Mur­phy tabs LaFleur to lead Pack­ers

Packer Plus - - NEWS - Jim Owczarski and Tom Sil­ver­stein Mil­wau­kee Jour­nal Sen­tinel Ryan Wood Green Bay Press-Gazette

Green Bay — Mak­ing a hire that will de­fine his legacy as Green Bay Pack­ers pres­i­dent and CEO, Mark Mur­phy chose a head coach with con­nec­tions to the NFL’s of­fen­sive evo­lu­tion but who ar­rives with many un­knowns, in­clud­ing his abil­ity to over­see an en­tire foot­ball team.

Early Mon­day evening, one day af­ter his in­ter­view took place in Nashville, Ten­nes­see Ti­tans of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Matt LaFleur was cho­sen by Mur­phy to be the fran­chise’s 15th head coach.

The Jour­nal Sen­tinel and Pack­er­ con­firmed an ESPN re­port that the Pack­ers had selected LaFleur, 39, ahead of the nine oth­ers they in­ter­viewed to re­place Mike McCarthy and were work­ing to fi­nal­ize the deal.

The club did not an­nounce the hir­ing and was not ex­pected to un­til LaFleur signs a con­tract.

The Pack­ers in­ter­viewed five coaches with head-coach­ing ex­pe­ri­ence — Jim Cald­well, Chuck Pagano, Joe Philbin, Josh McDaniels and Adam Gase. Cald­well was the only one who had mul­ti­ple head-coach­ing jobs and the oth­ers were fired within sev­eral years of their hir­ing.

Still, Cald­well had years of ex­pe­ri­ence coach­ing Pey­ton Man­ning in In­di­anapo­lis, McDaniels has coached Tom Brady for more than a decade and Gase had helped Man­ning res­ur­rect his ca­reer in Den­ver and got­ten Jay Cut­ler to play his best foot­ball in Chicago.

All of them had the ex­pe­ri­ence of man­ag­ing an en­tire foot­ball team.

But the Pack­ers went with LaFleur, prob­a­bly hop­ing they could cap­ture some of the magic dust as­so­ci­ated with Los An­ge­les Rams coach Sean McVay, the hottest young coach in the NFL and one of LaFleur’s clos­est friends.

The Pack­ers were the only team to in­ter­view LaFleur and they waited un­til last to talk to him. It’s pos­si­ble they tar­geted him early dur­ing the search process as their lead­ing can­di­date be­cause they didn’t bother to bring him in for a sec­ond in­ter­view be­fore hir­ing.

Their goal all along ap­peared to be to find some­one who could tap into the pass­ing rev­o­lu­tion that has veered away from some of the West Coast prin­ci­ples McCarthy held dearly and adopted some of the spread prin­ci­ples pop­u­lar in the col­lege game. LaFleur has been on the ground floor of that move­ment.

The Pack­ers were also the only team to i nter­view McDaniels, who had turned off many teams when he re­neged on an agree­ment to be­come In­di­anapo­lis’ head coach a year ago. If the Pack­ers were go­ing to hire him they would have had to wait un­til the Pa­tri­ots were elim­i­nated from the play­offs or played in the Su­per Bowl.

Gase was avail­able im­me­di­ately but had in­ter­viewed with Ari­zona and the New York Jets.

The Pack­ers also in­ter­viewed New Eng­land de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Brian Flores, New Or­leans of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Pete Carmichael Jr., Saints tight ends coach Dan Camp­bell and Philbin.

Mur­phy said all along that this pick would be his own, choos­ing to over­step the tra­di­tional process of hav­ing the gen­eral man­ager pick the head coach. It was his de­ci­sion to fire McCarthy af­ter 13 years and LaFleur’s se­lec­tion stands to de­fine his legacy on the foot­ball side of the fran­chise.

LaFleur comes to the Pack­ers with con­nec­tions to two of the ar­chi­tects of the of­fen­sive rev­o­lu­tion tak­ing place in the NFL, Sean McVay and Kyle Shana­han, both of whom moved up the ranks to head coach­ing po­si­tions quickly.

McVay be­came the youngest head coach in NFL his­tory when the Los An­ge­les Rams hired him in 2017 and he im­me­di­ately made LaFleur his of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor. Af­ter a year to­gether, LaFleur left so he could get play-call­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and for­ward his ca­reer.

Dur­ing the three years McVay and LaFleur were apart (2014-’16), LaFleur served as quar­ter­backs coach for Brian Kelly at Notre Dame for one sea­son and quar­ter­backs coach for Shana­han in At­lanta. Af­ter the ’16 sea­son, Shana­han took the San Fran­cisco 49ers job, but LaFleur went to work with McVay.

