LaFleur was the wrong hire for Green Bay, and Packers fans aren’t taking the new coach lying down. But LaFleur is a good fit in L.A., where he can work with Jared Goff to build him up as an MVP-caliber QB2.
The “packers coaches” is a question that has been asked for years. The answer should not be found in the “silly narrative” surrounding the Packers’ Matt LaFleur.
GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN – Myth No. 1 about Green Bay Packers coach Matt LaFleur: He’ll always be remembered for kicking the game-winning field goal on fourth-and-goal from the 8-yard line with 2:09 remaining in the NFC Championship Game last year.
Former NFL quarterback Matt Hasselbeck remarked, “That is a foolish, silly myth.”
Myth No. 2: LaFleur only succeeds because he has Aaron Rodgers at his disposal.
“Quite simply, the way we dismiss what’s going on there is unjust,” former NFL MVP Rich Gannon remarked.
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Those titles have been slapped on the 42-year-old LaFleur, who is in his third season as the Packers’ head coach.
That might change in the near future.
A third straight 13-win season and the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs, in a year that began with doubts about Rodgers’ return and included a slew of injuries and COVID-19 cases, might finally convince those who had doubts about LaFleur, as well as those who vote for The Associated Press Coach of the Year.
“I’ve been calling him coach of the year for two months,” said Dan Orlovsky, a former NFL quarterback who now serves as an ESPN commentator. “At the start of the season, I said, ‘Because of all the distractions, this is a championship roster, not a championship squad.’ He’s dealt with all of these setbacks, as well as all of the ailments.
“In the middle of all that — and simply the way the team is playing, it’s not only Aaron passing for 50 touchdowns like he did last year — he’s the coach of the year.”
The ‘weird, weird story’
ESPN’s analytics team rated the coaches who made the greatest fourth-down choices during their tenure with their current club late in the regular season.
LaFleur was ranked second. Only Kliff Kingsbury of the Arizona Cardinals was rated higher.
|* First club to have three seasons of 13 wins in a row.|
|* Most victories by a head coach in his first three seasons|
|* Second only to K.C. in offensive efficiency.|
|** Info provided by ESPN Stats & Info|
LaFleur was rated No. 7 among 32 coaches by the website EdjSports.com, which analyzed all fourth-down decisions during the season. Even though Rodgers threw incomplete on fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line with 3:26 remaining against Arizona in Week 8, it placed his choice to go for it on fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line with 3:26 left as the second-best decision of the season among all fourth-down calls. It did, however, penalize LaFleur for one of the top ten worst mistakes of his career, a fourth-and-6 punt from his own 42 with 2:14 remaining against the Browns on Christmas Day.
To this day, LaFleur believes he made the right call in the final minutes of the NFC title game. The field goal cut the Buccaneers’ lead to five points and gave his defense the chance to get the ball back. The problem was Tom Brady & Co. never gave it back.
After the game, LaFleur’s quarterback expressed doubt about the decision, stating, “I felt maybe we were going to have four opportunities to go.”
“I adore Aaron Rodgers as much as anybody,” Hasselbeck, who is now an ESPN commentator, said. “But that’s a foolish thing to say, because Aaron, you had opportunities on first, second, and third down.” Let’s not consider that one play in isolation. Let’s take a look at each of the four plays.”
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Late last month, one example came to me. LaFleur had initially planned a workout for that Tuesday due to the Browns’ Saturday game on Christmas Day. He postponed practice and instead did walk-throughs all week after several seasoned players on his leadership council expressed their worries.
“These folks have my trust,” LaFleur remarked. “Usually, when they come to me with anything, I can absorb what they say and make a pretty good choice in our team’s best interest.”
This is also true of his coaches.
“When I see Green Bay’s pass defense, I see [defensive backs coach] Jerry Gray doing what he does best,” Hasselbeck said. “And that necessitates allowing his abrasive nature to flourish. Some head coaches don’t like it when players say things like “we’re going to attempt to score on defense.” I feel LaFleur has given his assistant coaches room to grow.”
LaFleur’s 39 victories are the most by a head coach in the NFL in his first three seasons, and that type of success can’t be ascribed only to having a terrific quarterback. Getty Images/Patrick McDermott
At 5:45 a.m., I went to the gym.
Even though LaFleur was exhausted before the game began, he managed to pull it off. Coaches and players are expected to arrive to training camp in good shape. After months of worry about Rodgers, LaFleur felt everything but.
LaFleur wanted to make sure he was mentally alert before proceeding. As a result, he formed an early morning training group with various coaches and scouts. He reasoned that if he could be physically fit, he’d be psychologically well as well.
In a late-season interview, LaFleur noted, “This is the best I’ve done in terms of working out in my time here.” “So we have a group that meets every morning at 5:45 a.m. for around 30-45 minutes of exercise.”
It has undoubtedly improved LaFleur’s coaching abilities.
“I’d say I’m a lot less tense about a lot of things now,” LaFleur remarked. “I’m more at ease.”
“I’m certainly more at ease in my own skin.” I believe you grow into the position, or at least I did. So I’m more at ease in my own skin, but I also have a lot of faith and confidence in the people around me, and then you let them go.”
It was the injuries and COVID cases that kept him in the office late this season. The offensive line had been decimated. They were down to one of their chosen starters at one point. While recovering from ACL surgery in January, their best player, left tackle David Bakhtiari, didn’t play a snap until Week 18. They were missing their two top defensive players for the most of the season (cornerback Jaire Alexander and outside linebackers Za’Darius Smith), while Rodgers and Adams each missed a game due to COVID. In the middle of it all, there was a ruckus about the quarterback’s immunization status.
Despite this, LaFleur is 39-10 in his first three seasons, with the most regular-season victories of any NFL coach.
“I don’t believe he’s bothered by anything,” Gannon added. “He’s capable of dealing with anything.”
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The “matt lafleur” is a coach of the year? Look beyond the “silly narrative” surrounding the Packers’ Matt LaFleur.
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