Cory's Corner: Packers Are Winning With Misfit Toys

Gutekunst assembles a winning roster in the face of adversity. 

I just did a Twitter search for Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst.

It didn’t take a lot of time and effort to spot plenty of negativity. It was my fault for being surprised, because Twitter is a wasteland of snark. 

You can be mad or disgusted at Gutekunst but what he has done in assembling this roster is nothing short of amazing. I would argue that if De’Vondre Campbell was the only player that Gutekunst brought in, it would still be a strong victory. According to all linebackers, Campbell is graded fourth according to Pro Football Focus right behind Dallas’ Micah Parsons. 

The reason that Gutekunst deserves more credit is because he knew where the holes were. He recognized the issues. He knew that inside linebacker has been a huge problem after getting gutted on the ground in the 2019 NFC title game vs. San Francisco and getting carved up in the short passing game in the 2020 NFC title game vs. Tampa Bay. 

Of course, many may say that this team was on the precipice of advancing to the Super Bowl and there wasn’t that much to do. But that hasn’t been Gutekunst’s philosophy. He did the unthinkable and traded for a … punter. What? Nobody does that. Punters are often seen and not heard and many didn’t think trading for a punter would amount to very much at all. 

Corey Bojorquez has proven that theory completely wrong by being one of the best punters in the league. The left-footed punter doesn’t just blast the ball, but he has an amazing arsenal of precision. He has been a huge weapon by keeping opposing offenses pinned deep in the shadow of their own end zone. 

But it isn’t just about the guys that Gutekunst added. It is also about the guys he let go. Jace Sternberger was a third round pick in Gutekunst’s second draft as Packers general manager. Many thought that Sternberger would be the athletic tight end that Aggies fans saw at Texas A&M. That just never materialized and Gutekunst released him on Sept. 21. You could argue that releasing a higher end draft pick is something that NFL front offices don’t want to do, because it sends a signal that they made a mistake. I was impressed that he owned the mistake, rather than trying to see something that wasn’t there. 

And how Gutekunst has tried to tapdance every potential injury pothole that comes the Packers way is incredible. He signed Rasul Douglas from the Arizona practice squad, he signed Jaylon Smith, who was released by Dallas and he signed Whitney Mercilus, who was released by Houston. 

It isn’t easy to win in the NFL with a roster of Misfit Toys, but Gutekunst continues to prove people wrong. The Packers currently sit 9-3 and are the most complete team in the league. 

But above all that stuff, and the reason why I think Aaron Rodgers should and ultimately will come back, is because Gutekunst is tireless. He won’t leave any stone unturned and he will do whatever it takes to assemble a winning roster. That has to be music to Rodgers’ ears, who recently turned 38 and wants to be complemented with a solid team. 

Well, he’s got one right now. And the person that deserves the credit is none other than the guy that others call “Gutey.” 

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Cory Jennerjohn is a graduate from UW-Oshkosh and has been in sports media for over 15 years. He was a co-host on "Clubhouse Live" and has also done various radio and TV work as well. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites. He currently is a columnist for CHTV and also does various podcasts. He recently earned his Masters degree from the University of Iowa. He can be found on Twitter: @Coryjennerjohn

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11 points

Comments (36)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
Bure9620's picture

December 04, 2021 at 06:36 am

Gute is using the Patriots mantra of augmenting the roster through shrewd FA signings and hitting on those players. those veteran players have been given defined roles. I don't think I would call them mistfit toys. This is the primary difference between Gute and TT. I don't think this team is 9-3 with all of these injuries if TT were GM right now because rather than signing Campbell or Douglas or Mercilus, he would have had UDFAs pressed into duty and this defense would not be as good as it is. Not knocking TT but that is what drove me nuts about him.

14 points
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calabasa's picture

December 04, 2021 at 08:42 am

“We like our guys”

3 points
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Turophile's picture

December 04, 2021 at 01:00 pm

While Belichick is exceptional as a head coach he isn't actually all that good at the draft. Gute has the advantage on that.

I did understand the reluctance of TT in getting veteran FA in. Across the NFL big deals often don't work out and they can be a very expensive drag on finances if they don't. I think (as most do) that he was too averse to the bigger acquisitions, but as his successor, Gute has steadily become more of a wheeler-dealer than Ted ever was.

