Why the Green Bay Packers must hit the reset button, fire Matt LaFleur and Brian Gutekunst

The Green Bay Packers are one of the most storied franchises in professional sports with multiple eras that warrant consideration among the best dynasties in NFL history. Right now, however, Matt LaFleur and Brian Gutekunst have the Packers headed for one of the team’s lowest points ever.

Prior to the 2022 season, LaFleur and Gutekunst looked like geniuses for the offensive play-calling and wealth of talent on the roster that made this one of the best teams in football. Just over a year later, though, it’s becoming evident that the Packers’ success might only exist because of franchise legends whom LaFleur and Gutekunst moved on from.

Related: 2023 NFL power rankings

Let’s take a deeper look at why it’s time for the Green Bay Packers to clean house.

Green Bay Packers draft history under Brian Gutekunst

Syndication: The Post-Crescent

There are multiple ways for NFL teams to try and land the best players in football. Trades are one option, but that often requires a disgruntled star or a rebuilding team and that makes blockbuster deals involving perennial Pro Bowl selections fairly rare.

While trades for proven talent aren’t often an option, all 32 NFL teams collectively spend hundreds of millions of dollars each offseason on All-Pro talent and emerging stars who hit the free agent market. It doesn’t always work out, but adding the right piece can turn a playoff hopeful into a Super Bowl threat.

Related: Why the Deshaun Watson trade is the worst trade in NFL history

In both of those instances, a team often has to attract a star player to want to play there. Lucrative contracts with a hefty signing bonus and market-setting guarantees can often make the decision easy for top NFL free agents. When money isn’t the tiebreaker, factors like location, climate and the chance to play with other stars come into play.

For a publicly-owned club like the Packers, located in a small city with a population under 120,000 and a long drive from good weather and a big city, attracting high-end talent in free agency is a massive challenge that often ends in disappointment. It’s why the NFL Draft has been so crucial to the Packers’ success and it helps explain why the team is in its current position with Gutekunst at the helm.

2022 Packers draft class

  • 1st: Quay Walker, LB
  • 1st: DeVonte Wyatt, DT
  • 2nd: Christian Watson, WR
  • 3rd: Sean Rhyan, OL
  • 4th: Romeo Doubs, WR
  • 4th: Zach Tom, OL
  • 5th: Kingsley Enagbare, DE

2021 Packers draft class

  • 1st: Eric Stokes, CB
  • 2nd: Josh Myers, C
  • 3rd: Amari Rodgers, WR
  • 4th: Royce Newman, OL
  • 5th: Tedarrell Slaton, DL
  • 5th: Shemar Jean-Charles, CB

2020 Packers draft class

  • 1st: Jordan Love, QB
  • 2nd: AJ Dillon, RB
  • 3rd: Josiah Deguara, TE
  • 5th: Kamal Martin, LB
  • 6th: Jon Runyan, OT
  • 6th: Jake Hanson, C

Related: Green Bay Packers draft picks 2024

2019 Packers draft class

  • 1st: Rashan Gary, EDGE
  • 1st: Darnell Savage, S
  • 2nd: Elgton Jenkins, OL
  • 3rd: Jace Sternberger, TE
  • 5th: Kingsley Keke, DT
  • 6th: Ka’Dar Hollman, CB

2018 Packers draft class

  • 1st: Jaire Alexander, CB
  • 2nd: Josh Jackson, CB
  • 3rd: Oren Burks, LB
  • 4th: J’Mon Moore, WR
  • 5th: Cole Madison, OL
  • 5th: Marquez Valdes-Scantling, WR

Related: NFL stadium rankings

Since being promoted to Packers’ general manager in January 2018, Gutekunst has an extremely spotty track record in the NFL Draft. He’s hit on first-round picks like Devonte Wyatt, Jaire Alexander and Rashan Gary. There’s an argument to be made that linebacker Quay Walker will also qualify as a successful pick. So, Gutekunst is battering roughly .572 on his first-round picks. Keep in mind, that should be the easiest round to find impact players.

The success after that plummets. Christian Watson’s second-year breakout hasn’t happened, with injuries, inconsistency with his location on routes and drops hindering him. Meanwhile, Josh Jackson was off the team by 2021 and is out of the league, while Josh Myers is a below-average starter. As for A.J. Dillon, his 3.8 yards per carry average and lack of efficiency over the last two seasons suggests he’s a mid-tier backup running back.

