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Cory's Corner: Matt LaFleur Is Evolving

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Cory's Corner: Matt LaFleur Is Evolving

Having and choosing the right personnel for certain situations is vital. Instead of boxing players into “positions” it makes a lot more sense to play them solely based on matchups and what they can do well.

“You need guys that are at a certain area of expertise, and then its our job as coaches to put those guys into position where they can showcase that skill set,” said Packers coach Matt LaFleur this week during OTAs. 

That may mean that Davante Adams, Geronimo Allison and Equanimeous St. Brown are the top three wideouts next fall. However, in certain situations maybe Marquez Valdes-Scantling or even Trevor Davis would be better options. 

All this does is prove that LaFleur has an open mind. There are still 61 days until training camp opens with a new regime, a revamped roster and as always, high expectations. 

Think back for a moment. What was the No. 1 complaint about former coach Mike McCarthy? The one thing that I kept seeing and hearing was how stale things had gotten and how he was resistant to change. Even though McCarthy dubbed himself “A highly successful NFL head coach,” he was a case study in how coaches and players need to evolve in this league. Teams get figured out quickly, which is why coaches must be constantly reinventing themselves. 

“It’s more concept driven, not necessarily slot versus outside receiver,” LaFleur said. “Are you asking the guy to run a choice route, or are you asking him to take the top off and run a vertical route?”

That may not seem like much, but I think it’s huge. LaFleur is open to playing anyone that fits what Green Bay is doing at that particular moment. And with constant news attention, it has become easy for us to be prisoners of the moment. 

LaFleur knows how important his job is. He understands that Aaron Rodgers doesn’t age like Benjamin Button and will turn 36 in December. He doesn’t have time to waste on a philosophy that is “My way is the only way.” He has been around. He has learned from Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay — arguably two of the best offensive minds in the game right now. 

LaFleur is a smart guy. He knows that the Packers fan base expects to win solely because of No. 12. Fair or unfair, those have been the expectations each year simply because the quarterback is the best passer in the game. 

This just means that he is willing to find any winning combination possible. If he knows that certain receivers run a route better or can beat an opposing defensive back consistently, that player should get more snaps. I don’t care if the new receiver is giving up height and speed. If he can make an impact on a game, he deserves to play. 

And speaking of impact, I’ve always wondered about Marcedes Lewis. He was one of the better blockers on the team last year, yet McCarthy refused to play him. According to Pro Football Focus, Lewis only played 98 offensive snaps through the first nine weeks. Lewis only played 18 percent of the Packers’ snaps last year, only 40 more than Ty Montgomery who was traded on Oct. 30. 

That isn’t going to happen anymore. If a player can make an impact, he’s going to play, no questions asked. Which is kind of how it’s supposed to be isn’t it?

This is especially great news for a receiving corps that is largely unproven. There are a handful of guys that can find solace in LaFleur’s words because at least it gives them a glimmer of hope of contributing this year. 

The best way to improve or stay consistent is to continually evolve. The Patriots have evolved from a vertical passing game in 2007 with Randy Moss to a short passing game that is reliant on the run. You either evolve or you get left behind. 

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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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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (48) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Nick Perry's picture

"He knows that the Packers fan base expects to win solely because of No. 12. Fair or unfair, those have been the expectations each year simply because the quarterback is the best passer in the game. "

Hmmm... Interesting take Cory.... I would have said that was true in previous years and to some extent it still holds true. With that said I no longer expect to win just because of Rodgers. Now I expect to win because of a coaching staff with new ideas and concepts, a better O-Line, a HC with a commitment to the run game, obviously Rodgers, AND one hell of a NASTY Defense with a much improved coaching staff and roster on that side of the ball.

Oh... And we STILL have Rodgers. A highly motivated Rodgers who you best believe had read every bit of negative press it seems everybody had written about him this past offseason. That "Chip" is definitely back!

Joshua65's picture

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Duneslick's picture

Again Ban joshua65

KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

NP
Great post!

I second that!

blondy45's picture

Ditto from me too, NP!

Coldworld's picture

What he is really saying is look at individual players and see how you can best utilize their particular skills. So If a route design suits player B better than player A use player B. Hardly a radical concept but so far removed from MM’s “fit the player into the system” mindset. I hope it’s true.

Doug_In_Sandpoint's picture

A potential problem could be that the personnel then tips off the play. If it is assessed that Trevor Davis is really good at going deep, then the fact that TD is on the field means he is going deep. But Lefleur being flexible notes this and goes against TD’s strength having him run a slant. But Adams is better at slants, so he is substituted for the slant, which the defenders now know is coming. AR sees the defenders are about to jump the slant so he audibles to Jones on a wheel route. This makes my head hurt. It would probably be best to just keep Trevor Davis on the bench where he belongs.