When you start to look at Gute's veteran acquisitions, while there has been the odd failure, there have been many good or even great additions - so many in fact, that it makes acquiring vets look easy when it most certainly isn't.

4 points
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murf7777's picture

December 05, 2021 at 07:28 am

Bure….you hit it out of the park. How many times have you seen Belechik pick up an aging vet or touring pro and put him into a place to excel. Gute is doing a great job IMO. TT also had his moments, but frequently bringing the cheap successful acquisitions wasn’t one of them. Of course, it also takes a very good coaching staff to make it work.

2 points
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Dan Collins's picture

December 04, 2021 at 06:40 am

So . . . is he Gutey Claus or Guteracer?

2 points
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Johnblood27's picture

December 04, 2021 at 06:51 am

Let's just say he has been Gutenough...

19 points
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Swisch's picture

December 04, 2021 at 04:22 pm

My Gute feeling is that he's been superb.

4 points
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blacke00's picture

December 04, 2021 at 07:05 am

Let's not go overboard here. For all of Gutey's successes, there has been a "a lot of misses" and many of those preventable. His early drafting of a punter and a long snapper....what?
People on this site as well as others wanting a more serious approach to the interior LB situation which has taken forever to address.
the glacial pace at up grading the "D" line.
The team has not drafted the WR position (seriously) in a few years.
Next year is going to extremely interesting on this site. I can hear the Roosters already.

-16 points
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dobber's picture

December 04, 2021 at 11:43 am

"People on this site as well as others wanting a more serious approach to the interior LB situation which has taken forever to address."

To be fair, the approach at ILB hasn't changed: Goodson--Morrison--Martinez--Kirksey--Campbell. Mid-to-late round picks and uninspiring FA fliers. Campbell was a late, cheap rescue from the scrap heap. Virtually nobody was crowing that ILB had been fixed when he was signed. It's just that he has turned out to be the right piece at the right time with the right defensive approach. He's likely priced himself out of GB going forward, and we'll be crossing our fingers at ILB in 2022.

1 points
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Houndog's picture

December 04, 2021 at 07:28 am

I'm neither buying or selling on Gutekunst just yet.
Has he done a great job of assembling this team, Hell Yes, but Isn't the job of a 'Director of Pro Personnel' to know who's available on the waiver wire and other team's practice squads? So how much credit does Rich Williams and his staff get?
To say he's different than Thompson is fair, but Gutey has also ignored the linebacker position until it bit him in the ass last year, and even then he went 'Bargain basement' again and got lucky with Campbell. Now we need to keep him, and that could be a problem.
Gutey is similar to TT in that he too has found a way to disrespect his future Hall of Fame QB, and again different in that TT never put us in Salary Cap Hell, Gutey has. Neither Gutey or Thompson appear(ed) to see any value in communication as Gutey has proven with Rodgers and Thompson did with Woodson at the end of his GB career. Gutey might be learning. Both gave or have given lucrative extensions to guys that didn't deserve them and have helped to screw up the cap. Let's see what next year's team looks like, I won't anoint him the second coming of Bill Belichick just yet. TT had Rodger fall to him and Gutey traded up to get what, we don't know yet, but from what I've seen................. cough, cough!
I screamed for TT's head on a platter for the entire 2010 season as players were dropping like flies, and they won the SB, here's hoping Gutey can match that.

-15 points
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croatpackfan's picture

December 04, 2021 at 08:21 am

Ah, you are bashing TT for picking up AR, because you believe TT was not comunicating with Brett Favre. Lets remind you that that Brett Favre was announcing retirement 3 seasons subsequently and you believe TT should beging BF to stay and play. After 2 seasons with BF and AR on the roster, BF saw that AR is legitimate succesor and retired. During the offseason he rethink and unretire and TT said: ENOUGH! And he traded BF to Jets and take chances with AR. Where do you see lack of communication I really do not know.

Every team should be GM's team, not HC's or QB's team. So you expect that your manager come to you to ask for forgiveness because he is doing his job? Come to the earth. I read AR behavior as act of fear that he is not as good as he presents to the public. Why that broke out this past offseason? Because Jordan Love showed AR that he has it in himself. The only question is if he will find a way to express that it out.

Aaron Rodgers comes back because he saw that he will not be traded soon enough to adapt himself to the new team, and new team will not have time to adapt to him. But he decided to renegotiate his contract, as reported, which will allow him to be traded ON TIME next offseason. Also, knowing that he knows MLF system and the most of the players, he calculated how Packers is still his best chance to win SB this season.

