Cory's Corner: Matt LaFleur Has Passed Every Test

Any kind of adversity doesn't affect this sophomore coach

I've taken a spin around some NFL predictions. 

You'd be surprised by how many I saw that picked the Packers to finish third behind the Vikings and Lions. 

First, let me admit that the Packers played with smoke and mirrors last year. I've heard the expression, "You are what your record says." I totally get that, but the Packers won by seven points or less six times last year. And that includes barely edging the Lions twice. 

Last year, was interesting because it was a feeling out process. None of the players exactly knew how 2019 was going to go with a new head coach and conversely, Matt LaFleur didn't know how well, or if at all, his players would respond to him — mainly because this was LaFleur's maiden voyage as a head coach. 

One of the coolest images from last year was watching Aaron Rodgers hand LaFleur the game ball after the Packers beat the Bears 10-3 in the season opener. Moments after that happened, LaFleur was mobbed by his entire team. You don't see that very often in professional sports. It was amazing how quick this team came together and trusted their new leader and after his first career victory as a head coach — it was proven what LaFleur means to this team. 

And I think the reason that it works so well is because they treat LaFleur like a brother, not like their dad that they constantly have to watch over their shoulder. 

These guys are playing loose and having fun — two qualities that LaFleur promotes and expects. Mike McCarthy had plenty of Ted Talks about having fun, but I doubt the message was ever received. 

LaFleur has passed his toughest test so far — and they haven't played a game yet. COVID-19 affected the entire offseason schedule, yet LaFleur never flinched and continued to go about his work as he made sure not to dwell on the pandemic that was constantly knocking on his door. 

He has sidestepped all of the draft day drama involving Rodgers and Jordan Love and has made the entire locker room the same laughing and loud place that players were used to last year. 

I also like that LaFleur has stressed tempo this offseason. He wants quickness, crispness and things happening right now. He knows that he has a quarterback that can descramble a defense very quickly, so there's no need to wait to let that side of the ball catch up. If the defense is on its heels, let them continually be on its heels as Rodgers hurries up to the line of scrimmage. 

And transforming to more of a play-action style, is a great move because of Rodgers' mastery of it.

LaFleur has handled every challenge with aplomb and this year it doesn't get any easier with four tough tests to start the season. 

I wasn't sure about LaFleur when he was hired. I didn't know how he'd be received and I wasn't sure if he could handle tight situations. 

He has easily answered all of those questions. 

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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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Comments (40)

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Hematite's picture

September 08, 2020 at 07:13 am

Great spirit building piece!
Thank you for that.
I'm looking forward to seeing MLF build off of his very successful first year as an NFL head coach

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RCPackerFan's picture

September 08, 2020 at 07:19 am

I do feel like last year had a bit of smoke and mirrors to it. Just because a few games could have went either way. We were definitely playing with house money in the playoffs.
That being said, the Packers don't get enough credit for last year. They earned the wins. They came out on top in 13 games. Can't complain about that at all!

I'm really looking forward to seeing more of what LaFleur's offense will look like in year 2. Now that he has had a year to work with Rodgers and get a feel for the entire offense.
What I think we will see is a little more versatility. I think Ervin will have a big role in the offense. Deguara will eventually have a very versatile role as well. More emphasis on the play action. More RB's on the field together.
I do think our WR's will step up and make a big impact this year. Lazard and MVS I think take a big step. Which will really allow LaFleur to open his playbook more.

I'm ready to see what this season brings. With the year it has been, I'm ready for some football. Hopefully it will be a good year!

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Spock's picture

September 08, 2020 at 07:32 am

Cory, I'm not usually a fan of your articles but I really enjoyed this one (especially the game ball link which I missed seeing last year). It's been hard to get excited about this season as I honestly didn't think it would happen. I'm hoping they put some cardboard cutouts (when the games are at Lambeau) with bare chested out of shape guys trying to spell something with their bodies just to make it feel more real :). NOW I'm ready for some football!

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 09, 2020 at 03:32 am

The other thing was no preseason games, at least for me. I like roster construction. Even during the seventies, I could watch young players and form opinions. Yeah, I was pretty high on Antrel Rolle a few years back. This year I had to base my opinions on the tweets of media observers so it is less personal for me.