Ferrari Driver's picture

Doug, it sounds like you would like him have his receivers run their weaker routes. If Davis can run a decent slant and catch the ball in traffic, I see little chance for success on that particular play.

Ferrari Driver's picture

I mean't "can't".

Coldworld's picture

Personally, I think this is why we won’t see Davis or a Davis type on the field. We are going to see interchangeable players.

TheBigCheeze's picture

ferrari......did you know that you can use the (edit) function on your comment, so as to not have to post a "correction comment"?......you're welcome......

packerbackerjim's picture

Not available to some of us, Big Cheese. Nor can I register Thumbs Up/Down. I’ve accepted this as just a quirk.

TheBigCheeze's picture

sandpoint......or....how about putting in Davis as a decoy?

jannes bjornson's picture

How about just cutting Davis.

Firstdown's picture

Trevor Davis belongs on the bench? Cut Davis? Hahaha.

LaFleur probably had thought that Davis was just a return man. By now, after several days of OTAs, LaFleur has discovered that Davis is a hell of a receiver, too. A possession receiver who's also fast and elusive. Best of both worlds. He'll fit in perfectly with what LaFleur is going to do.

Not only is TDavis making the team, I guarantee you that he'll get a LOT of snaps this year. In his senior year in college Davis led all power 5 conference receivers in yards after catch averaging 9.5 yards YAC per catch his senior year (while playing the 11th hardest schedule). Beat all the rest of the hotshots by a mile.

A slant is right up his wheelhouse. Get him the ball and he's gone. LaFleur is licking his chops with the possibilities of getting Davis the ball. All you Trevor Davis haters are going to be changing your tune.

Coldworld's picture

I see you believe in miracles.

Firstdown's picture

Haha Coldworld, you never know. Be sure to get TDavis in your Fantasy League.

wildbill's picture

Not a Davis hater but I have taped numerous Packer games from the last few years and the one thing that really sticks out to me is his inability to break tackles. His YAC surely must be speed/quickness dependent as I can’t remember the last WR that is so easily brought down by an arm tackle. Not my call but with the 53 man roster positions being so valuable I would like to see our return men to be useful in either offense or defense and I really don’t see what he brings to the table other than speed.

blondy45's picture

Davis will NOT make the final 53, he is toast.

IceBowl's picture

Lets not forget, with all our optimism, that 30 some players will be cut/released, Some will be WR's.

Bure9620's picture

Trevor Davis will not be on the 53. He cannot go deep because he cannot beat press.

Lare's picture

The most heartening thing to me is to see an organization that is now willing to do what is necessary to win. The last regime was stuck in its ways and was not willing to change their ways of doing things even if it meant losing games.

As in anything in life- you're either moving backward, standing still or moving forward. After moving backwards and standing still for a number of years, I think the Packers are now moving forward again.

Rossonero's picture

I'd argue that the Packers are finally adapting.

I'm sure the previous regime thought they were "moving forward" too, but it's all a matter of opinion. In reality they weren't moving anywhere.

Adapt or die. The Packers are finally adapting.

PatrickGB's picture

And I think that Rodgers needs to evolve a bit as well. Maybe it was the previous scheme but AR seemed to prefer the long ball on extended or broken plays. He eschewed the short quick throw to an open receiver for a short gain. In a true WCO those throws are the bread and butter of that offense. I hope that the new offense encourages Rodgers to trust it and to make those throws and zone runs more often and not check out of it as often as it was reported that he did with MMs offense.

Tundraboy's picture

I agree about last year but I don't think Rodgers is stupid. I think a lot of it had to be Rodger's knew he had to, thinking let me go for it now, McCarthy's only going to call consecutive run up the miiddle,3 yard pass plays afterwards so I might as well try to get some yards now.

Coldworld's picture

I agree I think. Last year the scheme, calling, coach and QB were all out of synch. We probably need to just press reset and see how all this comes together.

flackcatcher's picture

After the Detroit game, I knew either McCarthy or Rodgers had to go. I worry that despite everything that went wrong, Rodgers will revert back to type and start slinging the ball on vertical plays he again draws up on the field. But that is something to worry about another day. I too am looking forward to how the new coaching, play calling, and offensive scheme comes together.

Qoojo's picture

I don't think it was MM's play calling that did him in, it was the basic and easily defended routes. I think that's why Rodgers held onto the ball longer. Then that fed into his always wanting to hit the deep ball, and ignoring the shorter sure plays when wide open.

sam1's picture

I hope expectations by fans aren't too high this early on. Will be interesting to see where it all plays out above or below .500! I would guess 8-9 wins tops!

Rossonero's picture

I'll say we go 10-6 and get a wildcard spot.

