10 things to know from Packers’ season-ending press conferences

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Zach Kruse
·8 min read
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Green Bay Packers coach Matt LaFleur and general manager Brian Gutekunst met with the media for around an hour to put a bow on the 2020 season.

The Packers fell one game short of the Super Bowl for the second straight season, losing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game. Both LaFleur and Gutekunst discussed the loss and the future ahead in Green Bay.

Here are 10 things to know from the Packers’ season-ending press conferences:

Aaron Rodgers is the Packers QB in 2021, and maybe beyond?

AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps

There is no longer any uncertainty about who will be the Packers quarterback in 2021. It's Aaron Rodgers, as both LaFleur and Gutekunst said emphatically on Monday. LaFleur said Rodgers will "absolutely" be his quarterback "for a long time," while Gutekunst repeatedly committed to Rodgers both for 2021 and the future and said there's no scenario in which he would trade him this offseason. Read the full story here. Gutekunst said he has no regrets about drafting Jordan Love, who he called a talented prospect. The Packers remain committed to using resources on acquiring and developing players at the quarterback position.

LaFleur takes the blame

LaFleur said a communication breakdown between him and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine was the culprit on the Buccaneers' touchdown before the end of the first half in the NFC title game, and he took full blame for not rectifying the situation before it ended in a game-changing score. “Bottom line is, all calls go through me,” LaFleur said. 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. Every call goes through me. If I’m ever unhappy with a call, I have the ability to do something about it. That’s all I’m really going to say about that.” The inexplicable touchdown gave the Buccaneers a 21-10 lead at halftime, and the Packers eventually lost by five points. Read the full story here.

Maurice Drayton confirmed as special teams coordinator

MARK HOFFMAN/MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL

LaFleur confirmed Maurice Drayton, the assistant for Shawn Mennenga for the last two years, will take over the Packers' special teams in 2021. "He's an excellent teacher, an excellent communicator," LaFleur said. "So much energy and enthusiasm. I really think he can elevate our level of play in that area. Guy that's been here for a while now. Had the opportunity to interview him in the first go-around, was super impressed with him, I just didn't know a whole lot around him. After being around him for two years now, I think it was just a matter of time before he got one of these other opportunities that presented itself outside of this building. Did not want to lose a guy like Mo Drayton." Drayton has five seasons of experience as an assistant special teams coach, including the past three seasons in Green Bay. Read more about Drayton here.

Clear vision on next defensive coordinator

LaFleur said the Packers have a "clear vision" on what the team is looking for in the next defensive coordinator. While he didn't reveal exactly what he's looking for, he has talked with several head coaches and defensive coordinators about potential candidates. Part of the process is finding the right "mentality." "You want to make people earn every inch out there on the grass," LaFleur said. "There's a certain mentality that you have to have, and you have to bring on a daily basis." LaFleur said he'll interview at least one in-house candidate for the job. We highlighted 15 defensive coordinator candidates here.

LaFleur doesn't regret the late field goal

AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps

Asked if he would kick the field goal on fourth down late in the fourth quarter again, LaFleur defended his controversial decision and explained in greater detail the thought process behind settling for the three points from the 8-yard line down eight points. LaFleur said he talked with the team's analytics director before the play and decided the two options weren't much different in terms of overall win probability. He knew the defense needed to make a stop in either scenario. By kicking the field goal, the Packers opened up a chance to win the game in regulation. "No matter how you cut, you had to get a stop defensively," LaFleur said. However, LaFleur said not getting any yards on the three previous plays factored heavily into the decision. "If I had to do it again, if it's 4th-and-goal from the 8-yard line, we're kicking the field goal," LaFleur said. "If it's 4th-and-goal from the five, I think we have a different discussion. You have to play the percentages." He said he "probably should have communicated" the thought process on third and fourth down to Aaron Rodgers beforehand, but he appreciated his quarterback's desire to go for it on fourth down.

Assistant coach departures

AP Photo

LaFleur confirmed offensive quality control assistant Kevin Koger is headed to the Los Angeles Chargers to be the team's new tight ends coach, while senior analyst Butch Barry is going to San Francisco to be the 49ers' assistant offensive line coach. Both are promotions. "Wish we could have had something here for them," LaFleur said. "But any time you see guys that are able to get opportunities to better themselves, both professionally but also better the lives of their families, that's important to us. Certainly don't want to hold people back from those opportunities. We'll miss them, but we wish them well." Despite leading the league in scoring, the Packers lost only two low-level assistant coaches from LaFleur's staff.

Packers GM ready for unique year

Adam Wesley/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

Gutekunst said he believes he'll be able to get through a challenging offseason without "gutting" his team. The Packers have several important free agents to deal with to start the new league year and a tough financial situation with a shrinking salary cap due to revenue lost from the pandemic. "It's a unique year, it's very challenging, obviously we're not the only team that has these challenges. I feel really comfortable, we've been working on this all year, getting ready for what's going to happen over the next three or four months," Gutekunst said. He admitted "tough decisions" are coming, and the team will have to let players go and likely restructure deals for others, but he's worked with Russ Ball all year to prepare for a plan. Gutekunst said he's expecting the cap to fall. The floor is $175 million, although the team hasn't been given an exact number for 2021. Asked about restructuring Aaron Rodgers' contract, Gutekunst punted on an answer.

Patient with Bakhtiari

AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps, File

Gutekunst won't put "anything past" left tackle David Bakhtiari in his return from an ACL injury, but the Packers are going to be patient during his recovery. "It's a significant injury, obviously, and he's such a big part of our franchise moving forward long term, that we're not going to rush that one, because he's just too important to us. But I don't put anything past him, that's for sure," Gutekunst said. Bakhtiari was injured during practice before Week 17. He will be challenged to be back to playing condition before Week 1 next season.

Borrowing from future years

AP Photo/Mike Roemer

Gutekunst said the Packers are willing – and probably required – to restructure deals and push money to future years to keep his roster together in 2021. "We're going to have to do that this year, for sure," Gutekunst said. He confirmed the Packers are prepared to take risks to win now, even if it means hurting future caps. Several veteran players, including Aaron Rodgers, could be candidates for re-worked deals. Converting salaries into signing bonuses spread over many years is one easy way to create immediate cap space. "With this year's situation, I think most teams are going to be kicking money to try and keep their teams together, and we'll certainly be no different," Gutekunst said.

Other nuggets

– LaFleur said he'd be willing to give up playcalling if it bettered the team overall, and he has full confidence in coordinator Nathaniel Hackett to call plays, but he has no plans to give up playcalling. – LaFleur praised receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling for pushing through the adversity of his season and gaining confidence as a player. He said MVS can run by any defensive back in the league and the team now has more confidence in his ability. – Gutekunst refuted a report that said the Rams attempted to trade for Aaron Rodgers. "No truth to that whatsoever." – Gutekunst said he'd love to have running back Aaron Jones back but admitted there will be cap difficulties to getting any of his unrestricted free agents back in 2021. – Gutekunst is not worried about the schematic style of the next defensive coordinator. He believes he has flexible, versatile players who can fit any scheme. – Gutekunst said he'd like more production from the inside linebacker spot but said he's excited about the potential of a few young players at the position.

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