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Brian Gutekunst's time to shine: New Packers GM starts to show his plan

GM Brian Gutekunst's plan for the Packers starts to come into focus this week. AP Photo/Mike Roemer

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Forget what you think you know about the Green Bay Packers and the way they acquire players.

Yes, new general manager Brian Gutekunst worked for Ron Wolf, Mike Sherman and Ted Thompson and alongside Scot McCloughan, John Schneider, Reggie McKenzie and John Dorsey – all of whom went on to GM jobs of their own after training under some or all of the former Packers general managers.

Most of his schooling – other than one year as a scouting assistant with the Chiefs and one summer as a coaching assistant with the Saints – came with the Packers.

Yet there’s no book on Gutekunst. He hasn’t even reached his 100th day on the job.

Hired 64 days ago to replace Thompson, who was pushed aside after 13 seasons, Gutekunst will begin to forge his identity as a builder of the Packers’ roster this week. His first run through free agency starts Thursday. Six weeks later, he will conduct his first draft, beginning with the No. 14 overall pick.

Ask those who know Gutekunst how he will do, and they will predict success – as Schneider did earlier this month at the NFL scouting combine.

“He’s going to do great,” Schneider said.

Ask those who know Gutekunst what his modus operandi will be for running an NFL team, however, and no one can quite say. All they have to go on is his background.

“He had interned with the Packers when I was in Green Bay and then we were able to hire him in Kansas City,” Schneider said. “There were three of us that worked in the pro personnel department and he was one of them and we had a blast. Then went back to work with Ron and Ted and Dorsey and Reggie.”

The most Schneider could – or would – say is that Gutekunst is “a really well-rounded football guy.”

Schneider mentioned Gutekunst’s history on the coaching side of the business – his father, John, has been a college coach since 1967 (including six seasons as head coach at the University of Minnesota). Gutekunst started as a coach at UW-La Crosse after a shoulder injury helped end his playing career before he ran out of eligibility.

“He had a really cool mix,” Schneider said of Gutekunst’s background in both coaching and scouting. “You know how New England does it with their scouts, the coach and that sort of thing, so that was really attractive to us to get him into our building in Kansas City.”

That’s part of what excites coach Mike McCarthy about his new GM.

“I always loved his background,” McCarthy said. “Same with Jon-Eric Sullivan.”

Sullivan will serve as one of Gutekunst’s top advisors. His father, Jerry, spent 20 years as a college assistant and 25 as an NFL assistant.

“Knowing both aspects of that the way Brian does is so instrumental in his professional success,” McCarthy said.

So far, Gutekunst has said he wants to be more “aggressive” in free agency, something Thompson did only on occasion. That doesn’t mean he will go all-in but, as Gutekunst put it, he wants to be prepared to make a move when an opportunity presents.

He also suggested there could be more in-season roster turnover as a way of creating competition much like Wolf did with the bottom of the roster.

“There’s a balance to it,” Gutekunst said recently. “I think at all times you’re trying to get better if you think there’s an opportunity to get better. It’s about the team, not about the individual.”

The prologue to Gutekunst’s first run through the two major roster-building events – free agency and the draft – was penned last week when he brought in veteran defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson for a visit, inquired about former Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and traded cornerback Damarious Randall to the Browns for quarterback DeShone Kizer (a deal that included swapping positions in the fourth and fifth rounds of the draft).

“We’ve spent pretty much our 12 years here really focusing on improving from within,” McCarthy said. “But we need outside resources, we’ve determined that. But at the end of the day it’s a market, it’s a market that every team is involved in and we’ll see what happens.”

Still, Gutekunst is the great unknown. He could be Thompson 2.0 for all anyone knows.

“He’s doing a lot of what he’s been doing in previous years,” Packers president Mark Murphy said. “But he’s leading the effort now.”

That, McCarthy said, has created a buzz around Lambeau Field.

"Brian is extremely focused on the job at hand, like we all are," he said. "But to compare it to prior years, any time you have change, you have new people, you have new opportunity and frankly there’s a tremendous amount of new energy.”