Maybe all of those rather vocal Brian Gutekunst critics went on vacation?
We’ve been looking all over for them, but it appears they’ve vanished into thin air!
Or maybe they simply put their collective tails between their legs after watching the truly unbelievable amount of first and second year offensive players leading the 2023 Green Bay Packers. This is one of the most incredible things we’ve ever seen in Packers history. Rebuild? No, a one-year rebrand built around trusting the scouts and the youth on the roster.
Just to put this out there, we’ve been writing about this impending youth movement since 2020. This type of overhaul, I mean rebrand, seemed inevitable to us. As we like to say, in the NFL you either have to be getting better or younger. Preferably better and younger.
And here we are… although the relative success has come quicker than anyone could have predicted.
The Packers are the first team since the 1970 NFL-AFL Merger to boast four rookies with 30+ receptions. They set the NFL record for most receptions, receiving yards, and receptions by first and second year players. But all eyes are, understandably, on the player throwing them the ball.
If you asked us, the only thing that mattered for the Packers this season was finding out if Jordan Love is a franchise quarterback or not. No one is wondering that anymore, us included. So no matter what happens against the San Francisco 49ers this season is a resounding success. There’s no pressure on the Packers on Saturday night.
House money, baby.
Before the season kicked off we wrote a piece entitled, “It’s going to be one hell of a fun season.”
Ron Howard Narrator voice: And one hell of a fun season it has been.
There is no denying that this team is in the midst of an historic–and fun–run with these youngsters, but one huge question begs to be answered:
Is the NFL truly a copycat league?
We hear all about how the NFL is a copycat league. What brings success today will bring imitators tomorrow. But if that is the case, why on earth are the Packers the only franchise to go out and draft a replacement for their Hall of Fame (or aging veteran) quarterback a few years before that new quarterback is needed?
Will we actually see the NFL as whole embrace this philosophy?
We actually don’t think so. Many owners, and therefore General Managers, are too impatient and too shortsighted to make the correct decision that doesn’t bring with it immediate results — even to the detriment of the team in the long run.
Did the Steelers think ahead? The Saints? The Falcons? The Patriots tried, but then they traded away Jimmy Garoppolo before parting ways with Tom Brady.
The Packers are the only ones. Again. Somehow.
I guess it truly is just the Packer Way, huh?
General Manager Ron Wolf had a relatively young Don Majkowski and still spent First Round capital on Brett Favre. GM Ted Thompson had the now-legendary Favre, but did the same on Aaron Rodgers. Then GM Brian Gutekunst, a disciple of Thompson who was a disciple of Wolf, did the same with Jordan Love when Rodgers was still elite. And Love, like Rodgers, got to sit and learn first. In fact, we’ve written extensively about this topic and how the first time the Packers “looked ahead” at the quarterback position was in the late 1930s.
However the youth on this offense spreads to many different positions.
Today we’re focusing specifically on all aspects of the Packers’ youth movement. We’re looking at all of the first and second year offensive players making impacts, but we’ve included Jordan Love in that conversation — as he’s a first year starter.
Before we talk about much else, let’s take a closer look at the ages of the players on this team.
The Packers have 26 players under the age of 25. That’s half of the roster under the age of 25. Yes, you read that correctly.
They have 11 players that are 25 years old. And 10 players that are 26 years old. The Packers, currently, only have 12 players age 27 or older. The older players have, almost entirely, been sent away.
Unfathomable that any team could pull this roster reconstruction off so quickly. Even more unfathomable that a team could pull this off and then not only make the playoffs, but make it to the second round of the playoffs! The youngest team in NFL history to ever win a playoff game. Come on.
Truly, this is one of the most unique seasons in Packers, and NFL, history.
And the team is set up with a boatload of draft capital for the 2024 draft and more cap space flexibility than we’ve seen in Green Bay in quite some time. The youth movement is in full swing in Green Bay and for them to already be in the Divisional Round of the playoffs?
It feels like a dream.