Every year there is also a slight let down after the 53 is announced for me. In TC, I can think the OL looks good and has some depth with Spriggs, Taylor, Rotherham , whatever, but when the 53 comes out, there might be just one guy out of the three I liked as depth. Not as excited then.

This year I didn't have much of a letdown but that's also because I wasn't terribly excited about any of the bubble guys save a few that were returning players like Tonyan.

It is going to be a weird year. For the first few games of the season, I am going to lean towards picking teams with the best coaches in toss-up games.

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dobber's picture

September 08, 2020 at 07:40 am

Let's not overlook that the Packers brought in some quality, veteran leaders to help shepherd the locker room in very positive ways. Those kinds of guys can be a new coach's best assets. Some people around here were calling him "Matty Nice" and questioning whether he had what it takes to corral the team he inherited. LaF was smart enough to lean on those guys to help update the atmosphere and quell some of the toxicity that was lingering from the MM era. Sometimes it's not about running extra burners and yelling louder...

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CheesyTex's picture

September 08, 2020 at 10:21 am

Let's also not overlook the value of having a defensive coordinator in place (who himself had been a head coach) to provide some continuity and stability.

That said, MLF achieved one helluva (unexpected) turn around last year. So far, so good!

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murf7777's picture

September 08, 2020 at 01:02 pm

I agree about consistency with Pettine, let’s hope he can get the D to another level. If we are going to achieve similar or better results in the season and playoffs they will need to make a jump to the Top 5.

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Tundraboy's picture

September 08, 2020 at 10:36 am

Exactly. Dozen Cookies for you. Chocolate Chip of course.

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dobber's picture

September 08, 2020 at 12:50 pm

Cheers, TB!

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

September 08, 2020 at 07:39 am

"I also like that LaFleur has stressed tempo this offseason."

This is a big deal to me. I hope he really has. It seemed like Mac talked about it but was never able to fix it. I hope MLF can actually make the offense work fast. I just have a feeling that especially early in this season that might be a nice advantage.

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murf7777's picture

September 08, 2020 at 09:24 am

I agree, although some of Rodgers best asset is reading a D and making adjustments at the LOS. That said, fast pace for a series or two keeps a defense off balance and can change momentum quickly. I’m hoping as well that in year two they have it mastered.

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

September 08, 2020 at 10:57 am

I'm OK with a slow tempo on plays when needed, just not every play.

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Branden Burke's picture

September 08, 2020 at 02:21 pm

I've never seen a team run as fast of a pace as I recall New England running on Green Bay a year or two ago. I would love to see some of that.

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Tundraboy's picture

September 08, 2020 at 10:38 am

Yes! And hopefully the whole running the clock down and making the other Ds job easier will be a distant memory.

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Guam's picture

September 08, 2020 at 07:53 am

I think MLF passed most of his tests and generally did a terrific job for a first year coach. However MLF and his staff were outcoached in the most important game of their first year (NFCCG). I would like to see MLF make a "second year jump" too.

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Daren726's picture

September 08, 2020 at 08:07 am

Only thing I wish Lafleur, and Gute for that matter, did more is share a little bit of what they really think. It seems now that we just get a answer to questions that’s a bunch of fluff. No real information. I know that’s because they’re worried about other teams finding out information, but come on guys, not everything‘s a big secret.

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murf7777's picture

September 08, 2020 at 09:25 am

You mean similar to how Belichick runs his team~

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Stroh's picture

September 08, 2020 at 11:46 am

Its coach speak and every coach does it. Some better than others. They answer questions w/o really answering them. The better a coach uses it, generally equates to a better coach. Get over it and get used to it.

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Coldworld's picture

September 08, 2020 at 08:41 am

In my view this is premature. We have yet to see LaFleur’s vision manifest in games. The true measure of the man as a coach won’t be known until we do. Last year he was mauled by his mentor and the 49ers: completely out coached. This year we saw him shape the team to more closely imitate that team and it’s philosophy. Only when he shows he can deliver with that strategy and match his mentor in direct competition and results do I think we can anoint him.