Ac­cord­ing to one source, LaFleur and McVay are very close friends and it’s likely McVay went to bat heartily for LaFleur in dis­cus­sions with Mur­phy and/or gen­eral man­ager Brian Gutekunst.

With LaFleur as quar­ter­backs coach, Matt Ryan won the Most Valu­able Player award in 2016 and ad­vanced to the Su­per Bowl.

A source in Ten­nes­see said LaFleur has the right tem­per­a­ment to work with vet­eran quar­ter­backs like Ryan and now Aaron Rodgers.

Hir­ing LaFleur should al­low t he Pack­ers to re­tain de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Mike Pet­tine, who is un­der con­tract and has ex­pressed a de­sire to stay. It will be LaFleur’s choice, but NFL Net­work re­ported that he told Mur­phy and Gutekunst in his in­ter­view that Pet­tine would be his choice for de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor.

It also means there’s less of a chance that Philbin will be back. LaFleur could tab him as his of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor, but it’s likely he’ll want some­one steeped in his of­fen­sive phi­los­o­phy in that po­si­tion. LaFleur will likely in­ter­view some of the of­fen­sive coaches on ex­ist­ing con­tracts, es­pe­cially highly re­garded of­fen­sive line coach James Cam­pen.

The big­gest ques­tion fac­ing LaFleur is whether he is more than just an of­fen­sive wiz­ard able to help Rodgers re­turn to his old form. LaFleur has just two years’ ex­pe­ri­ence man­ag­ing an en­tire of­fen­sive staff and he sud­denly will be put in a po­si­tion of hav­ing to man­age an en­tire ros­ter.

When the Pack­ers hired McCarthy in ’06, he had been a co­or­di­na­tor and play-caller in the NFL for five sea­sons and had spent con­sid­er­able time work­ing un­der well-re­spected coaches Marty Schot­ten­heimer and Paul Hack­ett.

LaFleur spent four sea­sons work­ing on Mike Shana­han's staff in Wash­ing­ton, learn­ing the two-time Su­per Bowl cham­pion’s West Coast-style of­fense as quar­ter­backs coach. Dur­ing that time, he worked with Dono­van McNabb, Robert Grif­fin III and Kirk Cousins.

“He has a real knack for work­ing with any type of tal­ent he has,” said for­mer Pack­ers de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Bob Slowik, who served with LaFleur for two sea­sons in Wash­ing ton. “I thought he was get­ting the most out of them. He was deal­ing with quar­ter­backs at dif­fer­ent lev­els, and he did a masterful job.”

Slowik said one of the things he re­mem­bered most about LaFleur was his will­ing­ness to talk with any­one to gain more knowl­edge about foot­ball. He said he was not afraid to ap­proach a de­fen­sive coach and ex­pose the fact that he did not have a thor­ough un­der­stand­ing of a spe­cific scheme.

He said LaFleur had the abil­ity to re­late to many dif­fer­ent per­son­al­i­ties and it helped him i n re­la­tion­ships and coach­ing.

“He was one of those guys who would go down the hall and stop in any­one’s of­fice and visit about your thoughts on de­fense,” Slowik said. “A lot of guys will pre­pare for (New Eng­land coach Bill) Belichick, and they might not know what he’s try­ing to do.

“Some guys would be afraid to come to a de­fen­sive coach’s of­fice and ad­mit that. But he wasn’t. He wanted to know what they were do­ing here. He has a lot of hu­mil­ity.”

One league source fa­mil­iar with LaFleur called it a “great hire” and an­other source who worked with him in Ten­nes­see said he will bring an un­der- stand­ing of both sides of the ball.

Ten­nes­see fin­ished 9-7 and missed the play­offs, end­ing the year No. 25 in to­tal of­fense and No. 27 in scor­ing. The Ti­tans were 29th in pass­ing with quar­ter­back Mar­cus Mar­i­ota but sev­enth in the league in rush­ing.

In 2017 in L.A., the Rams fin­ished eighth in the league in rush­ing to go with the No. 10 pass­ing at­tack.

Mur­phy fired McCarthy on Dec. 2 af­ter a stun­ning loss to the Ari­zona Car­di­nals.

Philbin di­rected the team over the fi­nal four games of the reg­u­lar sea­son and in­ter­viewed for the full-time po­si­tion af­ter go­ing 2-2. The Pack­ers fin­ished with a 6-9-1 record, miss­ing the play­offs for the sec­ond straight year.


Matt LaFleur talks with Ti­tans QB Blaine Gab­bert be­fore a game Dec. 30.

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