Regarding Jordan Love - that game he started vs Chiefs means nothing in his evaluation. Jordan Love is not Aaron Rodgers, he is Jordan Love future HOFer or future bust, but still just Jordan Love. Game plan for that game was tailored for Aaron Rodgers, not for Jordan Love. So, what we learned from that game was and is that Jordan Love is not Aaron Rodgers. But we knew that already, didn't we. You can cough as much as you vwant, but do not expect ever Jordan to be copy of Aaron Rodgers. Because nobody is copy of Aaron Rodgers. As nobody is copy of me, or you or anybody else, including Jordan Love.

And, to to be little superstition, please scream for Gutekunst head on a platter...

10 points
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Coldworld's picture

December 04, 2021 at 07:35 am

I’d argue that there are two reasons for success. Gute is picking up players who have shown something in the past but either have had health issues, are currently miscast or have skills but potential weaknesses or lack of opportunities. That’s the first prong.

The second prong is that we now have coaches that use players in ways that accentuate their strengths snd minimize their weaknesses. To me that’s a core element of good coaching, but it’s not been one that has been part of our coaching mindset for much of this century. LaFleur changed that in O, but Pettine was a man who inserted players into his system: system over everything, very similar to late era MM.

Mercillus was a 3:4 OLB being asked to play 4:3 DE. Douglas got unlucky as well but had showed good awareness and short area skills in Philly, but was exposed over the top. Barry has used him to emphasize the former not the latter. I think we see the same in his use of existing players, for example how he uses Clark and Lowry, how King has played better as Barry adjusted.

To me, that’s been perhaps the most impressive aspect of Barry. He’s unlocking potential and maximizing it. It won’t make Douglas into Alexander, but it does give him the opportunity to do what he does best and Barry tries to adjust to minimize weaknesses as often as possible. Gute has done well finding players with something to add and Barry in finding ways to maximize their positives.

I was a Barry doubter, by about game 3, I believed he was completely out of his depth. In fact he was learning what he had it seems and has since showed the ability to take that and adjust to bring out the best in his players. I have to acknowledge that I was wrong and that Barry is clearly a very good coach in addition to being a capable coordinator. I suspect part of that is he’s getting more from his coaches as well (or perhaps letting them contribute). He deserves considerable credit for what he has achieved. In doing so I think he illustrates that this defensive roster was better than many thought under Pettine.

20 points
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wildbill's picture

December 04, 2021 at 09:11 am

Management can set you up for success or failure. Playing to one’s strength is a good measure of good management. I have been pleasantly surprised by our defense and could just imagine what it would be if we had a healthy Alexander and Z all year.

8 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

December 05, 2021 at 11:07 am

I believe they're better without Z. Smith. The Edge is being contained and the greenhorns like Garvin and Tipa are holding their own bringing pressure, learning on the job.

1 points
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murf7777's picture

December 05, 2021 at 07:41 am

CW….regarding Barry I was one of the few non doubters. My reasons were due to the following. How many DC has done a great job in Detroit? It’s a recipe for failure. In Washington he was average but showed some positive developments in that D. His experience in LA I thought would be valuable. He was well regarded amongst his peers. Mostly, thou, it was because I’ve learned from my own business’s with experience comes wisdom, whether that experience is good or bad results. Of course, Barry stated as much in his initial press conference and he is proving to be accurate.

0 points
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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

December 06, 2021 at 09:22 am

Coldworld,
Very well stated!

0 points
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PhantomII's picture

December 04, 2021 at 11:11 am

As has been mentioned you don't know what your missing if you never had it. Thank you ILB Campbell for showing the Packers GM what very good ILB play can do for a defense. I guess that is a premium position for a premium player after all. Thank you poor ST unit for showing GM we need a top proven ST coach in that position and also that YOU HAVE TO DRAFT "SPECIAL" players who return kickoffs and return punts and have proven it in college......we have no such player on this team. We need a kicker who can kick it out of the end zone on every kickoff if one of these SPECIAL players are on the other team on kickoffs, It does not have to be Crosby. Good pick-up of our new solid punter. Thanks for drafting a boat load of OL....we sure needed them. I think if ML and AR were getting the run game percentage up where it should be we would have less injuries on the OL also. The 3rd RB needs to play 5-10 snaps a game to work a little also.

