Ripkowski Ready for Packers Succession Plan

With an eye toward the future Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson pulled one of his many surprises on draft day 2015 when he selected Oklahoma fullback Aaron Ripkowski in the 6th round.  The payoff from that selection will likely come as soon as this season.

With an eye toward the future Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson pulled one of his many surprises on draft day 2015 when he selected Oklahoma fullback Aaron Ripkowski in the 6th round.  The payoff from that selection will likely come as soon as this season.

Fullback was not a position of need at the time and the Packers would subsequently bring back ageing but still effective John Kuhn to compete with the rookie.  Coming into training camp Kuhn was looking at a spirited battle just to remain on the roster against younger and cheaper competition.  No surprise, Kuhn came through once again.

While almost every other team in the NFL has devalued the position, the Packers still hold the fullback position in esteem.  John Kuhn, the man and player, has also earned near universal respect around the league.  To top off his year Kuhn was elected a captain for the 2015 - 2016 playoff run.  It is hard to find a more popular player and leader on the Green Bay Packers.

Yet professional football is a young man’s game and father time waits for no one.  The nine-year veteran will turn 34 prior to next season (September 9) and his replacement is already in the building.  Kuhn is an unsigned and unrestricted free agent and the market for his services will be minimal.  A succession plan for the fullback position is already in place and will almost surely come to fruition for the 2016 season when the Packers will likely allocate only one slot to the position and bid adieu to Kuhn.

Yet John Kuhn will be a hard person to part ways with as 2015 showed that he still had the stuff to contribute to his team.

One of the more obvious changes when head coach Mike McCarthy resumed play-calling duties in mid-season was the additional workload for Kuhn.  With Clements at the controls Kuhn played a total of 140 snaps in 12 games.  Under McCarthy Kuhn logged 223 snaps in just six games including career highs for a single game - first against Oakland (47) only to eclipse that mark (53) against the Minnesota Vikings. 

At his age the 6’0” 250 lb. Kuhn is almost no threat to run or catch the ball anymore. His modest stats for the season were 9 carries for 28 yards and 6 catches on 10 targets for 56 yards.  Where Kuhn is most effective is his short yardage contribution where he recorded two touchdowns. 

ProFootball Focus * has Kuhn statistically ranked as the 5th best fullback with a cumulative score of 66.1 – Patrick DiMarco of the Atlanta Falcons was number one at 83.0.  Yet his pass blocking score of 73.9 was third best in the entire league for the position.

Kuhn is also a key contributor on special teams and with his knowledge of the Packers offense his presence on the field is akin to having another coach in the huddle.

Aaron Ripkowski made a case for himself with his special teams’ contribution during the 2015 season.  At 23 (he will not turn 24 until December) he is 10 years Kuhn’s junior.  Physically imposing at 6’ 1” and 246 lbs. Ripkowski also logged 309 special teams’ snaps and recorded 9 tackles - good for fifth on the team.  Ripkowski is said to be smart, tough, an accomplished enough runner and an above average receiver.

If Thompson decides to go with just Ripkowski it likely won’t be a financial decision.  As a 10 year veteran Kuhn is eligible to sign for the veteran’s minimum which would aid the team’s salary cap ramifications.  The current system works like this:  Veterans with 4 or more seasons making the minimum salary for their service (and with bonuses not [currently] greater than $65,000) are subject to the Minimum Salary Benefit.  Players qualifying under this scenario only count against the cap by the contract amount for a veteran with two credited seasons. This allows fringe or older veterans who don't command large contracts to remain in the league without becoming too expensive for teams.

To guard against in-season injures at key positions during the season such as wide receiver, cornerback and offensive line, it would be surprising to keep two fullbacks again for 2016.  But with Kuhn’s proven value to the team an invite to training camp wouldn’t be a total surprise.  Making the roster, however, would have to be considered a long shot, but don’t tell that to John Kuhn who has become a master at overcoming long odds.

*Pro Football Focus’ ratings go from 0-100; 0-59 = replaceable, 60-69 = backup, 70-84 = starter, 85-89 = Pro Bowler, 90-100 = Elite

 

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Comments (13)

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RCPackerFan's picture

February 23, 2016 at 02:11 pm

I could see Kuhn returning, and I can see them going strictly with Ripkowski. My guess is they go with Ripkowski and won't bring Kuhn back. After all Ripkowski was drafted to be Kuhn's replacement.

