Are the Green Bay Packers Rebuilding or Not?

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By GilMartin

Are the Green Bay Packers Rebuilding or Not?

One big question surrounding the 2023 Green Bay Packers is whether the team is “rebuilding.” If you ask running back Aaron Jones that question, the answer is no. If you ask veteran offensive tackle David Bakhtiari, he has a different answer. So, who’s right? Well, in some ways, both players are correct.

Bakhtiari had this to say about the team’s possible rebuild just before the 2023 NFL Draft.“The Packers are rebuilding, whether you think so or not,” Bakhtiari told reporters. “Could they be good? I don’t know. Could they be bad? Probably, if you’re betting, more people are going to think they’re going to be bad than good. Isn’t that fair to say?”

This week at OTAs, the All Pro added, “To me, flat out how I look at it, it’s disrespectful to say you’re not rebuilding off of a Hall of Fame quarterback. It was disrespectful to say you weren’t rebuilding off of Brett Favre when you moved to Aaron. No one knew who Aaron was going to be, so I’m not going to sit here and pull back those words because that is, when you look at how it’s been building, how we were chasing after it and the cap. There was a bunch of situations that can definitely allude to it. We have a young team.”

Bakhtiari makes some sense. He joined the team in 2013 and every year since then, the Packers came into the season knowing they were going to be among the favorites to make the playoffs and likely contend for a Super Bowl title. There may have been the odd exception like 2019 when new head coach Matt LaFleur took over, but the bottom line was that if Rodgers stayed healthy, it was likely the Packers would have a winning record.

The Packers made the playoffs seven times in Bakhtiari’s first 10 seasons with the team. Of the three years the Packers didn’t make the playoffs, Rodgers missed time due to a serious injury in one of them, played through a knee injury in the second and endured a broken thumb in the third.

This year, the team doesn’t have that kind of certainty. Jordan Love is taking over as the quarterback and although he is a former first round pick, Love has started only one game in his NFL career and just like Rodgers in 2008, it’s not clear yet how good he can be. When you add the inexperience at wide receiver and tight end, you have more uncertainty. No wideout on the current roster has more than one year of NFL experience. The team is also counting on two rookies at tight end to play major roles and help make the downfield passing game go.

So, with veterans like Rodgers, Marcedes Lewis, Allen Lazard, Jarran Reed, Dean Lowry, Randall Cobb, Adrian Amos and Mason Crosby all not returning, certainly things are a lot more uncertain in Green Bay than they have been in more than a decade. This points to a rebuild as Bakhtiari said.

But Jones countered with a very different opinion last week. He disputed the rebuild take and told reporters, “We’ve got everything we need here. If you think we’re in a rebuild, you’ve got the wrong team, the wrong place. We know it’s going to take all 11 and we’ll have to depend on each other in all phases, but we’re hungry, we’re ready to prove a lot of people wrong. We know what people are saying. Everybody has an opinion and most of them stink.”

Jones also has a point. The Packers may have very different and much younger personnel this year, but there is still undeniable talent on this roster. The Packers have two former Pro Bowlers on the offensive line, a Pro Bowl defensive lineman, an All Pro inside linebacker and one of the best cover corners in the league in Jaire Alexander. They also have eight former first-round picks on their roster on defense and two very talented and proven running backs.

The Packers also have a relatively easy schedule this season. Only six of their 17 games in 2023 are scheduled against teams that qualified for the playoffs a year ago and they won’t face a team that made the playoffs last season until Week 8 when they play the Vikings.

Eight of the Packers 17 games come against teams that had 10 or more losses in 2022 and their opponents’ overall 2022 winning percentage was just .476.

Last season, the Packers had a tougher schedule and got very average quarterback play from the injured Aaron Rodgers who ranked 15th out of 32 starters in the league in quarterback rating. The team finished with an 8-9 record.

The Packers are hoping even an inexperienced Love can match Rodgers’ performance statistically and be a middle of the road NFL starter in his first year in that role. With the easier schedule and younger players who should improve as the season progresses, the Packers still have hopes to have a winning season and make the playoffs.

The NFC North is wide open. The Vikings were certainly not as good as their 2022 record indicated and lost some key contributors. The Lions are improving but uncertain and the Bears had the worst record in the league a year ago and are not certain to be good in 2023.

The NFC is also wide open with most of the elite quarterbacks in the game currently playing in the AFC. The Packers feel like they can have a winning season and earn a playoff berth either as the NFC North champs or as a wild card.

So, if rebuilding means a lot of change and uncertainty, Bakhtiari is right, the Pack is rebuilding. But if rebuilding means you have no chance to make the playoffs and you’re accepting a season of losing from the start, then Jones is right, and the Packers are not exactly rebuilding but retooling or resetting. Either way, the 2023 season should be very different for the Packers than any in recent memory. In a few months, we’ll find out exactly who was right.

You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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