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Packers lovefest with QB Jordan Love just beginning

Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst speaks to local media at the NFL scouting combine on Feb. 27 in Indianapolis.
Credit: Tom Silverstein / USA TODAY NETWORK

INDIANAPOLIS — A lot changed in a few months for the Green Bay Packers at the end of the 2023 season, including general manager Brian Gutekunst’s opinion of quarterback Jordan Love.

“Really proud of him,” Gutekunst said Tuesday at the morning media availability at the NFL Scouting Combine. “The work that he put in, really, he was very much rewarded for all the work. He’s been put in some tough situations throughout his career. Had lack of opportunity early with the COVID and not having preseason games and different things. But to go through the tough stretch in October and to see him so steady through all that, and just really lead our team to get better week in and week out, and to see the rewards at the end of the season, I was very excited for him and our football team. And just again, for as good as he played, there’s so much more in front of him and just excited for him and where he’s going.”

Love closed the season with a flurry beating the Chicago Bears in a de facto play-in game Week 18 before a record-setting showing at Dallas in the wild-card win in his playoff debut.

In October, Gutekunst was looking at a different player. He said he would “need to see more” before determining a course for Green Bay at the position in the offseason.

Now that the offseason has arrived, Gutekunst counts Love among his no-doubter decisions, the preferred outcome when it became apparent Aaron Rodgers and the Packers would split. The trade to the New York Jets left Love as the QB1, but head coach Matt LaFleur and Gutekunst knew there was only one way to grade the 26th overall pick in the 2020 draft.

Love had to play to grow.

Now the GM that all but put his extremities on the line to draft Love, trade Rodgers and make the kid the starter isn’t able to hide a level of elation over having this super-sized box checked for next season and beyond.

“Probably the toughest position of all professional sports to play. The amount that is on that guy’s plate from pre-snap to post-snap and everything that goes into it, the amount of information he has to process in such a limited amount of time, all the leadership stuff, the intangible stuff makes it an exceptionally hard position to play,” Gutekunst said. “There’s a certain amount of athletic gifts and talent that you have to have, and then there’s so much more beyond that and I think the thing that I think is lost at times is how much of it has to be developed over time. And so, you never really know until you have that time to try to develop a guy, whether he’s going to be able to do it at a high level or not.”

There still are decisions — and checks — in Gutekunst’s future where Love is concerned.

Love is signed for only one more season — 2024 — after the Packers gave the 25-year-old a modified contract to replace the fifth-year option available to NFL teams with first-round picks.

Not everything will be status quo for the Packers heading into 2024. A major change on the defensive side of the ball in the form of defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley — hired to replace Joe Barry — assures a new look. Hafley plans to move to a traditional 4-3 defense from a 3-4 scheme.

“We’re still getting to know each other and stuff but just going through the process and getting to know Jeff a little bit, just really like his energy, kind of his leadership style and the expectations and standards that he’s going to put forward for our football team,” Gutekunst said. “The play style is going to be a big thing for him, and I think it will be very welcomed. I think we have a really good nucleus of players coming back. We need to fill each room with enough competition that those guys feel that and can grow like our offense did this past year. That will be on us to do that. But I do think we’re in good hands right now.”

–Field Level Media

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