Brian Gutekunst was named GM of the Packers on January 8, 2018. He’s made over 100 personnel moves since that time – some good and some bad. I’ll be listing his 12 best moves over the course of the next few weeks. Here’s No. 10:
After 12 games, the Packers incredibly had negative punt return yards. They were on their way to an ignominious record until Gutekunst claimed Tyler Ervin off waivers from Jacksonville in early December. From that point on, Green Bay actually looked like a real NFL team when it came to returning punts. The 26-year-old journeyman averaged a modest 7.8 yards, but after watching Darrius Shepherd and Tremon Smith stumble over their own feet for months, it felt as if Devin Hester was now wearing the Green and Gold.
While Gutekunst deserves credit for claiming Ervin, he also deserves blame for not having a better plan in place after trading Trevor Davis in September. It should’ve been obvious to anybody with two eyes that Shepherd wasn’t skilled enough to return punts in the NFL. This has been a recurring issue with the third-year GM.
Ervin re-signed with the Packers in March, and he’ll be expected to return both kicks and punts this season. He also may get some snaps on offense, where he averaged 8.8 yards on six touches in 2019 and added much-needed speed to the slowest group of skill players in the league. But he’ll undoubtedly earn his salary on special teams – something he started to do from the moment Gutekunst wisely put in that claim.