The Green Bay Packers might have earned an appearance in the NFC Championship Game last season. But it became clear early in that blowout loss to the San Francisco 49ers that this squad as a second-tier contender.
Green Bay did absolutely nothing on offense until the game was out of hand and saw a previously unknown running back in Raheem Mostert put up a record-breaking performance. The end result was a belief that Green Bay needed to find proven talent in free agency and those ready to make an instant impact during the 2020 NFL Draft.
It did not happen: Instead of going after a receiver in a draft that was among the best at that position in recent history, Green Bay traded up for a quarterback in Round 1. This has set into motion criticism directed at general manager Brian Gutekunst on a near never-ending loop.
For good reason: The 2020 NFL Draft, in particular, painted this up-and-coming personnel man in a bad light. It was not just knee-jerk reactions, either.
- Trading up for Jordan Love in the first round was a shocker in the first place. Green Bay still has a more-than-capable 36-year-old former NFL MVP in Aaron Rodgers under center.
- That decision coupled with the messages we’re seeing come from Green Bay seems to be a clear indication that the Packers are going to pivot from Rodgers sooner rather than later.
- But why? Rodgers might be a load to handle in terms of his personality and ego, but the dude has been among the best quarterbacks of his generation. He’s put up 51 touchdowns and just six interceptions over the past two seasons, compiling north of 8,400 passing yards in the process.
- Selecting running back A.J. Dillon in the second round was just as baffling. Incumbent starter Aaron Jones led the NFL with 19 total touchdowns while putting up nearly 1,600 yards from scrimmage last season. The big-bodied Dillon was seen as a mid-to-late round prospect due to his lack of receiving and break away ability.
The holes are vast: As we saw during last season’s NFC Championship Game, these Packers still have ways to go before being considered legitimate conference title contenders.
- Green Bay allowed undrafted free-agent running back Raheem Mostert to go for 220 yards and four touchdowns in San Francisco’s blowout 37-20 win over the Packers. What did Gutekunst and Co. do to improve in this area during the offseason? Nothing.
- There’s also a major void to fill at right tackle after Bryan Bulaga departed in free agency following a studly decade with the team. Green Bay signed Rick Wagner from the division-rival Lions on a team-friendly deal. He’s a dramatic downgrade from Bulaga.
- Former top-round picks Kevin King and Josh Jackson have not lived up to expectations at corner. No. 1 cover guy Jaire Alexander is more of your hit and miss guy in the mold of, say, Marcus Peters.
- Meanwhile, the Packers did not address depth concerns at wide receiver behind Davante Adams in the draft. Given it was one of the best draft classes at this position in recent memory, this makes no sense. Will the Packers realistically be relying on Devin Funchess to do anything? That’s a big question, too.
Green Bay is not a serious contender: Based on the two games we saw them play against one another last season, these Packers are not on the 49ers’ level. But it’s about a lot more than that.
- Even the likes of the Arizona Cardinals improved a ton of this offseason. While likely not at the level of the Packers, it does speak to Green Bay being closer to the third tier of teams than the upper-echelon of contenders.
- The division-rival Minnesota Vikings absolutely aced the 2020 NFL Draft, proving themselves to be much more savvy than the Packers. Given the difference between these two teams was minimal last season, that’s also an issue.
- We can focus on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers getting better after adding Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski. In the same NFC South, the New Orleans Saints will be returning a completely healthy Drew Brees.
- Considered the worst division in football last season, the NFC East will be vastly improved after the offseasons we saw from the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys.
- It’s a lot for Packers fans to take in. They are no longer among the top teams in the conference. They might not even be in the top five. This raises a final point.
It’s not in a rebuild, either: If you look at how the Packers’ roster is constructed, this team is stuck between bottom-rung contention and irrelevance.
- It’s the true definition of purgatory. Stuck between one world and another. The Packers have struggled hitting on their draft picks in recent years. Outside of the Smith brothers, their free-agent acquisitions have been hit and miss.
- This leaves Green Bay with a 36-year-old quarterback, a star running back the team might not retain long-term, major issues on the offensive line, a questionable run defense and an even more questionable secondary.
- In building for the short term before going the opposite direction this offseason, Green Bay has failed big time. Its change of course has been eye-opening.
In the end, these Packers made it clear they are building for the future by what we saw during the 2020 NFL Draft. That comes after a couple offseasons of building for the short term.
One has to wonder if the NFC Championship Game collapse played a role in this change of direction. Whatever the case might be, Green Bay is clearly in NFL purgatory heading into the 2020 season.