In a bit of a shocking turn of events, news broke early Sunday afternoon that Green Bay Director of Player Personnel Brian Gutekunst has been promoted to be the team’s General Manager. Gutekunst, 44, has spent nearly twenty years within the organization. He was a strong candidate for the open GM position in Houston, and was even in Houston yesterday to interview for the job. Fearing that he may lose one of his most-respected personnel evaluators, Packers’ President Mark Murphy decided to pull the trigger and hire Gutekunst for the General Manager position recently held by Ted Thompson, ever since 2005.
“Since joining the Packers in 2008, Russ has proven to be invaluable,” Murphy said in a press release from the Packers. “His salary-cap management and negotiating abilities are well known, but he has also provided tremendous leadership throughout football operations and served as a valuable liaison between the football and business sides of the organization.
Although Gutekunst was a strong internal candidate for the GM position, many Packers fans undoubtedly wanted to see Eliot Wolf, son of the legendary Ron Wolf, receive the promotion as the lead man for the Green Bay Packers. While Wolf has spent nearly his entire life with the Packers, Gutekunst has been a bit of a hot commodity in recent years, nearly becoming the 49ers’ GM just last season before withdrawing his name from consideration after a promotion from Green Bay, and now being recently considered for the Houston Texans. Another in-house candidate was salary cap-guru Russ Ball, widely reported by the media to be the favorite for the Packers’ GM job right up until the news of Gutekunst’s hiring. While Ball is well-renowned in Green Bay, and has done a fantastic job keeping the Packers out of salary cap trouble, one has to wonder how he would’ve fared as the main director of personnel as GM, something he has very little experience in.
In other news, Green Bay will certainly turn its attention this week to filling out the rest of its coaching staff, most notably Defensive Coordinator. Dom Capers, the Packers defensive coordinator since 2009, was fired on New Year’s Day and the Packers have yet to announce who will replace him. Current Green Bay defensive coaches who have been in consideration for the DC job include LB Coach/Associate Head Coach Winston Moss, Safeties Coach Darren Perry, and CB Coach Joe Whitt Jr.
However, with the Packers being notorious for having a poor defense, many Packers fans have been clamoring to see outside candidates considered for the coordinator position, in an effort to bring in fresh ideas for the defense. A name to watch in the coming days is Bears DC Vic Fangio, someone who has worked under Capers in the past, but recently has done a much better job adjusting to ever-changing NFL offenses and getting more from his defenses than his mentor has of late. The only catch to Fangio is that his contract does not expire until Tuesday morning, so if the Packers are in fact interested, they will have to wait until tomorrow to interview him, assuming he doesn’t become the Bears head coach in the meantime. Green Bay didn’t stop with Capers on New Year’s Day, also firing longtime assistants DL Coach Mike Trgovac and ILB Coach Scott McCurley. These vacancies will almost certainly stay open until after the new DC is hired, as he will play in important role in the hiring process of assistants.
The offensive side of the ball was not immune to change either, after a disappointing 7-9 season that saw the Packers miss the playoffs for the first time since 2009. OC Edgar Bennett was demoted, and it does not sound as if he will return in any capacity. In his place returns ex-Miami Head Coach Joe Philbin, who was the offensive coordinator in Green Bay from 2007-2011. While fans may be a bit worried about bringing back Philbin after his disastrous tenure with the Dolphins, it is important to note that Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense broke multiple records in 2011 under him, and every year during Philbin’s tenure Green Bay ranked in the top 10 in offensive production as well as scoring. Two other changes to note on offense: QB Coach Alex Van Pelt’s contract expired and he was not retained, this position remains open (possible for Ben McAdoo to return as well?); Colts WR Coach Jim Hostler will coach the same position for the Packers in 2017 with Luke Getsy (Green Bay WR Coach from 2016-2017) leaving to become the OC for Mississippi State.