LaFleur’s of­fen­sive re­sume stands out

Packer Plus - - NEWS - Pete Dougherty Colum­nist USA TO­DAY NET­WORK – WIS.

Green Bay — The tim­ing of Aaron Rodgers’ air­ing his beef with Mike McCarthy’s of­fense af­ter a game Sept. 30 was prob­a­bly no co­in­ci­dence.

Just three days be­fore the Green Bay Pack­ers’ mun­dane 22-0 win over the Buf­falo Bills that Sun­day af­ter­noon, Sean McVay’s elec­tric Los An­ge­les Rams of­fense, in front of a na­tional TV au­di­ence, had hung 38 points and 465 pass­ing yards on the Pack­ers’ bit­ter NFC North ri­val Min­nesota Vik­ings. Rodgers ac­knowl­edged later that he’d watched some of that game.

The im­age of the Rams mov­ing the ball up and down the field against one of the league’s bet­ter de­fenses had to have been on Rodgers’ mind as he walked off Lam­beau Field af­ter beat­ing the Bills. By the end of his news con­fer­ence, it was hard not to won­der if Rodgers was wish­ing he played for a young of­fen­sive mind like McVay or San Fran­cisco’s Kyle Shana­han, who have been all the rage of the NFL the last cou­ple of years.

Well, now Rodgers does.

Matt LaFleur, the 39-year-old coach the Pack­ers hired Mon­day, has worked his en­tire NFL ca­reer with Shana­han, McVay, or both.

That of course doesn’t mean LaFleur will be a good head coach. Look at all the fail­ures off the Bill Belichick coach­ing tree, for in­stance. You never know how these guys will do un­til they sit in the cap­tain’s chair.

But LaFleur will bring to the Pack­ers the same scheme and ap­proach to of­fense that McVay has to the Rams and Shana­han to the 49ers. Whether he has the same skills, on that we’ll have to wait and see.

Go­ing into the week­end, if I’d been forced to bet on the Pack­ers’ choice, I’d prob­a­bly have gone with New Eng­land of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Josh McDaniels. His rep­u­ta­tion as an of­fen­sive mind is as good as any­one’s in the NFL. He also has a strong, take-charge per­son­al­ity, which usu­ally is good for some­one who has to lead an NFL fran­chise. But that, too, can cut both ways.

Re­gard­less, there was no ob­vi­ous guess. With Rodgers just fin­ish­ing the first year of the most lu­cra­tive con­tract in NFL his­tory, it makes sense that Pres­i­dent/CEO Mark Mur­phy and gen­eral man­ager Brian Gutekunst were look­ing hard at coaches whose ex­per­tise is that side of the ball in gen­eral and quar­ter­backs in par­tic­u­lar.

The Pack­ers are mar­ried to Rodgers for at least a cou­ple of more sea­sons, and they need to get him back play­ing at an elite level af­ter the dis­as­ter that was 2018. It’s no co­in­ci­dence that five of the coaches Mur­phy and Gutekunst in­ter­viewed had coached quar­ter­backs in the NFL: LaFleur (six years), McDaniels (four), Adam Gase (three), Pete Carmichael (three) and Jim Cald­well (seven).

Mur­phy and Gutekunst might not have been locked into hir­ing one of those guys go­ing into the in­ter­views, but they clearly con­sid­ered it im­por­tant to look hard at can­di­dates they thought might click with Rodgers. They chose LaFleur, and now it will be up to the 39-year-old, for­mer Divi­sion II quar­ter­back to make that work.

It prob­a­bly didn’t hurt that LaFleur, ac­cord­ing to a source, also had Mike Pet­tine on his list of prospec­tive de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tors.

Pet­tine just fin­ished his first sea­son as the Pack­ers’ de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor, and though the num­bers (No. 22 in points, No. 18 in yards and No. 28 in de­fen­sive passer rat­ing) might sug­gest other­wise, his de­fense passed the eye test this year. De­spite a short­age of game-chang­ing tal­ent — there wasn’t an abun­dance to start with and by sea­son’s end he was miss­ing his four most tal­ented play­ers (Jaire Alexan­der, Kenny Clark, Mike Daniels and Kevin King) — Pet­tine still got enough stops to usu­ally keep the Pack­ers in games.

Now Pet­tine will get the chance to build on this sea­son, and the Pack­ers won’t be start­ing over on that side of the ball, too.

As to the big­gest ques­tions: Did Mur­phy and Gutekunst make a good hire? Will LaFleur suc­ceed or fail? Your guess is as good as mine.

What I will say is, LaFleur has a ré­sumé wor­thy of at­ten­tion, even if the Pack­ers were the only team to in­ter­view him this year (Ten­nes­see in­ter­viewed him as a head-coach­ing can­di­date last year be­fore bring­ing him on as of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor). He has worked with all dif­fer­ent styles and ages of quar­ter­backs, among them, Robert Grif­fin III in Wash­ing­ton, Matt Ryan in At­lanta, Jared Goff with the Rams and Mar­cus Mar­i­ota in Ten­nes­see.

This hire has a whiff of the Mike McCarthy hire in 2006. No one would have con­sid­ered McCarthy a front-run­ner when Ted Thomp­son in­ter­viewed him — he was com­ing off a sea­son in which the of­fense he co­or­di­nated in San Fran­cisco fin­ished No. 30 in scor­ing and dead last in yards. But Thomp­son liked their in­ter­view, went with his gut, hired him any­way, and in McCarthy’s first five years the Pack­ers went to an NFC Cham­pi­onship Game (2007) with one quar­ter­back (Brett Favre) and won a Su­per Bowl (2010) with an­other (Rodgers).

LaFleur doesn’t have McCarthy’s play­call­ing ex­pe­ri­ence go­ing in. For four years be­fore go­ing to the 49ers, McCarthy called plays in New Or­leans, whereas LaFleur be­came a play-caller for the first time in 2018. But he’s also been hired on the heels of an unim­pres­sive show­ing — Ten­nes­see fin­ished No. 27 in scor­ing and No. 25 in yards this sea­son.

Just as McCarthy had a rookie quar­ter­back in San Fran­cisco, LaFleur had an in­jured one in Ten­nes­see. Mar­cus Mar­i­ota sus­tained a nerve in­jury in his throw­ing el­bow in the opener and was dogged by it all sea­son. He had to wear a glove be­cause of lost feel­ing in his throw­ing hand, was un­able to fin­ish two other games af­ter ag­gra­vat­ing the in­jury and missed two oth­ers.

No mat­ter, the Pack­ers’ job now is LaFleur’s. Does he have the right stuff to lead a team and coach­ing staff, and cre­ate the chem­istry in the locker room and among his coach­ing staff that it takes to win in this league? Can he get Rodgers back to play­ing great?

Mur­phy’s and Gutekunst’s jobs are rid­ing on it.


Ten­nes­see Ti­tans of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Matt LaFleur has been selected as the new Green Bay Pack­ers head coach. He has worked with many NFL quar­ter­backs as an as­sis­tant.

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