The Green Bay Packers have made the first move in the 8 team coaching carousel going on in the NFL and have chosen former Titans OC Matt LaFleur.
The initial reaction from many Packer fans may be “we just hired the guy who coached the 27th ranked offense in the league? A team that had no passing attack whatsoever?” Yes, the Packers hired that guy and let’s remember when the Packers hired Mike McCarthy after he was the OC for the 32nd ranked offense of the San Francisco 49ers. Do not look at LaFleur’s one year in Tennessee as the type of coach he is. First, lets take a look at where he has been and his position at each stop.
- Saginaw Valley State (2003): Offensive Assistant
- Central Michigan (2004-2005): Offensive Assistant
- Northern Michigan (2006): QB & WR Coach
- Ashland (2007): Offensive Coordinator
- Houston Texans (2008-2009): Offensive Quality Control Coach
- Washington Redskins (2010-2013): QB Coach
- Notre Dame (2014): QB Coach
- Atlanta Falcons (2015-2016): QB Coach
- Los Angeles Rams (2017): Offensive Coordinator
- Did not call plays
- Tennessee Titans (2018): Offensive Coordinator
- First time calling plays
- Green Bay Packers (2019): Head Coach
So let’s begin with the obvious about LaFleur: he has been coaching on the offensive side of the ball his whole career. He also played QB in college at Saginaw Valley State and in the National Indoor Football League for the Omaha Beef (cool name), and the Billings Outlaws. This guys knows that side of the ball and has learned/coached under some of the best, but we’ll get to that later.
Most Packers fans thought the Packers needed to hire a guys on the offensive side of the ball that would work with Rodgers. I was completely fine with the Packers hiring a defensive guy that had a good choice at OC but the Packers went with the popular pick. Let me say this, the Rodgers being un-coachable narrative or the he’s hard to work with narrative is blown out of proportion. I think Rodgers and McCarthy’s relationship ran it’s course and got sour at the end, but to say Rodgers didn’t respect McCarthy is just un-true. The Packers didn’t need to bring in a yes man for Rodgers because he is so in his own head and is “going to do what he wants.” Will LaFluer have to earn Rodgers respect? Yes, if he hasn’t already but all you need to do is look at the QBs LaFluer has worked with and see he is successful at what he does.
In 2012 Kyle Shanahan brought LaFleur to be his QB coach in Washington where LaFleur worked with Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins as rookies. RG3 had a great rookie year and led the Redskins to the playoffs, shortly after that Kirk Cousins played himself into the starting position and now the Vikings overpaid (at least for now) the shit out of Cousins. I would say that was a success.
2015 LaFleur then followed Kyle Shanahan again to Atlanta where he coached Matt Ryan. Packer fans should remember the 2016 Matt Ryan that obliterated the Packers in the NFC Championship game. Matt Ryan won the MVP that year and led the Falcons to the Super Bowl. Again, I would say this was a success for LaFleur.
His next stop was with the Rams in 2017 under Sean McVay. Remember how shitty Jared Goff was in his rookie year? Well with the help of McVay and LaFleur as the offensive coordinator Goff became a Pro Bowler and led the Rams to the playoffs and NFC West crown. Again, LaFleur is succeeding in what he does.
This past year LaFleur got to work with Marcus Mariota and the Titans. Under LaFleur Mariota did have his best season completion percentage wise at 68.9% which is 6 points higher than its ever been. Now some of that is how LaFleur calls plays, a lot of dump offs to RBs and let them make some plays. The Titans didn’t throw the ball downfield like Rodgers loves too. LaFleur will adapt to that. The Titans had one of the best rushing attacks in the league, especially towards the end of the year. For how good their rushing attack was though, the passing attack was ranked 22nd in the league. I’ve already seen Packers twitter make a muck of this stat. Mariota is not Rodgers. Titans pass blocking OL is much worse than the Packers. Titans do not have a receiver even nearly as good as Adams. Packers have more WR depth. I wouldn’t read much into that if I were a Packer fan but people are morons and are going to freak out anyway. Just check out the tweet below, but go ahead and look at some of the replies from Packers fans. Sad.
The next thing to look at with LaFleur is what kind of offense is he going to run in Green Bay. To do this we can look at who is has coached under and learned from. The big name everybody likes to bring up is Sean McVay because LaFleur coached under him for the Rams. However, I would rather look at Kyle Shanahan to get a better a look at the type of offense you may see the Packers run. Let’s remember, each team has different personnel so the offense is going to look a little different everywhere. Many fans will want to see an exact replica of the Rams offense – that is not going to happen folks. The Packers don’t have Todd Gurley, they don’t have three receiver that are the caliber of Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, and Cooper Kupp. Davante Adams is better than any of those guys, but our WR crops isn’t that deep with talent, yet. The Packers OL is not as good as the Rams OL, yet, hopefully.
