packers to better position themselves for a Super Bowl, per Jones, who added that Rodgers does not need GM Brian Gutekunst to be fired to return (Twitter link). Kuhn, who has spoken with Rodgers since this impasse became public, said the quarterback’s appreciation for the Packer franchise and his having seen Brett Favre‘s messy exit has caused him to be “conflicted” regarding his own apparent exit strategy, via J.R. Radcliffe of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Favre, on the other hand, sees his ex-backup as entrenched in his position. The future Hall of Famer should not be expected move to mend the rift between he and team management, per Favre, who said during an appearance on ESPN Wisconsin’s Wilde & Tausch (via Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com) he expects Rodgers to be elsewhere next season. Rodgers sitting out the season would be preferable to his returning to the Packers under unfavorable circumstances, Favre adds. Rodgers has also spoken with Favre since this matter became public, having replied, “I’ll touch base with you after all this is over,” to a Favre text.

The Broncos have emerged as the team most closely connected to the three-time MVP thus far, and prospective trade packages are surfacing. Two first-round picks and a second should be required for the Broncos to land Rodgers, league sources informed Denver7’s Troy Renck, who adds the team would likely need to give up at least one key player in the deal. While Denver now has surpluses at wide receiver and cornerback, with Courtland Sutton set to return from injury and the team loading up at corner this offseason, Renck notes the team will likely fight to keep first-round pick Patrick Surtain II out of a prospective trade offer. Of Denver’s four top corners, Surtain certainly profiles as the highest-value player.

Packers Say Broncos, 49ers Tampered With Aaron Rodgers

The Packers believe that the 49ers and Broncos have contacted Aaron Rodgers to gauge his interest in playing for them, according to ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky. That would classify as tampering, though the Packers have not filed a complaint with the league office.

In order to file a successful claim, the Packers would need clear evidence of the illicit contact. Short of that, there isn’t much the Packers could do to bark back at the Broncos, Niners, or any other club that may have chatted with the MVP quarterback. Years ago, the Chiefs were docked draft picks for talking to Jeremy Maclin while he was still a member of the Eagles. But, for the most part, tampering is fairly common in the NFL and rarely punished.

Meanwhile, Rodgers hasn’t been shy about his issues with GM Brian Gutekunst. The QB wants Gutekunst fired and he’s even poked fun at him with friends, according to Bob McGinn of The Athletic. In group text threads, Rodgers has referred to the Packers exec as Jerry Krause – the late Bulls GM who may have prioritized his ego over the continued success of the team.

When the two sides were talking, the Packers offered to make Rodgers the highest-paid QB in the league, according to McGinn. Of course, those numbers don’t mean much in the NFL without guarantees to match, and= Rodgers wants the bulk of his money locked in.

Latest On Aaron Rodgers, Packers

The Aaron Rodgers situation does not appear to be losing steam. Attending the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, the Packers quarterback indirectly indicated issues exist between he and Packers management.

After speaking with Rodgers, NBC Sports’ Mike Tirico said the quarterback is “disappointed” news of the rift between he and the Packers’ front office became public (via CBS Sports’ John Breech). Rodgers did not address the situation publicly, though there is little doubt the reigning MVP’s camp has voiced his concerns behind the scenes during draft weekend.

[RELATED: Aaron Rodgers Wants Out Of Green Bay]

A weekend report indicated Rodgers is adamant he will not play for the Packers again under current GM Brian Gutekunst. The fourth-year GM denied that the reigning MVP communicated that to him.

Aaron hasn’t said anything like that to me and certainly hasn’t said anything publicly,” Gutekunst said, via ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky. “I think that’s a little unfair to put that on him. Certainly don’t like to hear those things, but no, nothing’s been communicated directly to me.”

Gutekunst, Matt LaFleur and Packers president Mark Murphy have met with Rodgers in Los Angeles. Those meetings are not believed to have gone well. Green Bay’s surprise first-round selection of Jordan Love, which brought Rodgers’ long-term future with the franchise into question for the first time, has continued to drive a wedge between the quarterback and the front office. One of the sticking points in this drama is Rodgers’ issue with Gutekunst not communicating to him ahead of time intentions to draft Love. Gutekunst also said he could have handled that situation better, via the Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore (on Twitter).

Gutekunst said this week he will not trade Rodgers. A Rodgers retirement prospect has since surfaced, which reminds of 2011’s Carson Palmer-Bengals standoff. The Broncos, Raiders and 49ers are believed to be preferred Rodgers trade destinations, should this situation reach that point. San Francisco having traded two future first-round picks for the right to select Trey Lance would seemingly take the team out of the running, even though John Lynch confirmed he reached out to the Packers on the perennial Pro Bowler.

Rodgers-to-Denver rumors gained steam Thursday, and while the Broncos appeared to keep options open at quarterback by passing on Justin Fields and Mac Jones, no serious trade buzz has transpired. This prospective deal, however, remains a possibility, according to 9News’ Mike Klis, though this stalemate may be a ways away from legitimate trade rumors emerging.

For his part, LaFleur said what you might expect him to say when asked about the Rodgers situation. “[Rodgers is] our leader of our team,” LaFlauer said (video link via the team’s official website). “I want nothing more than to see him back in a Packer uniform. In my eyes, he’s the greatest to ever do it. I don’t care about Super Bowls or what not. But we want him back here.”

When asked how he would feel if Rodgers doesn’t have a change of heart about wanting to leave, LaFleur said, “I can’t ever take my brain to that spot right now. I just want to do everything in my power to ensure that doesn’t happen.”