Most of the older players on this team from 2022, such as Randall Cobb, Mercedes Lewis, Adrian Amos, and Allen Lazard to name a few, are gone and honestly — they haven’t been missed. At all. Maybe some of the bad feelings of bitter losses had to be shed from the locker room? Either way, the young guys have stepped up seamlessly.
Brian Gutekunst, take your freaking bow.
We have to say, we believed in the plan from day one. We saw the vision, we wrote about it, we hoped it would work out, we were criticized (like many of the day-one believers), but now, it’s all coming together. And to be clear, we’re welcoming the doubters back on the bandwagon with open arms. Welcome back!
However this doesn’t happen without a special head coach leading the way.
Matt LaFleur, still only 44 years old, is a young coach in this league and what he’s currently doing is special. And for the first time in his five years with the Packers, he was able to run his offense this year. This isn’t a shot at the former quarterback, it’s just a fact.
Seeing LaFleur’s offense take shape is something special. Each play builds on the next and guys are being schemed open for the first time in awhile in Green Bay. There is a palpable rhythm to LaFleur’s offense and to Jordan Love running it. He simply runs the plays and throws to the open man.
What a concept, huh?
OK, that was a little shot at 12, but if we can’t have fun, then what’re we doing here? The four-time AP MVP, Super Bowl Champ will remain a legend in Green Bay forever and we’re thankful he was here for so long. However he was not infallible.
Alright, let’s bring it back to the 2023 squad!
The list of young guys to write about on this offense is a mile long, but first we want to give some love to No. 33.
Aaron Jones, the Packers’ running back and bonafide leader, obviously won’t be included in the discussion about the Packers’ youth movement. But that doesn’t take away from his legacy. If anything, it enhances it. He’s the leader, the role model for these kids. He’s the one offensive skill player truly connecting the Aaron Rodgers Era to the Jordan Love Era. This is similar to the crucial role that Donald Driver played as the team transitioned from Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers.
Interestingly, those two players are both among the most beloved fan-favorite players in Packers history. And each of them has an infectious smile, an incredible story, unquestioned work ethic, dynamic ability and are known for their leadership.
Donald Driver remains the Packers’ all-time leading receiver, while Aaron Jones just became the franchise’s all-time leader in postseason rushing touchdowns. They each have pristine legacies despite neither being named All-Pro in their careers (funny, huh?). The parallels don’t end there, but that’s where we’ll draw the line for now.
Jones has posted four consecutive 100+ yard rushing games when his team needed it the most. He’s the soul of this team.
But this piece isn’t about guys that have been in Green Bay for awhile — it’s about the youngsters that have turned this franchise around in record time.
Jordan Love finished second in the league in passing touchdowns with 32. In his first year as a starting quarterback! AH.
He did this while throwing to second year wide receivers Romeo Doubs and Christian Watson and rookie wide receivers Jayden Reed, Dontayvion Wicks, Bo Melton and Malik Heath. As well as “twin” rookie tight ends Luke Musgrave and Tucker Kraft.
Other guys have caught balls this year, obviously, but this is the core. These eight young men led the Packers in receptions this year (that is, if you take out running backs Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon who finished 6th and 8th in receptions respectively).
When it comes to the offense, and the organizational youth movement, it’s not just young skill players raising eyebrows either.
Second year left tackle Rasheed Walker emerged as a godsend for a team that’s been plagued by injury at left tackle since 2020. He appears to be the long-term answer and he’s only 23 years old, incredibly.
Not to be outdone, second year right tackle Zach Tom (24 years old) may be even better. He’s solidified the right side of the line, as well as showcased the athletic ability to play multiple positions if needed.
To go from uncertainty at offensive tackle in 2022 to, seemingly, having both ends of the line figured out for the foreseeable future is incredible. That doesn’t happen in the NFL. And it’s especially amazing considering they’re the chief protectors of the the franchise quarterback — Mr. Love.
Speaking of Jordan Love, the man of the moment, let’s take a second to appreciate what we all witnessed this year…
QB Jordan Love, 25 Years Old
Unprecedented success from a first year quarterback in Green Bay Packers history. That’s what we’ve seen this year from No. 10.
