April 23, 2020: The Decision
While the Packers' current roster construction broke ground in 2018, the first domino to fall that signaled a new era was coming to Green Bay fell during the 2020 draft.
For a first-time GM looking to make a mark in the NFL, the plans typically include drafting "their guy" at quarterback.
After taking over the reins from Ted Thompson in 2018, Gutekunst set in motion the Packers' most monumental draft-day decision since Aaron Rodgers by trading up for Utah State quarterback Jordan Love in the first round only two years later.
Typically, a first-round quarterback selection implies instability or poor play at the position. In Green Bay's case, the pick came months before the beginning of back-to-back MVP seasons from Aaron Rodgers at ages 37 and 38.
The team's Super Bowl window was closing, but with Rodgers still playing at an elite level, the window was very much still open. That being the case, many expected the Packers to select a player who would immediately impact getting Rodgers another ring.
The selection floored national media and the Packers fanbase; many still call it the wrong pick to this day. But as the saying goes, and as the Packers did with Rodgers, "The best time to draft a quarterback is when you don't need one." Whether it's the right decision is in the eyes of the beholder until history books can tell the whole story.
But there were no doubts from the Packers brass on draft day.
"I think it's certainly, this is something that is a long-term decision," said Gutekunst. "I think when you go through kind of the way things went tonight, you run the short term and the long term. The way the board fell, this was the best decision for the Packers."
Unquestionably, Gutekunst put his career in the hands of Love and the Packers coaching staff to develop him. By not prioritizing more weapons to help fuel a Super Bowl run in the twilight of Rodgers's career, the young GM put a Wisconsin-sized target on his back.
Without a first-round wide receiver to his resume and a mostly miserable 2020 and 2021 draft classes, concern was justified about Gutekunst pulling off a successful heist in the form of a third consecutive great quarterback in Green Bay—a move with the downside of likely costing jobs and a rebuild reminiscent of the early 1990s.