Samson's picture

You need to examine GB's potential 53-man roster for 2019 more closely. --- The talent, experience & athletic ability is far beyond last season (already). -- Gute may not be done improving the roster before the "Bear Beat-Down" come September.

I see GB at 6-2 at the halfway mark. --- How well the Pack does in the 5 road games the 2nd half of the season will determine if they are a #1 or #2 seed in the NFC in season 2019.

stockholder's picture

Cory= The one thing that I kept seeing and hearing was how stale things had gotten and how he was resistant to change. = The problem with MM wasn't assumptions. It was talent. The Defense was pathetic. Capers and TT failed MM. He was forced to play late picks. And any discard TT could find. Gute changed this defense, for Pettine and Lefleur. MM was sequestered. We heard the rumors. We saw the insubordination. We saw the effort, and lack of. We saw the losing. The changes for Lefleur have been for the better. Something even I never dreamed would happen. Investment has come to Green Bay! Yes Lefleur is are man. Change motivates everyone. But making him the next Vince Lombardi is the wrong image. Evolving doesn't win. The players do. Bringing in solid starters was all MM asked for. The Players even spoke up. Rodgers' quote. We need to reload! Mathews Quote was depth! Capers being fired. It was TTs place, to replace the players MM kept losing. MM went the chemistry route. The answer wasn't MMs failure to evolve. It was talent.

Johnblood27's picture

...and what MM did with it...

He was not blameless, as you suggest.

His stubborness extended to his putrid coaching staff.

MM had run his "highly successful" course and needed to be put out to pasture. He was. Nuff said.

stockholder's picture

Putrid? No replacement for Collins , Woodson,Bishop, Finley, Green etc. The change in OLs. Especially Center. And the injuries and regression of Pickett, Raji, Nelson,, Jones and Cobb. The draft busts. Seems some pretty good talent was never replaced. No Depth. When you look at great coaches, it's about the depth. And how many suspensions and notifications, did MM deal with? If lefleur wins a Super Bowl. Then fine. MM was not blameless.

Coldworld's picture

It was, I believe, a combination of both.

There is no doubt that the cumulative roster construction problems seriously impacted what MM was able to do. The more one looks back, the more it seems like the FO and coaching staff were reading from different scripts for a handful of years.

That said, MM became increasingly stuck in a rut and inflexible in his approach to play and players. He did not evolve with the game, indeed it seems like everything was an attempt to jam players into a largely set scheme and to apply that regardless of opponent.

Put these two trends together and you hit a wall. We did. We have been digging out of that the last two off seasons in terms of roster. This off season we have a new Coaching staff and scheme on, I think, D as well as O. Normally that would suggest a year of growing pains, but I’m hopeful that the only way is up from the confused mess that was of last season.

wildbill's picture

I think the proof in MM’s staleness is despite his success nobody was knocking down his door for a HC or OC position. Back to back hall of fame QBs would make a lot of coaches look good. Not a MM hater but just saying.

blondy45's picture

It was a combination of lack of talent, but more importantly MM not being able to use what he did have. He had Rodgers, who is a sure Hall of Fame QB. He did not get along with Rodgers, was it stubbornness or not able to use one of the best players in the NFL. Poor game management. How many times the Pack just needed to run out the clock, or go for it to secure a win, or just identify a defense's weakness to have a go to play? He failed more than he won close games. You can only win so many games with the Hail Mary as your go to play. As wildbill stated, no one is begging MM to come in and revive another NFL team. MM was used up, and needed to be sent packing. Even when Green Bay did have a talented roster, MM still found a way to lose. The Pack had talent, with only one Super Bowl to show for it, pathetic. Go Matt LaFleur! Show the Pack the way UP!

flackcatcher's picture

Nah............ MM is not blameless by a long shot. But just as building a successful organization is a team effort, so is failure too. The striping down of a power house at 1265 started with the decisions made by packer president Mark Murphy back in late 2014, starting with the decision not to take Ted Thompson's retirement as packer GM in 2015. From there, is was all down hill till to today. Those decisions were only questioned in the last 6 months by those above Murphy, but by then, the damage had been done. All in all, the past season exposed a pretty awful picture of what was one of the best run organizations in all of professional sports. MM time had run out. But Murphy has FUBARed the situation beyond any chance of salvage. And those both inside and outside 1265 do deserve an answer as how the Packers got so bad inside a very short amount of time.

flackcatcher's picture

And by bad, I mean current by Packer standards. (Personally, I blame Jerry Jones..........:)

Handsback's picture

Cory, good write up and especially insightful with this statement...

"This just means that he is willing to find any winning combination possible. If he knows that certain receivers run a route better or can beat an opposing defensive back consistently, that player should get more snaps. I don’t care if the new receiver is giving up height and speed. If he can make an impact on a game, he deserves to play."