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dobber's picture

September 08, 2020 at 09:21 am

Shanahan has mauled the Packers since he was OC in Atlanta...

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PackfanNY's picture

September 08, 2020 at 08:53 am

I am a big fan of Coach LaFleur. However, to say he “has passed his toughest test so far” is wildly inaccurate. The Packers were blasted twice by the 49ers and were completely out schemed in both games. The most disturbing part was that the Packers knew what was coming in the 2nd game (NFCCG) and it was a worse showing than the first. Getting past San Francisco will be his toughest test. He is 0-2 so far.

Again, I fully support the Coach. The Packers have a visit to San Francisco again this season. They can flip the script. They (49ers) have the better team. Can LaFleur and staff close the gap? Time will tell.

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Stroh's picture

September 08, 2020 at 12:10 pm

This is pretty much how I feel, except it's good to remember that SF has been drafting in the top 10 for almost a decade while the Packers are consistently drafting in the bottom 10. They have a pretty big edge in talent simply by virtue of that top 10 draft position.

For the Packers to win, they need to make it more of a Rodgers vs Jimmy G kind of game. If/when they can get in that situation, the Packers have a big edge. Rodgers in the NFCCG game also had 2 huge game changing turnovers that the couldn't recover from. Keep it close w/in 3 pts and see who can pull it out in the end. I'll take my chanced w/ Rodgers in that situation. They weren't ever been in position last year to get to that.

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baldski's picture

September 09, 2020 at 01:04 am

I agree Stroh, about the Niner's draft position. After the NFCCG, I delved into their offensive and defensive lines and discovered that they had 7 (Seven) First Round picks between them. Bound to give them an edge.

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Tingham's picture

September 08, 2020 at 03:00 pm

This was a good read. I have also scanned the predictions and most writers have the Packers making a significant regression. The stain of the NFC Championship game erased the fact that our 14th win was against a very good Seattle team. Most of these same prognosticators have them doing great this year. Looking forward to some FOOTBALL!

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Tundraboy's picture

September 08, 2020 at 10:39 am

I'm ready. Go Pack Go!

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murf7777's picture

September 08, 2020 at 10:42 am

The NFL has great parity and it's anyone's guess as to teams records. IMO, the best way to make an educated guess is that teams whom have a "franchise QB" normally and highly likely will have a winning record. I'm betting on the Packers to have a winning record. Ha, now I really put myself out there!

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TarynsEyes's picture

September 08, 2020 at 10:58 am

I see many are back to 'Crowning' ceremonies before a crown is merited or deserved, but based rather, on the premise of someone passing a test that really hasn't been taken and passed.

Last year the Packers won 13 games for many obvious reasons and with many of those reasons not on the positive check list and with a huge one being in spite of MLF, and his inability to get his DC to alter his run defense when it was highly necessary.

The test in which is spoken to in this article may be this season, one which a previous system for readiness has been tossed aside will prove the value, poise and credibility of one's plan/scheme or used as excuse for any and all failings.

By all means be a supporter and maintain a real level of optimism and leave the crowning or anointing locked in the safe until it really has been earned and merited to wear.

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murf7777's picture

September 08, 2020 at 11:52 am

Ah Taryn, but it’s so fun to make a prediction regardless of outcome....you should give it a try, you might like it!

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scullyitsme's picture

September 08, 2020 at 12:06 pm

Thank you eeyore, I mean tarynfor.

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Ferrari-Driver's picture

September 08, 2020 at 03:07 pm

You do make some valid points. Thanks for your input.

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PatrickGB's picture

September 08, 2020 at 12:11 pm

MLF took a losing team to the NFC playoffs in his first year. That’s pretty good. I can’t fuss about that.

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splitpea1's picture

September 08, 2020 at 12:21 pm

I definitely like the "crispness" part of this, especially when it comes to the passing game. Let's see if the receivers can get open fast enough and AR willing to get rid of the ball in a timely fashion to make this happen. It makes everybody's job on the offense easier. Move those chains!

