Brian Gutekunst said he won’t trade Aaron Rodgers and he’s optimistic the future Hall of Fame quarterback will play for the Green Bay Packers again.
Speaking at the end of a day of breaking news stories about the face of the franchise not wanting to return to the team, the club’s general manager told reporters late Thursday night that he still believes Rodgers hasn’t played his last game for the only team has ever known.
“Obviously we have a very good football team here. We have a great organization. We’re very committed to him,” Gutekunst said. “As the lines of communication have been open I’m just optimistic that’s what’s best for the Green Bay Packers and I truly believe that’s what’s best for Aaron Rodgers.”
Saying that and making it happen are two very different things. If the reports all day are accurate, Rodgers has been frustrated with the front office going back to the decision to draft Jordan Love in the first round of the 2020 draft. It has gotten worse this offseason as the Packers and Rodgers reportedly attempted to negotiate a long-term contract extension that has not materialized at this point. Now it has hit the point where the three-time MVP and the starting quarterback for the last 13 years reportedly doesn’t want to be in Green Bay anymore.
“He’s our quarterback. He’s our leader,” Gutekunst said. “We’ve been working through this for a little while now. I just think it may take some time but he’s kind of the guy that makes this thing go. He gives us the best chance to win and we’re going to work towards that end.”
“I didn’t talk to (49ers GM) John (Lynch) today,” Gutekunst said. “Sometime around after 5 o’clock, after a lot of the stuff kind of hit the airwaves, I think I got one call. It was very brief and that was it.”
Former ESPN host Trey Wingo sent out a tweet that sources were telling him that the Packers had promised Rodgers they would trade him this offseason and then went back on that.
“It’s absolutely false. There’s no truth to that whatsoever,” Gutekunst said. “Sitting with (VP of Communications) Jason Whalers through some of this there’s a lot of false reporting going on right now. That’s particularly one thing that never happened.”
What’s clear, though, is Rodgers is not happy with how the last year has played out, especially getting blindsided by the Packers trading up to take what could be his potential replacement. Gutekunst was asked if he regretted how that situation unfolded and he admitted it’s something he’s thought about.
“I certainly look back to last year’s draft and maybe some of the communication issues we could have done better. There’s no doubt about it,” Gutekunst said. “The draft is an interesting thing. It can kind of unfold differently than you think it’s going to unfold and it happens pretty fast. But certainly I think looking back on it, sitting where we sit today, there could have been some communication things we did better.”
Communication this offseason has been plentiful. The report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter said team president/CEO Mark Murphy, Gutekunst and coach Matt LaFleur all took separate trips out to the West Coast to speak with Rodgers in an effort to change his mind. Gutekunst said there was communication between the two sides Thursday and they’ve had a lot of talks over the last six to eight weeks.
“Obviously there are somethings that are hard at times, but as we go down this road I think you have to keep in mind how much we want Aaron to be here and how important he is to our organization,” Gutekunst said. “Like I said, I’m optimistic and we’ll see how it unfolds.”
When the Packers took Love they were coming off a 13-3 season and a trip to the NFC title game. Many thought a wide receiver or another offensive weapon would be in the cards. Instead they went with a quarterback, the first offensive player they had selected since 2012. After adding Georgia cornerback Eric Stokes in the first round Thursday, they have now taken a defensive player with their first pick in nine of the last 10 seasons.
Though four of Gutekunst’s six second- and third-rounds picks have been on offense, the first-round choices have led to criticism that the Packers were not doing enough to help Rodgers on that side of the ball. Even after leading the league in scoring last season and having three other players named All-Pro besides Rodgers, that narrative continued this offseason.
“There was an intent I think from 2018 on, when I took over, that we needed to get our defense to a level if we really wanted to compete for championships,” Gutekunst said. “I knew offensively we had a really good nucleus. Obviously last year was evidence of that. I did think we needed to add to our defense, whether in free agency or the draft. We’ve done that and I think we’ve gotten to the point where we’re right at the tipping point of being a dominant, dominant defense.”
But will all that effort matter this season if Rodgers isn’t the quarterback? Gutekunst was adamant they having no intention of learning the answer to that question.
“I do think he’ll play for us again,” Gutekunst said. “We’re going to work towards that and we’ve been working towards that on a number of different fronts. The value he has to our football team is really immeasurable. He brings so much to the table not only as a player but a leader. He’s so important to his teammates and to his coaches. That’s the goal.”