I could see them possibly taking the wait and see approach on whether to bring Kuhn back. See how Ripkowski looks in ota's and throughout the offseason before deciding.

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Ibleedgreenmore's picture

February 23, 2016 at 03:44 pm

Kuhn is like Driver a super player and a super team player other than the fact he is a old timer he is loved by millions of fans.

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Horse's picture

February 23, 2016 at 02:32 pm

If they don't try to hire Kuhn as a coach after his playing days are done, they're loony.

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Evan's picture

February 23, 2016 at 02:34 pm

What are his coaching qualifications?

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Samson's picture

February 23, 2016 at 03:57 pm

There's no evidence that Kuhn has any possibility or even an inclination to coach. --- No mention of coaching by anyone (even Kuhn).

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croatpackfan's picture

February 24, 2016 at 05:50 am

You might be right. John was attending some NFL "after active playing time" programs and mostly it was connected with reporting or tv commenting... I think John could be a good coach, but if he does not want to be coach, pushing him in that direction would be stupid!

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Allan Murphy's picture

February 23, 2016 at 04:05 pm

50/50 idk if he comes back it would have to be for the leauge min..............

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TarynsEyes's picture

February 23, 2016 at 04:18 pm

" With Clements at the controls Kuhn played a total of 140 snaps in 12 games. Under McCarthy Kuhn logged 223 snaps in just six games including career highs for a single game - "

With the failure to get the offense going, especially the receivers of Janis and Abby, with season of success fading it was clear that McCarthy wasn't going with Rip over Kuhn as he was as defiant still with the use of those mentioned with the thinking of needing vets to get it done. Regretfully, that thinking in regard to the receivers was the wrong one and the light came on a bit to late. However with Kuhn, he'll be around to sign if need be as I doubt he goes elsewhere with an even more diminished role and his age.

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Amanofthenorth's picture

February 23, 2016 at 09:24 pm

He doesn't sign with any team. Hangs around green bay with a PR position and then comes back to play if Rip is injured.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

February 24, 2016 at 12:26 am

Drafting a FB last year was not a big surprise. I had my eye on Jalston Fowler, but he went in the early part of the 4th round.

I have no idea if Ripkowski is ready to succeed Kuhn. I would not be surprised if Kuhn signs another "qualified contract" and gets an invite to camp.

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WinUSA's picture

February 24, 2016 at 10:06 am

I can't remember any other player that has grabbed the admiration and love of the fans like KOOOOOOON!

No matter where the Packers were playing those great Packer fans would thunder the words KOOOOOON every time he touched the ball.

I always enjoyed the chorus of the fans and the reaction of the opponent's ...it was always a joy to see the reaction of the defensive players in their own stadium, looke at each other and just shrugged their shoulders, with a smile and respect for the man.

Personally he will greatly missed by myself. One thing about the man...he was TOTALLY reliable...a trait that few can claim in the pro ranks.

But as the author of this article said...father time hits all players.

One thing is clear...I think that the media has kicked dirt on Kuhn's departure for the last three years...and the guy has always persevered.

If he stays...he will not be a detriment to the team...and it will be great to hear KOOOOON bellowed out for another season.

If not...good luck John!!!!

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Oppy's picture

February 25, 2016 at 06:43 am

It's not admiration and love of the player, it's a single-syllable last name with a long vowel sound that captures the fans' attention.

Take any player, give him a name like "Kuhn", "Boone", "Moon", "Prune", and give him limited opportunities to make a play. Fans will relish the opportunity to holler the name, dragging out the long vowel, hands cupped around their mouths like a megaphone, on every rare touch or tackle made by the player.

Let's face it, it's not nearly as fun to chant "HEEEEENNNNNNDEEERRRRSSSOOOOOOOONNN"

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Tundraboy's picture

February 24, 2016 at 01:29 pm

Well put. Kuhn is like a second coach on the field,and is a safety net for the OLine. For that reason it will be a loss if he doesnt come back. Cant see how he can make roster though,with 2 FBs and why it was a mistake to have Ripkowski play only a token amount of snaps last year.

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