6 points
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PatrickGB's picture

December 04, 2021 at 12:06 pm

I love his activity’s in the FA and trade for Bojo. Unfortunately, he has also put the team in cap hell. That’s not to say that it’s not way better than what Ted did because some of that is due to the shrinking cap. #12 felt that his input was being ignored but that seems to be working out with the addition of Cobb. He has exceeded my expectations. Yet next year will be his toughest yet. I wish him and the team all the best in these tough times.

5 points
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PhantomII's picture

December 04, 2021 at 12:39 pm

I would say between Covid and Billionaire owners not wanting to eat a measly 40 million for a couple years write-off on taxes instead of keeping the salary cap where it was is a huge factor in it. Kinda lets you know what it's all about, right. Obviously contracts were pushed, but it would have been minimal in a normal season without extreme factors added in and we could have been even more active in FA instead of what we have been since.

4 points
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murf7777's picture

December 05, 2021 at 07:48 am

Patrick….looking back, I now believe Gute and Co. were going “all in” in 2019, giving us a three year run to the SB before those 4 big contracts with Arod puts us into SC hell. It was planned and we will see if it was worth. As always, some of us will feel yes, while others will state no. One thing for certain is there will be some big cuts this off season.

2 points
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Coldworld's picture

December 05, 2021 at 08:42 am

Absolutely agree. There was a plan to get this team back to true contention while Rodgers was still playing. I think Covid shortened the window by a year, but the moves were made with a view to giving the team a genuine chance while that lasted. We were a mess of a roster by the time the regime changed.

1 points
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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

December 06, 2021 at 09:33 am

Some big cuts yes, but some of those cuts are needed based on performance and compensation. The team has a lot of young talent on rookie contracts just needing playing time. There is also going to be the best FA talent available next year on the cheap than ever before. One man's garbage is another man's treasure.

I have confidence Gutey and LF will put forth a very competitive team in 2022. There very well may be some painful losses there may also be some improvement because of some of the losses.

0 points
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stockholder's picture

December 04, 2021 at 12:06 pm

Cory you got this all wrong. WE wanted a ILB for years. And how many did he bring in, trade for, not draft, Or resign? Too Many!!! Ok, I'll give you Douglass. But the rest Doesn't Fit. He's Got A revolving Door Going. And if Wasn't For Rodgers being here. No one would have come Back, or have been Picked up. So what do I give credit to Gute For? The Smiths, Amos, and 2 Ots. He's made plenty of draft blunders. Yet the bigger the controversy, the greater the reward! Thats the thinking. People like yourself will give him a A plus. Regardless. This is about Gute. And When it's Not about the players. There will be no Lombardi Trophy. IMO. Ron Wolf was a better GM.

-11 points
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Qoojo's picture

December 04, 2021 at 04:44 pm

Douglas was a ridiculously lucky pickup. You have to credit the pro scouts for identifying him, but he is playing great. He made it through waivers and to Az's practice squad right? So it's not like he was burning up the world.

Wolf turned around the organization with the Reggie White signing. Good thing god told White to sign with the packers.

What many fans fail to realize is that there will be misses drafting. Then there's the fans that cherry pick how they picked a guy right, but then forget how they missed on the draft.

Can we bring up Gary? Remember how many talked about how he was bust?

5 points
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Irish_Cheesehead's picture

December 04, 2021 at 07:43 pm

Players came back for $$, not because of Rodgers. $$ talks!

3 points
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AnotherLombardiPlease's picture

December 04, 2021 at 12:35 pm

No question Gute has done a fine job this year picking up some key contributors from the scrap heap. His second round pick of Dillon in last year's draft is also looking like gold.

Ultimately, however, he is going to be judged by how he handles the QB position. The jury is out on his using a #1 pick on Jordan Love, but the early returns do not look promising. He also faces a major challenge in whether or not to allocate more cap space to resigning Rodgers (if he's even willing to stay with the Pack).

Still, all in all, Gute has been a huge upgrade over Thompson who had a brilliant start to his tenure but then tanked in his later years.

3 points
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Gman1976's picture

December 04, 2021 at 01:25 pm

Gute's win/loss record speaks for itself. He has done so much in such a short amount of time to field a team that wins & is close to winning the Superbowl. He has changed coaches, brought in free agents, drafted well, acquired good football players through the waiver wire, trades, and other teams' practice squads, & navigated through sensitive situations with our Hall of Fame quarterback. With the salary cap situation looming next year, he has an even greater challenge to keep up the success. No matter what happens, many teams would love to have our Gute. He's that great of a GM.