Regardless of what happens on the Rodgers front, Gutekunst said the Packers will add another quarterback before training camp, per Demovsky. Tim Boyle, Rodgers’ backup of the past two years, is now with the Lions. That leaves Love as the only other QB on Green Bay’s roster. The Utah State alum has yet to take a regular-season snap.

Aaron Rodgers Won’t Return To Packers Under Current GM?

Aaron Rodgers‘ issues with the Packers have dominated this draft weekend, and the executive who selected Jordan Love last year appears to be in the reigning MVP’s crosshairs.

The future Hall of Fame quarterback wants out of Green Bay and is willing to threaten retirement. A key part of Rodgers’ disenchantment with the Packers: fourth-year GM Brian Gutekunst. Rodgers is adamant he will not return to the Packers as long as Gutekunst is leading the front office, Charles Robinson of Yahoo.com reports.

Packers president Mark Murphy is aware of Rodgers’ issues with Gutekunst, Robinson adds. Gutekunst, who succeeded the late Ted Thompson as Packers GM in 2018, rose up from Green Bay’s front office. While Gutekunst has been more active in free agency than his predecessor and was in place when Rodgers signed his current extension in 2018, the Jordan Love pick — made without any consultation with Rodgers — continues to drive a wedge between the 13-year Packers starter and the GM.

Rodgers initially believed Gutekunst sought to move on from him after 2020. The GM has said the team remains committed to Rodgers, though the Love pick has clouded the prospect of Rodgers finishing his career in Green Bay. The veteran said in 2020 he no longer viewed that as realistic and has proceeded this offseason with an uncertain tone about his future in Wisconsin. Unsuccessful meetings between Gutekunst, Murphy and Rodgers escalated to this impasse becoming public Thursday.

The 37-year-old superstar/aspiring Jeopardy! host presented the Packers with an extension proposal this offseason, according to Robinson, that would essentially lock him in for two more seasons. The Packers, however, did not initially want to do anything beyond a restructure. While the team may have become more receptive to a new deal, its year-to-year approach remains in place as of draft weekend.

Rodgers indicated in 2018 he wanted to play into his 40s, which differs from Brett Favre‘s year-to-year timeline in the 2000s. Favre’s successor now would prefer to play past 40 in a different uniform.

If a trade is to occur, it would likely take place beyond June 1. The Packers could spread out Rodgers’ $38.4MM dead-money hit over multiple years that way. The Broncos, Raiders and 49ers reside on Rodgers’ wish list, and although the Rodgers-to-Denver buzz that surfaced Thursday evening appears overblown, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com notes that scenario is possible — especially after the team passed on Justin Fields at No. 9 overall (video link).

This impasse shows no signs of slowing down, and if Rodgers’ stance remains by the time the Packers report to minicamp in June, the prospect of Love going into training camp as the team’s starter increases.

Packers GM: “We’re Not Going To Trade Aaron Rodgers”

Aaron Rodgers wants out. Unfortunately for him, the Packers’ GM says the star quarterback isn’t going anywhere. 

No, we’re not going to trade Aaron Rodgers,” Brian Gutekunst told reporters after the first round of the NFL Draft (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport).

Rodgers and the Packers have been negotiating a new deal for months, but Rodgers has been unhappy with the nature of the talks. The Packers are reportedly seeking a restructuring of his deal that would grant them cap relief. Meanwhile, Rodgers is seeking a lucrative long-term extension.

The Broncos, 49ers, and Raiders were reportedly high on the QBs’ wish list, but trade talks were a non-starter for Green Bay. Ultimately, the Niners stuck with the No. 3 pick they traded up for and used it on Trey Lance, but GM John Lynch admitted that he first tried to swing a deal for Rodgers.

“You‘re talking about the MVP of our league last year,” Lynch said (via the San Jose Mercury News). “I don’t know about you guys, but when the MVP of the league might be available — and I didn’t know that, I’m just reading the tea leaves like everybody else and saying, ‘Hold on, is something going on here?’ Yeah, we inquired. And it was a quick end to the conversation. It wasn’t happening.”

As we said, we’ve been convicted and excited for a long, long time, so we went right back to where we’ve been and that’s really excited about adding Trey Lance to the 49ers and we’re thrilled about that.”

Packers GM: Aaron Rodgers Is “Our Guy”

Aaron Rodgers‘ immediate future is not in jeopardy, Packers GM Brian Gutekunst says (Twitter link via Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com). Despite the lingering contract talks and all the speculation, Gutekunst insists that everything will work out between the quarterback and the front office. 

Aaron’s our guy; he’s going to be our quarterback for the foreseeable future,” Gutekunst said. “We’re excited about the kind of the things we’re going to try to accomplish here over the next couple years. So we certainly think with the contract that you’re kind of talking about is something we’ll work through. We’re going to have to do probably a few things with different contracts as we head toward the season and then through the season to make sure that our salary cap situation, not only this year, but in 2022 is square. So we’re not done yet. We’ve done a lot to get here. We’ve kind of been doing things as we go and we will continue to do that as we go.

The two sides are still “working through” Rodgers’ contract, which has no remaining guarantees. As it stands, the Packers could part ways with Rodgers next year and save ~$25 million against the 2022 cap. That doesn’t sit well with Rodgers, who knows that the Packers project to be top-heavy beyond 2021.

Rodgers, 37, captured his third MVP trophy last year while rookie Jordan Love watched from the sidelines. Thanks to Rodgers and his NFL-leading 48 touchdown passes, the Packers reached the NFC championship game and fell just short of beating the Buccaneers.