The phrase we like to use about Love is that his face always looks the same. Whether he just threw a touchdown or an interception, whether his team is down by two scores or up by two scores, two minutes into the game, two minutes left — he always looks the same.
If there’s one quality I want in a leader, on a football team or otherwise, that’s the quality. And he has it.
Consistency, poise, under control, confident. We could go on and on.
His highlight tape for this season would be a career highlight tape for some NFL quarterbacks when it comes to unique arm angles, back foot throws, and tight windows. But beyond the arm talent, we’re struck with how well he manages the game. The pre-snap reads, the way his coach trusts him, his audibles, the way he moves in the pocket, his feel for the game is so much more mature than we could have dreamed. Especially this early on in his starting career.
And yet, here we are. In the Divisional Round of the playoffs in year one.
The arm talent was evident from his college tape, but none of us knew how he’d handle the mental side of things — especially given the historic nature of him taking the quarterback reins in Green Bay. Following up two Hall of Fame quarterbacks and doing something no one else had ever done in Green Bay.
Just as the NFL world was anxious to see Aaron Rodgers after he was given the keys to the organization from Brett Favre — much of the league couldn’t wait to see Love. See him fail, we should say. The expectations that Love was forced to live through since his draft day have been equally taxing to what Rodgers had to contend with. If not more so.
Most of the expectations, nationally, were that Love would fail miserably and the “experts” couldn’t wait to bury him along with Brain Gutekunst, the foolhardy General Manager, that drafted a quarterback when he didn’t need one.
Who’s laughing now?
Gutekunst stuck with the plan, stayed true to the Packer Way, and showed the same guts that his predecessor Ted Thompson showed 15 years ago. We’re not sure if Rodgers was as universally beloved as Favre was back in 2007-08 after bringing the Packers back to prominence, but he, statistically speaking, was the better quarterback. Which is nuts considering Favre was a three-time AP MVP in his own right.
Jordan Love had 30 years of Hall of Fame quarterback play to live up to. And he, somehow, did so in year one.
Love’s shown that he can handle being doubted and criticized. He can handle adversity (see Weeks 4-9 this year). What he has to prove now is if he can handle success. That’s the last true rite of passage for him and he’s way ahead of schedule on achieving that.
No other quarterback in Packers history, and few in league history, have accomplished what Love did this year, in his first season under center. And remember, the quarterback that’s now in New York won league MVP in 2020 and 2021. That’s the level of success he would, unfairly, be judged against.
Let’s take a quick look at a few notable Packers’ quarterback’s first seasons, shall we?
Not to look obtuse, but you literally have to go back to the 1930 when Arnie Herber, in his first year in the NFL, helped lead the Packers to a league title. That season would, arguably, compare to Love’s 2023 campaign. While understanding obvious caveats and the context of the time. Now Herber wasn’t technically a quarterback, by definition of the times, but was the team’s primary passer.
Cecil Isbell had many starts before he took over as the Packers’ primary passer (though he was amazing once the role was solely his). Despite his short-lived brilliance in the 1940s, he didn’t have a true “first year” in the same way that Love has.
Tobin Rote’s first year as a starting quarterback was a disaster, leading the NFL in interceptions with 24 in 1950. Lynn Dickey started his career in Houston, but his first season in Green Bay was one to forget. Don Majkowski didn’t find relative success until his third year starting games with the Packers in 1989 (by far the best season of his career).
What if we look at the (for now) big three in Packers history? We say for now because you never know if that big three will become the big four someday… maybe even someday soon.
Bart Starr’s first year as a starter came in the 1950s when the team was, well, the worst it had ever been or has ever been since. So it’s not really fair to compare Starr, but he did not light it up. He didn’t round into form until Vince Lombardi got to town and even then it took some time.
In Brett Favre’s first year as the starter he helped lead the Packers to a winning record, but not the playoffs. He threw 18 touchdowns to 13 interceptions. Favre showed incredible flashes, but lacked consistency and nuance. He did have Sterling Sharpe to throw to as soon as he got to Green Bay and we think that deserves mention.