The main thing I want to look at under this new offense is the history of the type of RB”s LaFleur has worked with, and used. Since Washington LaFleur has worked with RB’s like Alfred Morris (WAS), Davonte Freeman (ATL), Tevin Coleman (ATL), Todd Gurley (LAR), Dion Lewis (TEN), and Derrick Henry (TEN). All these guys besides Henry have something in common: they can catch the ball, and they were used to catch the ball in a multitude of ways. So what do the Packers have to offer? Well Aaron Jones and Jamal Williams can both catch the ball very well out of the backfield and were not used to their full potential under Mike McCarthy. I would expect for Jones and Williams to both be used more in the upcoming season, with Jones being the main guy. Also, we talked about all year how bland the Packers running game was. Every run was very basic and the same thing over and over again. Just watch this clip below of LaFleur breaking down a run in a Titans game from this previous year. It gets me pretty excited of what we can expect next year.
Now again, every teams personnel is different. So should Packer fans expect to see the same playbook as the Rams? No. As the 49ers? No. As the Titans? No. We should expect to see LaFleur’s own unique offensive system with the Packers personnel that resembles what Kyle Shanahan does in San Francisco, more than the Rams under McVay. Aaron Rodgers can do more things than Goff or Garoppolo. Adams is a better WR than the Rams or 49ers have. The TE, OL situation is different. Packer fans need to adjust expectations going into next year, I can’t emphasize that enough.
Here is what I like about LaFleur looking at his offense in Tennessee versus the one he ran with McVay in Los Angeles. They are completely different. So why does that matter? He adapted to the guys he had in the room. His offense will adapt in Green Bay to the offensive players in that room. Mike McCarthy did not do that, Matt LaFleur will.
- I’d like to know if LaFleur flew to the top of the list because he was a candidate that wanted to keep Mike Pettine at DC. It’s obvious the Packers organization like what Pettine did with the defense in 2018, along with a lot of fans. I’d have to believe LaFleur said he’d keep Pettine on as DC and that helped sway the Packers towards him more.
- LaFleur worked with Deshone Kizer for a year at ND. The Packers brought in Paxton Lynch for god sake. Do not be surprised if the Packers draft a QB somewhere after the 4th round, or go after a cheap solid backup in free agency. LaFleur knows Kizer and if he doesn’t like him, he’s gonna be out as Aaron Rodgers backup.
- Who calls plays for the Packers next season? LaFleur calls played for one year at Tennessee, does he keep doing that while being the head coach? An option for him is Zac Taylor, the current offensive coordinator for the Rams. Taylor was another name brought up in HC searches. Taylor, like LaFleur in LA, does not call plays. Going to Green Bay and calling plays for Aaron Rodgers would be a step up for Zac Taylor.
- Matt LaFleurs first decision? Fire Ron Zook. If that guys is still on this staff by February, that is LaFleurs first mistake. Zook is a joke of a coach and needs to be gone. Packers should send guys over to his house, pack everything up for him, drive him across the border to Illinois, and tell Zook they’ll handle selling his house. Ron Zook is garbage.
There is going to be 8 head coaches hired this year in the NFL. We will have no idea if any of them are any good until a couple years down the road, if they even get that long of a leash. I like the hire of Matt LaFleur for the Packers, but that doesn’t mean you need to take my thoughts as fact. Don’t go and listen to all those debate shows and tell you how bad of a hire this is, or how good of a hire this is – let LaFleur come into Green Bay and do his thing before we make a judgement call on his hiring.
Do I expect the Packers to come out and look better offensively next year? Sure. But I also understand it will be the first year under this new system and there’s going to be ups and downs. Do I expect the Packers to have a better record next year? Sure, but every fan has that expectation of their team – or at least keep the status quo. The Packers success for next year started with the hiring of Matt LaFleur. The next step is LaFleur hiring his staff, then it’s draft preparation and evaluation, then it’s drafting well in 2019, then it’s a successful mini-camp, off-season workouts, training camp, and into pre-season. The Packers will succeed in 2019 if the whole organization has a good 2019 from Mark Murphy to the practice squad guy, not just because of the head coach we hired. Go Pack Go.
And here’s a Dodgeball clip because they’ll be all over Packers twitter.