There’s no better job than being the general manager of the Green Bay Packers. There’s also no tougher job, and that’s something Brian Willis Gutekunst will find out in the days, weeks, months and years ahead. The following is a quick look at five of the biggest challenges that lie ahead for the new leader of the Pack:
1. WIN RIGHT AWAY – Most first-time GMs take over bad teams and enjoy a honeymoon period as they try to rebuild, while at the same time learn how to do the job. That won’t be the case for the 44-year-old Gutekunst, who’ll be expected to have the Packers in the NFC championship game – if not the Super Bowl – a little over a year from now. That’s just the way it is when the best quarterback in the league plays in Green Bay.
2. WORK WITH AN ESTABLISHED COACH – Most first-time GMs get to pick their own coach, but Gutekunst will inherit Mike McCarthy. And while the two apparently get along well, the waters could still be choppy. Gutekunst, who’s 10 years younger and far less accomplished than McCarthy, is now the boss. He’ll have to earn the respect of a man he didn’t hire and not be afraid to make decisions that could be unpopular.
3. DECIDE MCCARTHY’S FATE – Not only will Gutekunst have to work with a Super Bowl-winning coach, but he’ll have to decide his fate a year or so from now. McCarthy is only signed through the 2019 season, and since he almost certainly won’t coach in the last year of his contract, Gutekunst will either have to extend him or let him go. So unless the Packers make a deep run in the playoffs, that figures to be a difficult call.
4. HIRE GOOD PEOPLE – Thanks to Ron Wolf’s gift of finding great scouts, Thompson didn’t have to make a single key hire in 13 years. He was able to replace John Schneider, John Dorsey and Reggie McKenzie with Alonzo Highsmith, Eliot Wolf and Gutekunst. The new guy won’t have the luxury of such a deep bullpen. Gutekunst will have to find quality talent evaluators on his own. Assuming Eliot Wolf leaves, the next highest-ranking people in the personnel department are director of college scouting Jon-Eric Sullivan and director of pro personnel John Wojciechowski, who’ve been at their respective jobs for a combined total of only 26 months.
5. FIND THE NEXT GREAT QB – Ron Wolf traded for Hall of Famer Brett Fave and Ted Thompson drafted future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers. Fair or not, Gutekunst is going to be expected to make it 3 for 3. He probably doesn’t have to worry about this for a few years, but his ability to find the right player will ultimately determine whether the Packers’ stretch of great success will stretch into a fifth decade. And as if finding the next great quarterback won’t be tough enough, he’ll also have to make sure the timing is just right.