Aaron Rodgers’ first year as a starter was impressive, no doubt. 28 touchdowns to 13 interceptions showed that he was the real deal, although the team won just six games. Again, Rodgers showed a ton of flashes, but the team around him couldn’t get it going. He had Donald Driver and Greg Jennings, among others, to throw to in his rookie season.
What Jordan Love did this year, 32 touchdown passes to 11 interceptions while leading the team to the Divisional Round of the playoffs? It’s the best first year from a Packers starting quarterback ever… and it’s not particularly close. And he didn’t have an established wide receiver to throw the ball to. This historically young team responded to his leadership style and they have all of the confidence in the world that they’re going to win every single game — even if they shouldn’t.
Before the 2022 season we wrote that the Packers were in a win-win situation at quarterback. I guess you could say that we were right.
The 25 year old Love is in his fourth year of NFL experience. The fact that he was just 21 years old when he was drafted, and got to learn for three years without getting his confidence crushed, remains an invaluable part of this story — and the Packers’ ongoing story at the position.
And the Packers’ history at the position is second to none in NFL history. Which makes Love’s postseason debut even more remarkable.
Brett Favre started 22 playoff games for the Packers and his career high single-game rating was 137.6.
Aaron Rodgers started 21 playoff games for the Packers and his career high single-game rating was 136.8.
Bart Starr started 10 playoff games for the Packers and his career high single-game rating was 143.5.
Jordan Love has started one playoff game for the Packers and his rating was 157.2 — the highest in team postseason history.
Who knows how he’ll do against the 49ers, in his second ever postseason game, but that debut against the Cowboys will forever be legendary. Love is poised to be in Green Bay for the next 10-12 years at least and folks, it’s just beautiful when a plan comes together isn’t it?
But Love isn’t the only youngster leading this team to such unexpected success.
WR Jayden Reed, 23 Years Old
What a rookie, what a player!
Speed kills. The shifty slot receiver broke the Packers’ all-time record for receptions by a rookie in 2023 with 64, to go along with a stunning 10 total touchdowns (including two on the ground). He’s a weapon that Matt LaFleur is going to enjoy scheming plays up for over the coming years. The record he broke was Sterling Sharpe’s mark of 55 receptions as a rookie, by the way.
Reed’s consistency has to be noted as he recorded 10 games with 4+ receptions as a rookie. He, against all odds, came onto this team and became the workhorse receiver and arguably the leader of that unit — already.
This kid played at Michigan State University and the Packers have a complicated history with drafting Spartans. The best MSU alum to be drafted by Green Bay is, unquestionably, Herb Adderley. After that it gets bleak pretty quickly. Tony Mandarich leads the way in that category, but remember Jerel Worthy? How about Jeff Query? Not exactly a who’s who in Packers lore. Also, Kirk Cousins, quarterback of the Minnesota Vikings, was a Spartan.
Suffice it to say, it’s been awhile since Green Bay fans have been able to get excited about a Spartan turned NFL player, much less a Packer.
All Packers fans knew about his speed and shiftiness heading into this season, but his grit and ability to make contested catches has stood out to us the most. When a player is that physically gifted and able to access that next level of competitiveness? Look out.
The biggest compliment we can give Jayden Reed is that he’s a rookie that NFL coaches must game plan against. Wow. That simply doesn’t happen very often. And it’s evidenced by the Dallas Cowboys doing everything they could to take him away in the Wildcard Round win. But that attention he demanded opened the door for other guys to step up. Just like the next guy on the list!
WR Romeo Doubs, 23 Years Old
As a rookie last season Doubs showed everyone that he had star potential. Incredibly, he even earned a certain amount of trust with 12. Not many rookie wide receivers ever accomplished that when the four-time AP MVP was under center in Green Bay. He showed poise as a rookie and had a calm about his game that doesn’t come around very often.
Doubs seems to be a guy that plays his best when the stakes are the highest and his consistency in getting open on third down, especially across the middle of the field, is invaluable.
