Brian Gutekunst’s Lack Of Vision Is Killing The Green Bay Packers

Eric Stokes wasn’t glued to NFL Network like much of Packer Nation on Tuesday.

Instead, the Green Bay Packers’ second-year cornerback was enjoying his off day.

“Nah. I was playing my game all day,” Stokes said. “Call of Duty.”

Jon Runyan, the Packers’ third-year offensive guard, never flipped on ESPN. He had better things to do.

“I was just living my life,” Runyan said. “Went to go get some tacos with my girlfriend. I wasn’t really watching anything.”

Runyan and Stokes haven’t been around for long. But they’ve already learned that when the NFL trade deadline rolls around, there’s no need to waste your day waiting for Brian Gutekunst to pull the trigger.

Gutekunst’s gun is jammed — just as it’s been since he took over as Green Bay’s general manager in 2018.

Another trade deadline came and went with Gutekunst and the Packers sitting by idly, watching others in the league either load up for the stretch run or trade away players for future draft capital.

In Green Bay, it was crickets. Again.

And by now, that really shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Former Packer head coach Mike McCarthy was once asked what the trade deadline was like in Green Bay.

“I thought it was next week,” said McCarthy, who worked under general manager Ted Thompson. “No? That’s what it’s like.”

Nothing has changed under Gutekunst, who has never added a player at the trade deadline. The two moves Gutekunst did make came during the Packers’ dismal 2018 season when he shipped off veterans Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Ty Montgomery for draft picks.

On Tuesday, Gutekunst stood at a crossroads.

He could have traded away future picks to help a dismal offense or find aid for a defense that’s been a colossal disappointment. Or Gutekunst could have admitted this year’s Green Bay team — one that’s 3-5 and mired in a four-game losing streak — isn’t good enough and he could have been a seller.

Instead, he did what he typically does.


Gutekunst stood still, terrified to make a mistake and opting to do nothing.

By choosing no path whatsoever, Gutekunst did nothing to help the 2022 Packers — or any future Green Bay team, for that matter.

Gutekunst, who hasn’t talked with the media since Aug. 31, kept that string alive on Wednesday by ducking reporters again. Instead, others were forced to answer questions for Green Bay’s G.M.

“That’s not my area of focus,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “Brian didn’t think whatever was out there was worth whatever was required to give up. That just sent the message to us that we’ve got to play with the guys we’ve got and win with the guys we’ve got. I think there’s still a lot of confidence in the guys in the locker room.”

The worst place for any team to be is mired in mediocrity.

When you’re near the top, the pursuit of championships inspires a fan base. When you’re at the bottom, the allure of top draft picks brings hope.

But these Packers are trending toward becoming ordinary — and a major reason is they haven’t stayed true to a plan since 2020.

In the spring of 2020, it appeared Green Bay had a clear vision of where it was headed. The Packers drafted Jordan Love in the first round, Rodgers had just two years left on his contract and Green Bay seemed ready to turn the page at quarterback.

Rodgers changed that narrative, though, when he threw 48 touchdowns and won MVP honors in 2020. That team couldn’t get over the playoff hump, though — just like every other Green Bay team since 2010 — and the time seemed perfect to move on from Rodgers.

Rodgers — who was hurt by the Love selection and frustrated that he had little say in organizational decision making — wanted out of Green Bay that offseason. Gutekunst could have stuck with his plan of giving Love the team and trading Rodgers for a treasure trove of draft picks and players.

Instead, he pivoted 180-degrees and caved to many of Rodgers’ demands. Less than a year later, Gutekunst gave Rodgers a three-year, $150.8 million contract extension.

Gutekunst’s plan of reloading with Love — and enough draft picks to restock the team — was scrapped. Instead, Gutekunst went “all in” with Rodgers in 2021 and 2022.

That approach has failed, though, as Green Bay lost its playoff opener in 2021, and certainly doesn’t look like a playoff team this year.

If Gutekunst was still committed to that plan, he would have found some help for his 38-year-old quarterback. But he showed no devotion to that strategy by sitting idly by on Tuesday.

At the same time, the Packers were afraid if they started selling off parts, it could have a Josh Hader-like effect on their locker room.

So Gutekunst opted to remain in limbo. And for Packer Nation, that could wind up like being in hell.

“My hopes are always up in life,” Rodgers said. “I’m an optimistic person and obviously the compensation for whatever players we were going after, it just didn’t make sense. So, I trust Brian and we had some good conversations and I know we were in on some things, and it obviously just didn’t pan out.”

John Wooden, the legendary men’s basketball coach at UCLA, once said: “If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.”

That perfectly summed up Gutekunst’s approach to the trade deadline.

A wideout such as Chase Claypool or Kadarius Toney might not have lifted the Packers to the top of the division or conference. But they could have given a locker room in desperate need of a boost a sign that the front office still believed 2022 wasn’t over.

“You see the guys getting traded and you think, ‘Oh dang. They just got a dude,’ ” Green Bay wide receiver Sammy Watkins said. “So it’s fun to see it.”

Gutekunst could have also looked to the future, traded away a high-priced veteran, and acquired additional draft picks. But he bypassed that strategy, as well.

“Obviously the organization – the third floor – believes that we have the right guys in place to win,” Rodgers said. “There’s no tanking. There’s no rebuild. This is the team that is expected to get the job done. So, it’s on us as players and also coaches to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to win football games.”

Defensive end Dean Lowry agreed.

“We know we have the guys in this room to get it done,” Lowry said. I don’t think one player’s going to change a whole lot. It’s going to be collectively each guy doing their job 1 to 5% better and I think we’ll be in good shape.

“We just need to get a win. I think the biggest spark will come from just winning a game vs. bringing in one player. We think if we can get one win, we can string things together and get some momentum back on our side.”

That seems like wishful thinking.

Back in 2016, the last time Green Bay had a four-game losing streak and sat at 4-6, Rodgers said he felt the team could “run the table.” Rodgers wouldn’t make such a proclamation on Wednesday, and with good reason.

Green Bay’s cluster of wide receivers is arguably the worst in football. The defense can’t stop the run and has melted down at critical moments. And Rodgers, himself, isn’t the player he was six years ago.

That’s why having a leader with vision was so critical Tuesday afternoon. Unfortunately for the Packers, that person doesn’t exist in their organization.