My understanding on the pros is if your starters couldn't do it you tried another path. Instead of if your starters can't do it, change your players. Seems minor but that is a difference between the pros and college from what I've been told. As an example, you know the other team's CBs bite on the first move, you incorporate a lot of double move routes. Your starting wideouts don't do double moves very good. In college, they get their double move wideouts that are smaller and slower and play them a lot. In the pros they use the same starters and try to either have them do double moves or plan for another way to attack.

Red Foreman's picture

Thumbs up for ‘Benjamin Button’ reference.

Since '61's picture

The first ingredient for winning is talent. Since 2014 and maybe as far back as 2011 the talent level on the roster was declining, especially on the defense. Some of the decline was due to later round draft picks, some due to injuries (Collins), some due to FA losses (Jenkins), and some due to failure to utilize FA.

The next key ingredient is the health of the roster. I’m not trying to give MM or TT a pass but there were at 2-3 seasons where the Packers had double digit numbers of starters on IR. There just was not enough depth to make up for it unless Rodgers was playing at an MVP level and he was often playing through injuries as well.

The 3rd ingredient is coaching/scheme/attitude etc. However this is dependent on the level of talent and health of the players. The Packers roster has had a talent infusion during the last 2 years because of their sub-500 records. Gute has also utilized FA to fill some of the gaps on the roster. I don’t know if MLF is evolving but the roster appears to be evolving in terms of the talent level. Hopefully MLF and the roster can successfully evolve together. Time will tell. Thanks, Since ‘61

Doug_In_Sandpoint's picture

“The Packers roster has had a talent infusion over the past two years because of two sub-.500 records.” Thanks Since 61. I’ve been saying this for years in the opposite way. It is really tough (and is the hallmark of an NFL outlier), to win consistently over time. The system is rigged against excellence because the best teams pick later and end up draining talent. This is an intentional design feature that very few have been able to buck (Pats, Steelers, Pack, and maybe the Seahawks). Similarly, you need to be extra-inept to stay bad for over a decade. The wild swings from 2-14 laughing stock to winning records and back is the norm (Cards, Giants, Rams, Bears, maybe Browns).

I’ll take the Packer’s situation and history any day over just about any other club out there. If 2 barely sub .500 seasons every 10 years restocks the shelves I am on board.

LambeauPlain's picture

I expect the O will go through some growing pains early in the season.

I also expect the D will pick up the slack and help them get some wins that ordinarily would have become a losing effort.

The FA's and draft class have infused some great talent...but what also foreshadows a good team...perhaps a very good team by playoff time is the infusion of coaching talent, especially on the defense. Getting Hunt to coach the OLBs was outstanding replacing the malcontent teacher's pet Sir Winston Moss....he must have had pictures on MM or something.

jannes bjornson's picture

Mike Smith.

ricky's picture

Its not just MLF. Its also Gutekunst, who, like Wolf before him, showed a willingness to pay money for guys who would help the team immediately. Its Pettine, who seems to be willing to adapt his defense to the team he's facing, and is making things a bit simpler. Its also MLF, though. He is the "new broom", the "breath of fresh air", the "fresh young face". He has more energy, more creativity and more willingness to listen. At least for now. Remember, MM used to be the guy who was unpredictable, the guy who came up with ways to attack specific opponents weakness and strengths. Will the same thing happen to MLF? Or will he, like Belichick, seem to find a fresh way to beat you, mostly with guys who will never go to the Pro Bowl, but who do their job and don't make mistakes, year after year?

IceBowl's picture

Rhetoric is fine, expected and is "the story" in these dog days of football.

Looking back, all coaches and GMs are branded with their "bad" decisions. But i have never seen one of those decisions made with anything but the idea of helping the team. And there are so many reasons why those attempts to improve the team have failed.

TT and MM surely did not try to hurt the Pack. There are many reasons why a few of their decisions did not work out. There is money, injuries, salary cap, location, and "want to,", etc, etc. But I have not seen one piece of evidence to show they did not have the Pack foremost in their plans. We were lucky to have them.

But they are the past, time to let them go, and now move on to figure our present and future.

Guty and MLF are doing their best too. High optimism now, just as when we got TT and MM. 10 years from now they will probably be judged just as crappy as TT and MM, with all the mistakes and staleness they give the Pack.

Point is the NFL is not static.

Rick Norman's picture

IMO what really made me feel MM had lost something was how utterly unprepared our backup QB’s were when the team needed them the most. As a HC with a QB guru rep MM and the coaching staff failed to get Hundley to the point he could even run the offense most of the time. Kizer hasn’t made much of an improvement either and this might be his last chance to do so in GB.

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