But one big question loomed heading into this season: Would he have the dreaded sophomore slump?
He answered that question Sunday in Dallas with a resounding “hell no!”
As a matter of fact, he is ascending toward stardom — especially if you consider how his and Love’s chemistry will only grow from here. It’s hard to argue against that claim as he followed up an eight touchdown sophomore season with the game of his life against the Cowboys in his first career postseason contest. When the lights shone the brightest Doubs put up six receptions for 151 yards and a score.
But he wasn’t the only wide receiver to catch a touchdown in his first career playoff game. Just look to the next guy here.
WR Dontayvion Wicks, 22 Years Old
What a fantastic draft pick. To get a player in the fifth round that can show this much promise in year one? Incredible. He’s scored four touchdowns in his last three games played. He’s trending up, straight up.
Here’s a fun question: What does he do best?
Is it his great hands and how he attacks and grabs the ball out of the air? Is it his ability to get open seemingly all the time? The separation he gets at the line of scrimmage is reminiscent of Davante Adams (no we’re not calling him Adams, but it is worth mentioning). That could certainly be what he does best. Maybe you like the fact that he scores touchdowns on a regular basis, as far as the last month is concerned.
Or is it our favorite thing about him? Which is his ability to gain YAC. It’s not often that a player shows the spark of yards after catch (YAC) like this — especially a rookie drafted in the fifth round. He’s riding a 10 game streak of multiple receptions after catching just eight passes in the first six games. There’s no other way to slice it, Wicks has shown flashes of stardom over the last month.
We know that’s very early in his career to be using that word, but how else can you interpret what we’re all watching?
WR Christian Watson, 24 Years Old
Watson put together a great rookie season, touchdown after touchdown. Yeah, there were a couple drops and that dang hamstring has been so frustrating. And we don’t mean to us, we mean to him. We can’t imagine how annoying that’s been to deal with. But through it all (and through the unfounded criticism) he’s remained positive, a good teammate, and an absolute stud when he’s on the field.
Like Reed this year, Watson also posted two rushing touchdowns as a rookie last season. The varied offensive attack that Matt LaFleur can work with when all of these wide receivers are healthy is stunning. Dare we say this speed demon of a touchdown machine is, somehow, the 4th best wide receiver on this team?
Unfortunately, Watson may be the 4th best wide receiver option considering his injuries. They cannot be ignored, but neither can his potential. Despite playing less games this year he posted a similar yards per catch average (15.1 this year; 14.9 a year ago), so his reputation as a burgeoning elite deep threat is valid. Anytime he is on the field the defense must know where he is and play to not allow him to get behind them.
Now we have to say this: He could definitely end up being the best wide receiver of the four we’ve mentioned so far. That’s what makes this offense so much fun. We don’t know who the best players are yet. Either way, Watson has gravity and he tilts the field for the Packers. This opens up space for Reed, Doubs, Wicks and we haven’t even mentioned the tight ends.
So let’s talk about them…
TE Luke Musgrave, 23 Years Old
They say a great tight end is a new quarterback’s best friend. If that saying is true then Love has two best friends (see Tucker Kraft below). This rookie second round pick is a willing blocker and an even better pass catcher. He was on pace to smash the Packers’ all-time reception record for rookie tight ends before suffering a lacerated kidney. But he battled back without skipping a beat. Despite missing five games to injury he managed to put up 50+ receiving yards four times (nearly five times as he put up 49 against New Orleans).
Musgrave is the prototype tight end of the modern NFL and he can fly with the ball in his hands. His future seems unbelievably bright with the Packers and with being a reliable target for Love. As their chemistry grows there’s no limit to how impressive his numbers can be as soon as next season. He measures in at 6’6” which is an inch taller than the next guy in the countdown.
Plus, he has proven that he’s as tough as they come, which is a trait you love to see in a tight end. Although we’re not quite sure who’s tougher between him and his fellow rookie tight end.
