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Packers fans dazed and confused after team’s buzzkill draft

Packers fans dazed and confused after team’s buzzkill draft Packers fans dazed and confused after team’s buzzkill draft

Matt’s Bleacher Shots

Well that was disappointing.

Actually, disappointed is too kind of a word to describe the reaction of many fans of the Green Bay Packers after last weekend’s NFL Draft. Desperate for some positive vibes and something to look forward to during the coronavirus shutdown, Cheeseheads instead saw hohum picks in rounds two through seven and got advance notification the circus is coming to town with the team’s mindboggling first-round trade up to get Utah State quarterback Jordan Love.

While the Packers used the all-important first round to build for 2023, it felt like all other 31 teams in the league instantly got better in rounds one through three Thursday and Friday. There’s no question the team everyone in the NFC is chasing, the San Francisco 49ers, got better. NFC North rival Minnesota is getting rave reviews for its draft. The Dallas Cowboys and former Packers head coach Mike McCarthy are drawing praise for their draft.

Drafts can’t really be evaluated two days after they’re done. A draft’s true impact can’t be measured a draft’s impact until three, four, five years have passed. That’s the only time the 2020 draft masterminded by general manager Brian Gutekunst can be fairly evaluated because for this season, if there is one, this draft brought no immediate help.

That’s a problem when you were 13-3 a year ago, one win away from a Super Bowl appearance and have a Hall of Fame quarterback in Aaron Rodgers who, while slightly past his prime, is still pretty darn good but only has a few more years to be pretty darn good. Plus, he’s owed close to $80 million over the next four years.

Admittedly, last year’s 13-3 record was fluky. The Packers got breaks, such as a phantom offensive interference call in the first game against Minnesota, more officials’ gifts in an October game with Detroit and injuries that prevented them from facing Patrick Mahomes, Cam Newton, Dalvin Cook and Matthew Stafford in key regular-season games. But it is the NFL. No team has to apologize for 13-3 and a spot in the NFC title game. That should be something to build on, not back down from.

In Green Bay’s defense, picking 30th in the first three rounds doesn’t make it easy to find impact players. It’s a position Green Bay has been in many, many times in the franchise’s successful 27-year run since 1992. Much was made of the team’s obvious need for wide receiver help. A mini run on receivers from picks 22-25 in the first round likely took away candidates the Packers had high first-round grades on. I have to think the Packers would’ve taken Baylor’s Denzel Mims in the second round had the New York Jets not grabbed him three picks earlier. Not having a fourth-round pick after the Love trade hurt.

On the outside looking in, a few conclusions can be drawn on Gutekunst’s plan of attack last weekend. One opinion is that he wasn’t going to reach for need, he was going to go strictly by his draft board and how he valued potential picks. Two, the conversion to a power-running scheme may be coming sooner rather than later as shown by the second-round pick of bruising Boston College running back A.J. Dillon, third-round tight end Josiah Deguara from Cincinnati and then three straight offensive linemen in the sixth round.

Thirdly, and I hope this isn’t the case but you can read between the lines, there may be a desire between Gutekunst and head coach Matt LaFleur to rid the organization of any remnants of the Mc-Carthy/Ted Thompson era as quickly as possible. Were they caught off-guard by their own teams’ success last year as they secretly thought about a complete re-tool of the roster?

Did anyone else find it curious how picks were made in positions where many of the team’s top free agents next year play? Examples being running backs Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams, tackle David Bakhtiari, center Corey Linsley and guard Lane Taylor. While Rodgers isn’t a free agent for awhile, you don’t trade up and pick Love in the first round if you don’t expect him to play at some point while still under his four- to five-year rookie contract.

It’s a given that the circus will be back in town when Rodgers’ departure from this team, whether it’s by retirement or going to another team –– hey, Brett Favre did both in one off-season –– becomes imminent. It feels today like that time is approaching faster than it needed to be.

Five years from now, Gutekunst will either look really smart or he’ll be out of a job because he outthought himself. *** Disappointed also sums up the reaction throughout the state last week when the WIAA canceled the spring high school sports season and the spring tournament series.

Some reactions were stronger than others. I was particularly amused to see some of the immediate reactions to the post the WIAA put on Twitter when the April 21 decision came down.

Twitter is a really cool tool to use in the sports world to get news quickly. I especially love it on Friday, Tuesday and Thursday nights to keep track of what’s going on in area football and basketball games and the like.

But like all social media, it’s all too easy to spew venom without repercussions. “Ridiculous joke,” “cowards,” “file a petition,” or taking political slants were some of the reactions last week. Others demanded that there has to a better solution than 30 contact days in the summer for spring sports, which as of right now, couldn’t start until July 1. “The WIAA took the easy way out.”

The frustrations for those who have been short-changed since mid-March are real and they should be. The “new normal” as it’s being called is not fun and lots of cherished things have been lost –– by everybody.

Following the extension of the state’s Safer at Home order to May 26 the WIAA really had no options left. That’s especially true when you consider the governor’s order actually included school closures through June 30, something that may not have been known to some folks. I don’t know what else people expected last week.

Truthfully, no one knows if the public health situation will allow the 30 contact days the WIAA is offering for spring sports programs in the summer to be realized either. If they do happen and practice and games take place in July, it will feel haphazard and abnormal. How could it not?

All we can do is deal with developments as they happen. Planning anything right now is pretty tough. There is no expiration date in this lousy “new normal” and that remains very difficult for everybody.

Matt Frey is the Sports Editor at The Star News.