By Chris Havel
Special to Event USA
GREEN BAY, Wis. – The concern over Packers president Mark Murphy’s alleged power grab, GM Brian Gutekunst’s potential to be Ted Thompson’s clone and head coach Mike McCarthy’s clout being undermined was grossly exaggerated.
Gutekunst, McCarthy trade Randall to Cleveland for QB, better draft position
Get Your Tickets for All Important Sports and Concerts! Buy Tickets Now >>
While fans can quibble over the means to a happy ending – winning a championship – they have to admit there’s new aura at 1265. That positive energy should produce better than 7-9.
I believe this for two reasons:
** No. 1 – Murphy, Gutekunst and McCarthy share a singular goal: Making the Packers great again. Their combined egos – if rolled into a ball – would rattle around like a BB in a box car.
What this trio has in common with Bob Harlan, Ron Wolf and Mike Holmgren is a “Packers first” mentality. It was much the same with Harlan, Wolf and Mike Sherman as well as Murphy, Thompson and McCarthy.
** No. 2 – Gutekunst’s early decisions strongly suggest that the GM and the coach are on the same page.
Murphy chose to oversee the hiring and firing of both the GM and the coach because he wanted them to work in tandem. It wouldn’t have been prudent to promote the GM over the coach.
Thus far, Murphy’s wisdom is being revealed in action.
The trade that sent cornerback Damarious Randall to Cleveland served several purposes, not the least of which was staying true to the adage “a good GM won’t force players upon a coach that doesn’t want them.”
Randall seemed to fall in that category and Gutekunst sent him packing.
Randall fell out of McCarthy’s favor after a Week 4 benching against the Chicago Bears. Then he responded by intercepting passes in three straight games before tailing off at the end. The final straw may have been Randall’s unwillingness to play in the final two games. Reports indicate the team felt otherwise.
McCarthy put Randall on notice in the player’s exit interview, a fact he chose to share at his season-ending news conference:
“I’ll tell you what I told Damarious: He needs to focus on himself. He’s got to clean his own house. That’s what I look for him to do in the offseason. We all understand what happened in the Chicago game, but I thought from the Chicago game on, he played at a very high level. He probably played the best football of his career, but then he didn’t play the last two games.
“He needs to go home and self-evaluate and clean his own house. We all need to clean our own house.”
Now, Randall can do his housecleaning in Cleveland.
The move also created true competition at backup quarterback.
Brett Hundley is going to have to play awfully well during training camp and the preseason to stave off DeShone Kizer.
Kizer, the 52nd player selected in the 2017 draft, was good enough to start 15 games for the God-awful Browns.
He threw 22 interceptions, had nine fumbles and produced a minuscule 60.5 passer rating.
However, the 6-foot-4, 233-pound QB also displayed the physical and mental toughness to hang in while absorbing a tremendous amount of punishment. He was sacked 38 times and constantly harassed, but still threw 11 touchdown passes and kept the outgunned Browns in most games.
I predict Kizer will be the opening-day backup, and Hundley will be part of a draft-weekend trade.
The other aspect of the Randall trade was Green Bay’s ability to swap picks in the fourth and fifth rounds.
The Packers leapfrogged 25 spots in the process. The Packers have 12 draft picks, including the first picks in the fourth and fifth rounds. Gutekunst will be able to reorder his board and determine which player to select with the 101st pick.
The higher picks also put Green Bay in a much better position to trade up into the first, second or third rounds if they wish.
McCarthy had to be onboard.
“We’ve spent pretty much our 12 years here really focusing on improving from within,” McCarthy told reporters. “But we need outside resources, we’ve determined that. But at the end of the day it’s still a (free agent) market, it’s a market that every team is involved in and we’ll see what happens.”
Thus far, I like what’s happening.
Packers fans should, too.