TE Tucker Kraft, 23 Years Old
The second tight end the Packers drafted in last April’s draft, Tucker Kraft, worked hard to etch out a modest role for himself early in the season. And then when Musgrave ended up on IR Kraft introduced himself to Packer nation with an athletic catch-and-run that included a hurdle of a would-be tackler. From that point on, he’s been a valuable blocker (a mean blocker) and pass catcher. And no one is questioning his toughness.
The way Kraft plays the game of football brings juice to the whole team. He’s relentless in his pursuit of making the most out of every play. It’s a breath of fresh air to a team that was, seemingly, uptight last season. This year they’re playing carefree, having fun, and winning. Kraft has been a big part of that culture shift, along with the rest of these guys.
It’s worth noting that despite being an inch shorter than Musgrave, he does come in a few pounds heavier. And that weight certainly helps shed tackles and in the blocking game. All of that said, Gute certainly has an ideal body type when it comes to selecting tight ends, huh? Sheesh, they’re similar.
WR Bo Melton, 24 Years Old
What a story Bo Melton is writing.
Is anyone else on this team experiencing a more unexpected start to their career? Maybe Jordan Love? But he was a first round pick after all. What Bo Melton is doing, right now, is nothing short of amazing.
The seventh round selection by the Seattle Seahawks in 2022 didn’t see the field last year.
He went from not being on the team, to joining the practice squad and then being activated on game day to becoming the first packer receiver this year to have over 100 yards receiving in a game. In a crowded wide receiver room where there are three potential budding stars and a 4th star, if that hamstring allows, Bo Melton has earned his spot. On a team blessed with speed at wide receiver, he might be the fastest of them all.
And he will be active Saturday night! Which likely means that the next guy on the list will not be.
WR Malik Heath, 23 Years Old
The dependable young depth on this Packers team is something else. The undrafted Heath has been a reliable “next man up” this year . What a luxury to have this guy ready to step up and step in if needed. He improved all season after starting the year with zero receptions on five targets.
He responded to that adversity by putting up 15 receptions on the 19 targets he’s since received. What that tells us is he’s a mentally tough kid, as well as physically imposing at 213 pounds. That makes him the heaviest wide receiver on the team and if someone else goes down, and the Packers move on, you can be sure he’ll be ready to be inserted into the lineup.
LT Rasheed Walker, 23 Years Old
Left Tackle, the most important and arguably the toughest position to play on the offensive line, has been locked down by this guy… a seventh round pick in the 2022 draft. Matt LaFleur and Jordan Love both trust him and they should. An amazing story, an amazing draft pick, and he’s up many consecutive solid performances on this team’s run to the playoffs.
I mean, quality Left Tackles don’t just waltz into organizations. Many football teams spend years trying to find someone as reliable as Walker and he’s only in year two.
RT Zach Tom, 24 Years Old
Zach Tom fought his way from being a substitute, after being drafted in the fourth round in 2022, to alternating playing and sitting. He ended up starting five games in 2022 and showed some flashes of brilliance along the way, as well as versatility. However it was in training camp, when guys fight for positions, that he took hold of the right tackle slot. He hasn’t looked back and we don’t think the Packers will either. His future is bright as hell and he is a big reason this team and this quarterback are having the success we’re all enjoying.
Just like Walker he, kind of, came out of nowhere to show great skill at one of football’s toughest positions. Tom handled Micah Parsons, maybe the best player in football, in his first ever postseason game on the road. It doesn’t get more amazing than that.
Let’s Talk About Walker and Tom Together
Seriously, how the hell did the Packers do this?
Jordan Love wasn’t sacked in Dallas, against the Cowboys in the Wildcard Round, despite their opponent being a top five defense. Despite Micah Parsons rushing on nearly every play. Despite all of the odds stacked against them.
The credit, chiefly, goes to Walker and Tom (although Aaron Jones had a couple great blocks on Parsons along the way, too). The way that those guys protect Love’s blindside and give him time to stand in the pocket and deliver so many of these awe-inspiring passes
But it is truly magical that the Packers, while getting way younger at wide receiver, tight end, and quarterback simultaneously did so at offensive tackle! And they’re not just younger, they’re playing great. The Packers, likely, have their tackles locked in for another five years.
