GREEN BAY, Wis. — Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst said he doesn’t feel the need to reassure Aaron Rodgers that he will be their quarterback in 2021 and beyond, but then used Monday’s news conference to reiterate their commitment to him.
“I don’t think I have to do a lot of assuring him because I think obviously his play speaks for itself,” Gutekunst said Monday in his first public comments since Rodgers openly questioned his future in Green Bay following the NFC Championship Game loss to the Buccaneers eight days earlier.
“I will say this: We’re really excited not only for next year but the years to come. He’s playing at such a high level that he always has, and I think this year was a special team. It didn’t finish like we wanted to finish, but I think everybody’s purely motivated to get back and I think, like I said, I don’t think there’s anything that we have to do. He’s our quarterback, and he’s our leader.”
Coach Matt LaFleur offered an equally strong commitment when asked if he’s confident Rodgers will be his quarterback in 2021 and beyond.
“Is that a trick question?” LaFleur said. “Absolutely. There’s no doubt about it. You’re talking about the guy that’s going to win the MVP of the league. We’re not in this position without him. I couldn’t be happier with just not only his performance but how he led our football team, all the little things he does within that locker room to ensure that everybody is locked in, focused and ready to go. Absolutely he will be here for a long time. I know I’ve said that before, but a long time.”
Gutekunst said he would “absolutely not” trade Rodgers this season and refuted a report that the Los Angeles Rams made a run at Rodgers before they acquired Matthew Stafford in a trade with the Lions on Saturday.
Rodgers is coming off perhaps his best season with 48 touchdowns and five interceptions. He led the Packers to their second straight 13-3 season and NFC title game appearance in as many years under LaFleur, and he is expected to be named the NFL’s MVP for the third time in his career Saturday.
“I think that he is arguably the best player that I’ve ever seen or been around,” Gutekunst said. “The chances he gives us week in and week out are significant, so he’s going to be part of our future and we look forward to all the runs we’re going to try to make here over the next few years.”
The Packers threw Rodgers’ future into question when Gutekunst traded up to draft quarterback Jordan Love in the first round last year.
They have Rodgers under contract through 2023, but he has no more guaranteed money left on the $134 million extension he signed in 2018. They have reached the point where they could move on and begin to gain salary-cap relief, although that number would be only about $6 million this year.
Gutekunst wouldn’t say whether the team would restructure Rodgers’ deal, but doing so could not only add guaranteed money to the current years but also provide a modicum of salary-cap space.
In other news from Monday’s sessions with Gutekunst and LaFleur:
• When asked if Gutekunst still views Love, who was inactive as the third-string quarterback all last season, as the Packers’ next franchise quarterback, he was noncommittal: “I view Jordan as a very talented prospect that we’re really excited about developing. I know that maybe that’s not the norm to have quarterbacks sit for a long time but we certainly believe in that. … This probably won’t be the first time we draft a quarterback and try to develop him, because we just think it’s such an important part of the game … We’re excited to continue down that road and get him in some preseason games, at the same time while we’re competing for championships with Aaron.”
• LaFleur admitted there was a miscommunication on the defensive playcall that led to Tom Brady’s 39-yard touchdown pass to Scotty Miller with 1 second left in the first half of the NFC title game. A report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said LaFleur called for one coverage but defensive coordinator Mike Pettine called another.
“That was just a flat-out miscommunication and ultimately, anytime something like that occurs, that 100% falls squarely on my shoulders,” LaFleur said. “I’ve got to make sure that I’m crystal clear with our communication and those mistakes cannot happen, especially when the stakes are so big, in particular, we pride ourselves on being great in situations. Bottom line is all calls go through me. So, I don’t care who makes the call, it’s all my fault. Bottom line. I’m responsible for every playcall, offense, defense, special teams. And that every call goes through me. So, if I’m ever unhappy with a call, I have the ability to do something about it. And that’s all I’m going to really say about that.”
Pettine was at the end of the his contract, and LaFleur let him go last week. Sources said he has interviewed or will interview Joe Barry (Chargers defensive passing game coordinator), Chris Harris (Washington defensive backs coach) and Ejiro Evero (Rams safeties coach). Former Cowboys defensive coordinator Kris Richard also has reportedly been contacted. At least one internal candidate, likely defensive backs coach Jerry Gray, also will be considered.
• LaFleur stood by his decision to kick a field goal on fourth-and-goal from the 8-yard line with just over 2 minutes left against the Bucs.
“If I had to do it again, if it’s fourth-and-goal from the 8-yard line, we’re kicking a field goal,” LaFleur said. “If it’s fourth-and-goal from the 5, I think we have a different discussion. You’ve got to play the percentages. We had three shots at it, gained no yards. That’s how it is. Some people will agree. Some people will disagree. It in my heart, that’s what I felt like was the best decision for us. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out.”
LaFleur said he should have better communicated to Rodgers what he would’ve needed on third down in order to go for it. Rodgers had a chance to scramble and perhaps get inside the 5-yard line.
As for communication, LaFleur said he would considering handing over playcalling duties to offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett if it meant better communication across the board but added that he doesn’t have immediate plans to do so.