INDIANAPOLIS — How many people remember what the Green Bay Packers‘ record was in Aaron Rodgers‘ first season as their starting quarterback?

Brian Gutekunst, 10 years away from his promotion to general manager when Rodgers took over in 2008, sure does.

“It was an interesting year,” said Gutekunst, who was a Packers area scout back then. “He had really good, flashy moments, but I think he started those 16 games, and I think we were 6-10.”

The Packers started 4-4 in 2009, meaning they were 10-14 through Rodgers’ first 24 games as a starter.

“Now, he had some moments where we’re like it’s just a matter of time,” Gutekunst said.

The lesson is the Packers had better be prepared for a period of transition when they move on to Jordan Love, which could be as soon as this season. Gutekunst was noncommittal about Rodgers’ return to Green Bay when he spoke Tuesday at the NFL combine. That turned the discussion during a 35-minute sit-down interview with reporters who cover the Packers into a look at what the 2023 season might look like with Love at the helm.

Gutekunst pronounced Love ready for the starting quarterback job.

“Absolutely,” he said without hesitation.

But starting and winning, as Rodgers showed, are two different undertakings. Four MVP awards since then make the start easy to forget.

Rodgers was statistically impressive in his first season as a starter; he threw for 4,038 yards and 28 touchdowns while playing through an early-season shoulder injury. But it didn’t translate in the Packers’ record.

“The one thing you see in this league, very rarely are guys shot out of a cannon, winning-wise,” Gutekunst said. “There’s some great play, there’s instances, you see flashes. But I think it takes most of these quarterbacks a little time to learn how to win. It’s one thing to play well and make throws and make plays, but then it’s another thing to lead your team to wins. I think that takes time. But you don’t get a lot of that in this league. Certainly, with any new quarterback that’s playing for the first time, you’re going to need some of that.”

Rodgers took over a 13-3 team that was a Brett Favre overtime interception in the NFC Championship Game away from the Super Bowl.

Love would inherit an 8-9 team that needed a late-season, five-game winning streak just to get back to .500 heading into the regular-season finale.

Gutekunst’s job, then, is in part to surround Love with enough talent to ease some of the quarterback’s burden. Receivers Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs are a good start. So is the return of running backs Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon. But they’re still at least one or two receivers and one or two tight ends away from feeling confident in those spots. More stability from the offensive line from last season also is a must.

“I definitely think we could support him,” Gutekunst said. “To compare the two [quarterback transitions], I think it’s tough. From what I remember from back then, we were coming off a 13-3 season with Brett. We’re in the NFC Championship Game; we probably should’ve won that game. We went 6-10 the next year but I think we came out — if I remember right — we came out of the gates pretty good where Aaron played pretty well. We won some games early and then hit a really rough middle. But I think there was a growing confidence throughout that year that, ‘Hey, we got the next guy and now just keep building.’ But to compare the transition, I think that would be hard for me to do.”

The Packers could have eased some of that transition had they turned things over to Love when the Packers’ playoff chances were reduced to bubkes in late November. But instead, they stuck with Rodgers despite his thumb, rib and knee injuries.

“He definitely needs to play,” Gutekunst said of Love. “I think that’s the next step in his progression. I think he’s ready for that. Not every quarterback comes into this league ready to go out there and play. I think he needed a little time, but over the last year and a half or so, we’ve seen that’s the next step in his progression. He needs to go out and play.”

The most the Packers saw from Love other than in practice came in the fourth quarter of the Nov. 27 loss to the Eagles, when he relieved Rodgers and led a pair of scoring drives against mostly soft-defensive coverage.

“I have complete confidence in his ability but also just his approach,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said of Love immediately after the season. “It’s been fun to watch him mature as a football player, as a man, over the course of these last three years and he’s, he just, the way he walks around the building, his approach, his urgency, his fundamentals, everything that goes into being a quarterback, I think we’ve seen significant growth from him. So I’m definitely excited about where he could be.”

But if the transition might be rough whenever it happens, perhaps the Packers should get that gap year over with.

“I don’t think you can just put it all on his plate right away,” Gutekunst said. “That’s one thing I talked to him a little bit about after the season was just mentally having a plan for those things that he hasn’t had to have a plan for the last few years, whenever that time comes … handling all the requests and the pressure and the different things that are gonna come his way because I think, certainly we’ve seen a lot of growth through him on the field.

“So just kind of getting with the people he works with and talking about those things and making sure, not only with his people outside our building but people inside our building that he kind of has a plan for those things if that transpires.”

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Green Bay Packers must be patient if Jordan Love takes over – Green Bay Packers Blog