Which is absolutely astounding. Give Gute and his scouts all of the credit in the world. Truly.
To have the eleven guys we’ve highlighted here, at their ages, making this big of an impact on a surging team?
It’s so much fun and so incredibly rare.
The 2023 Packers’ other starting offensive linemen are all 25-28, too, so the age of the offensive line is nothing to worry about for another five years. Which is staggering. Elgton Jenkins is the oldest man on the line now, which is funny. Yes, the Packers have David Bakhtiari on the bench with his injured knee, which is sad, but the show goes on. We don’t anticipate him back in 2024, but you never know.
AJ Dillon (25 years old) shouldn’t go without mention when talking about the offense as he had a significant impact in multiple games this year despite relative inconsistency and injury woes. He’s a great guy, a great ambassador for Northeast Wisconsin and is very fun to watch, especially when he’s getting low while taking on contact. But his broken thumb pushed more carries toward Jones over the last month and that’s not been a bad thing.
Josiah Deguara (26 years old) is kind of the odd man out at the moment on this offense. This is especially true because rookie tight end Ben Sims (23 years old) snagged a touchdown in the Packers’ win over the Chiefs earlier in the year, which is more than Deguara has caught in over two years.
We’ll definitely dive into the defensive side of the ball in a future piece, but it sure is interesting how winning cures all, huh?
For all of the “Fire Joe Barry” chatter floating around (and trust us, we get it) the defense has been good enough to give this young, dynamic offense a chance to win the game over the last two months. And really, that’s all us Packers fans can ask for. They’re starting to take the ball away with a bit more consistency and if they continue to ascend the literal sky is the limit for this team.
However the defense is being led by some pretty young players, too. Quay Walker is just 23 years old, Lukas Van Ness and Corey Valentine are both 22. Colby Wooden and Kingsley Enagbare (who is sadly out with a knee injury) are both 23. Even two of the very best players on the Packers’ defense, Rashan Gary and Jaire Alexander, are only 26 years old. I mean, Kenny Clark is only 28 somehow! Heck, even the punter and kicker are rookies.
What we’re trying to say is that the youth movement doesn’t just extend to the offense. It’s an entire team embracing the future, while experiencing success in the present. However it’s the youngsters on the offensive side of the ball that have driven this team to where they are today. There is no denying that.
Many, many people deserve so much credit for the 2023 Packers’ season (particularly the second half of it) but the three names that rise to the top of the credit rankings are:
Put them in whatever order you’d like, but they’re the three names at the top of that list.
There is no Love without Gute. But there may be no Love playing like this without LaFleur. However quarterback coach Tom Clements deserves a lot of praise, too. He’s a wizard with young quarterbacks and their fundamentals. And when the fundamentals can start to match up to the skill a quarterback like Love has? It’s scary.
Team President Mark Murphy deserves a lot of credit, too. Murphy saw the vision as clear as anyone, stayed confident in the plan, and let it play out, even when it was looking a little shaky. Before the season Mark Murphy said (we’re paraphrasing) we won’t know what we have with Love until about eight games into the season.
Boy, he was right, huh?
When the Packers were sitting hapless at 2-5 Brian Gutekunst said the next 10 games were “very important” for Love and I think we could all see the writing on the wall.
The next 10 games were a masterclass in quarterback play and in team building. Every week another young guy would step up and now the team’s depth is anything but an issue. The youth movement fully crystalized after facing some adversity and that’s how teams grow (and grow close to one another).
It took Jordan Love half a season to be comfortable in his position and about half a season for Matt LaFleur to fully trust Love. To their credit, Brian Gutekunst and Mark Murphy didn’t flinch. Then in the second half of the season the vision came fully to life and the result is the Packers in the playoffs for the first time since 2021 with a chance to make it to the Conference Championship Game.
Not despite the youth on this team. Because of the youth on this team.
What a fun season.
Go Pack Go!