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murf7777's picture

September 08, 2020 at 12:33 pm

On other news, Aaron Jones stated today it’s likely his agent will negotiate a contract soon with the Packers. I was hoping for Bak to come first. This continues to show the direction the Packers O is headed. Hope it leaves room to keep Bak.

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Coldworld's picture

September 08, 2020 at 02:40 pm

Or it shows that we can’t afford Bakh given the projected cap shrinkage. Could our future be Nijman, Turner, and draft picks?

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 09, 2020 at 03:48 am

Or that Bakh's deal can't be structured as an extension and instead has to be a re-signing in February. And that might depend on the NFL getting this season to work well revenue-wise or at least get great ratings so the cap takes a big jump in 2022.

Would Bakh take a deal that gave him just a couple of million in cash in 2021 if it had an enormous guaranteed option bonus in 2022? Maybe some money guaranteed in 2023, though that might be essentially guaranteed by the dead money hit from the enormous 2022 option bonus? IDK.

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Ferrari-Driver's picture

September 08, 2020 at 03:05 pm

There is nothing like winning to promote an atmosphere of team unity and chemistry.
While I am both hopeful and optimistic that we have the right head coach, I think it is prudent for me to wait at least two more years before declaring him the next coming of Lombardi or the next Belichick. He has yet to face real adversity and he currently has a hall of fame QB at the helm. All of us will have a better gauge of his ability post Rodgers.
That being said, all Packer football fans, me included, should be thankful and impressed by the performance and record of this team under the leadership of our new head coach.

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flackcatcher's picture

September 08, 2020 at 03:26 pm

Will Matt LaFleur turn out to be a Mike Sherman or Mike McCarthy is still unknown. Two points: Though no fault of his own, MLF ended in the middle of a really nasty war between the Packers president and the Packers general manager. Being able to successfully build trust between himself and GM Gute in the aftermath reflects highly on him. Two: For most of last season he put his team in position to win. Even with a good team, that is hard to do giving the parity in the league. The 49ers and Chargers loses had more to do with lack of personnel depth and inexperience on his part than anything else. He'll learn to better manage his team, and listen to the more veteran coaches on his staff this year. And his ability to reel in Aaron Rodgers when Rodgers was on the verge of going 'full Farve' mid season says a great deal about his management skills. One last point: It should be remembered that MLF does not have the power Mike Sherman and Mike McCarthy had. Indeed, MLF may be one of the weakest head coaches in the NFL as he does not have the power to hire or fire players or assistant coaches. In the Packers power structure, all power and responsibility for football decisions lies with their General Manager. And he should not get a pass if he fails to upgrade or get the necessary support for his team to win.

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Stroh's picture

September 08, 2020 at 10:26 pm

What the hell you talking about? There was no war between Murphy and Thompson or Gutey. Quite making crap up!

Gutey and LaFleur have an excellent working relationship.

There were no issues with Rodgers mid season either.

Get a Clue!

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 09, 2020 at 04:09 am

I have no doubt that Murphy made a successful power grab. Gute didn't know he didn't have all of TT's authority until after he accepted the job. LaFleur has less authority than MM had.

But 13-3 will do wonders after Murphy insisted on trotting MM out for one last season, which turned out to be a 6-9-1 year. Murphy had to sign-off on acquiring four big free agents in 2019, but 6-9-1 despite a healthy AR will do wonders for that. LaFleur was a first-time HC and not really a hot commodity so he couldn't expect too much authority, and he didn't get it in terms of hiring his own coaches. But Gute has been drafting for fit/scheme so LaFleur shouldn't have too many issues there. Plus 13-3 will smooth a lot of waters.

I don't know if there was a cold war, but it seems like it never became a hot war. Murphy let Gute do what Gute wanted to do in 2019 and Gute accommodated LaFleur pretty well in the 2020 draft, if arguably not as much in the 2019 draft.

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Stroh's picture

September 08, 2020 at 10:26 pm

I like LaFleur plenty. Seems to be a good coach as I expected. But its a bit too early to be heaping any platitudes on him. His team got humiliated in the biggest games last year.

As usual the person writing is off base. What else is new.

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