6 points
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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

December 06, 2021 at 09:40 am

GMan,
Spot on!

When I think of Gutey those first 2 or 3 years I always think of the Dutch boy trying to stem the leak in the dam wall.

Sooo funny how some people piss and moan about the ILB position. Others piss and moan about the WR position while others the DL.

Gute only has so many swings at the ball and has to weigh dozens of different factors when he drafts and uses FA. The man has been nothing short of amazing!

0 points
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LeotisHarris's picture

December 04, 2021 at 03:17 pm

Relentless stone-tuner, Brian Gutekunst, teams have put together back-to-back 13-3 seasons and are sitting pretty again this year. His story is remarkable; from playing college football at UW-Lacrosse to NFL scouting to GM in a very short time. Granted, his family had some deep football roots so I have no doubt that opportunities came to him via who rather than what he knew at the beginning of his career. His work through the ranks within the Packers organization was recognized, respected and rewarded.

When I read the vitriol directed his way now, I have to wonder which of the other candidates for GM the teeming masses feel would have done a better job. Eliot Wolf? John Dorsey? Alonzo Highsmith? Those guys have marginal roles today at best. Dorsey tripped on his dick big time. There was also the wish for John Schneider to somehow be freed from this contract with Seattle to "come home" and lead the Packers to the promised land. How are the Seahawks doing? That fan base is calling for his head on a platter. Maybe Russ Ball at the helm?

I think the Packers got it right with Gute. No, he's not Ron Wolf, just like Mark Murphy isn't Bob Harlan. Nostalgia is a hell of a drug. The Packers are 9-3.

16 points
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Rebecca's picture

December 05, 2021 at 11:14 pm

OMG this is spot on!

0 points
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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

December 06, 2021 at 09:46 am

Leotis

Whenever I find free time to visit it is always nice to know there are a number of intelligent posters here understand how the game of football operates.

Can you imagine some of these posters if fans of the Vikings or Detroit right now?

1 points
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Starrbrite's picture

December 04, 2021 at 07:42 pm

I wanted Schneider—perhaps I was wrong?
I didn’t like the Gary pick—definitely wrong;
I thought Joe Barry was a bad move—wrong again;
I wanted us to sign JJ Watt—whew!
Thought we should have picked TJ Watt—I was right;
I am an Aaron Rogers loyalist—-pretty sure I’m right.
Wasn’t sure about LaFleur—-most definitely wrong.
I believe I’ve found the best place for my opinions—at home sitting in front of the tv with some Doritos and a beverage.Tsk tsk.

10 points
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stockholder's picture

December 05, 2021 at 09:15 am

Observation. With all the injuries at OLB. Could we be seeing a change next year at this position?. I liked what I saw in Whitney. Gary has developed. And Gute continues to bring in players that have had pass rushing success.

0 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

December 05, 2021 at 11:14 am

Za goes and P Smith probably stays depending on the money. Campbell is a keeper and draft a couple real bad asses in the 3rd or fourth rds. The Kid from Pitt etc etc....

4 points
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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

December 06, 2021 at 09:53 am

Going to be so many needs in next years draft based on which players gone due to performance and cap. I am very intrigued where the team decides to allocate their resources. This offseason is going to be wild! A real rollercoaster for the front office. How I would enjoy being privy to those meetings and conversations.

Of course, everything begins and swirls around Rodgers and Adam's. Possibly the Pack has way more options with draft selections next year than we thought when ending 2021 season.

0 points
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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

December 06, 2021 at 09:15 am

Yes, TT was a nice person but he was also the biggest detriment to the Pack success those last half dozen years. In reality TT and MM who was a sub par coach were actually a toss up regarding who actually hindered the teams chances for success those last 6 years.

Ted's drafts were average and his unwillingness to use FA was maddening. Not using FA was like fighting a boxing match with one arm tied behind his back.

Gutey is the biggest star for the Pack in 2021 and LF is right along side him. We are very fortunate these two work extremely well together without egos. Gutey leaves no stone unturned while LF knows how to appeal to the team, as well as knowing how and when to plug in players maximizing their talents and strengths.

-1 points
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1