Gutekunst’s issues in Round 3 are even more alarming. Oren Burks became nothing more than a contributor on special teams, Jace Sternberger was out of the league by 2021, Josiah Deguara has 429 career receiving yards in 42 games and Sean Rhyan hasn’t played a single offensive snap in two years.

The Packers have always been a draft-and-develop team. Outside of historical outliers – Reggie White, Charles Woodson, Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith – they’ve been a landing spot that top NFL free agents avoid. If that was the case for decades with Rodgers and Brett Favre at quarterback, it’s even more true now.

Trading for impact talent is also highly unlikely, in part because most high-profile players wouldn’t want to sign long-term extensions to stay in Green Bay and because the franchise places such high value on its draft picks. Draft-and-develop is a fine philosophy for an NFL franchise to have, but it will lead you to the bottom of the NFL standings if the person assembling the roster is a poor judge of talent and schematic fit.

Green Bay can’t attract top free agents, it doesn’t have a future Hall of Fame quarterback to mask holes on the roster and it is rarely involved in the trade market. If none of that can be fixed, the one change that has to be made is finding a new general manager. Once you do that, then you can find a new coach.

Matt LaFleur’s offense isn’t what we thought

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Denver Broncos

In the early years of the Matt LaFleur era, he quickly emerged as one of the best play-callers in the NFL. Rodgers’ career trajectory seemed to be in a freefall before LaFleur’s arrival. Suddenly, Rodgers added two more NFL MVPs to his resume and the Packers had top-10 offenses in 2020 and 2021.

The MVP years with a great offensive line and an All-Pro receiver helped shape one of the highest-scoring offenses in football. However, the statistical regression on a year-to-year basis suggests LaFleur might’ve been a product of the talent he had and a weak NFC North.

YearTotal YPGPPGYards per Play3rd Down ConversionRed-Zone TD %
2020393.8 (2nd)31.5 (1st)6.3 (3rd)50.97% (1st)76.81% (1st)
2021359.9 (12th)25.6 (10th)5.8 (9th)43.46% (9th)57.53% (18th)
2022337.9 (17th)21.8 (14th)5.5 (13th)39.5% (17th)51.85% (23rd)
202320 (21st)287 (25th)4.9 (23rd)40.43% (15th)56.52% (13th)
Green Bay Packers statistics via ESPN, entering Week 9

It’s also worth keeping in mind some other Packers’ statistics. From Weeks 3-8 this season, Green Bay averaged just 202.6 passing yards per game with a 64.8 QB rating and 58.5 percent completion rate. Over that same span, the Packers managed just a 37.7 percent third-down conversion rate and averaged 15.6 points per game.

During that stretch, the Packers’ offense compiled 1,456 total yards across 304 plays. Averaging 291.2 total yards per game and 4.79 yards per play over that stretch puts LaFleur’s offense in the same category as Josh McDaniels’ Las Vegas Raiders and the Zach Wilson-led New York Jets, except both teams fared better putting points on the board.

While there were some signs of regression from 2020 to the ’21 campaign, things plummeted after Davante Adams was traded and it’s deteriorated further with Rodgers gone. For as renowned as LaFleur was coming into the year, he hasn’t demonstrated much play-calling acumen when Green Bay isn’t facing the Chicago Bears

After every loss and further deterioration of the Packers’ offense, LaFleur takes the podium and states that he has to do a better job. Yet nothing changed, even after the bye week Green Bay maintained the worst first-half offense in the NFL.

Green Bay knew it was taking a gamble in 2019 when it hired an offensive coordinator with one season of play-calling experience. Even at that time, the Tennessee Titans offense that LaFleur orchestrated – 27th in scoring (19.4 PPG) and 23rd in yards per play (5.3) – wasn’t very good.

The Green Bay Packers don’t have a franchise-caliber quarterback who can erase the on-field coaching mistakes and flawed game plan created by LaFleur. Likewise, there isn’t the offensive line or dominant wide receiver who can help make things work and the general manager is to blame for that. The Packers are one of the worst NFL teams in 2023 and cleaning house is the only way for them to improve long-term.

Mentioned in this article:

More About: