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In Matt LaFleur, Packers Entrusting the Keys of the Franchise to an Outsider

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In Matt LaFleur, Packers Entrusting the Keys of the Franchise to an Outsider

Matt LaFleur is the new head coach of the Green Bay Packers, and for the next seven months you’re going to see and hear a lot of speculation about what that means for the future of the team, and more specifically, for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ offense.

One of the things I’ve found most interesting about the hire, though, is that it marks the first time in 27 years that the Packers have gone to someone without any connections to their organization to take the keys to the franchise.

Here’s some context to the hiring and how it kicks off a brand new era in Green Bay.

LaFleur’s background

At 39 years old, LaFleur has been seen as something of a rising star in the NFL, much in the image of his mentors Kyle Shanahan (head coach of the 49ers) and Sean McVay (head coach of the Rams).

After a few stints as offensive assistants in the early to mid-2000s, LaFleur broke into the NFL as a quality control coach with the Texans in 2008 and 2009, where Shanahan was offensive coordinator. That Texans team routinely put up big passing numbers and got the best years out of Matt Schaub.

LaFleur followed Shanahan to Washington and spent 2010 through 2013 as the team’s quarterback coach, where he got a groundbreaking rookie season out of Robert Griffin III and played a significant role in developing Kirk Cousins from a Big 10 prospect that many people saw as having a limited ceiling to a legitimate NFL starter.

After a season as the quarterbacks coach in Notre Dame in 2014, LaFleur returned to the NFL under Shanahan once again in Atlanta for the 2015 and 2016 seasons as quarterbacks coach, coaching Matt Ryan to a record-breaking MVP season as the team went to a Super Bowl.

He met up with former Washington associate McVay in Los Angeles to serve as the team’s offensive coordinator in 2017, helping spark an offense that had been dismal in the prior year and transforming Jared Goff from a player who had the signs of a bust in his rookie year into the captain of one of the laegue’s most potent offensive units.

His stint in Tennessee this past year did not produce the results of his previous gigs, but considering what he had to work with, he adapted his offense well and helped Derrick Henry take off in the second half of the season. The Titans were a game shy of the playoffs with offensive personnel that you would never expect to produce a 9-7 or better record.

Breaking the mold

Throughout all of this, LaFleur never once worked with a direct superior (offensive coordinator or head coach) who has ever worked for the Packers in any capacity. He enters Green Bay without any history with or connections to the franchise—a completely fresh face.

That’s not necessarily a good or a bad thing, but it’s certainly worth noting. Consider the Packers’ previous head coaching hires:

·         Mike McCarthy, 2006: McCarthy served as the Packers’ quarterbacks coach in the 1999 season before returning to Green Bay in 2006. One of the selling points for hiring him was his familiarity with Brett Favre, who needed a hard reset after his dismal 2005 campaign.

·         Mike Sherman, 2000: Sherman served as the Packers’ tight ends coach under Mike Holmgren in 1997 and 1998, then left with Holmgren to work as offensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks in 1999 before returning to Green Bay in 2000. There was a preexisting comfort level with Sherman, who would bring a very similar offensive scheme to what the Packers ran throughout the 90s under Holmgren and Sherm Lewis.

·         Ray Rhodes, 1999: Rhodes was the first defensive coordinator to serve in Green Bay under Mike Holmgren, taking the job in 1992 and 1993 before going to take the same position in San Francisco and then leaving to be the head coach of the Eagles for four seasons. Ron Wolf infamously remarked later on how he regretted not casting a broader net during the coaching search that netted Rhodes, and opting for someone with whom he was already very comfortable.

You’d have to go back to Holmgren in 1992 to find someone without any prior ties or strong connections to the Packers organization. Holmgren’s NFL experience amounted to being a quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator in San Francisco from 1986 through 1991. At 43 years old at the time of his hiring, Holmgren was seen as a rising star and hot commodity in the coaching market, who had been at the helm of the offense for one of the greatest teams in NFL history, the 1989 49ers. His work with both Joe Montana and Steve Young was widely lauded, and we all know what he ended up doing with Brett Favre.

In many ways, the hiring of LaFleur very much resembles that of Holmgren. This is a Packers team that is entering a brand new era, opting to hire a coach without any ties to the organization. There’s nothing comfortable about this hire—this is a franchise hoping to catch lightning in a bottle with an offensive mindset that’s taken the league by storm over the last several years. They interviewed LaFleur and apparently loved what they saw, because they offered him the job the next day, even though there was no pressure at all from other teams (the Packers were the only team to interview him).

Nobody knows how the hire is going to turn out. But we do know this—it’s a bold, aggressive move from Mark Murphy, and it’s one that’s going to play a big role in determining how the rest of Aaron Rodgers’ career unfolds.

__________________________

Tim Backes is a lifelong Packer fan and a contributor to CheeseheadTV. Follow him on Twitter @timbackes for his Packer takes, random musings and Untappd beer check-ins.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (77) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Holecrap's picture

He has no qualifications. Maybe Gutt wants more hands on and will run the team. Someone has too.

TheVOR's picture

I think the term "outsider" in the article, while an attention grabber, is kind of out there. Unless they hired Pettine or God Forbid Philbin, they would be hiring outside the organization.

In truth, while I didn't really want this hiring, it's growing on me "a little bit".

The best we can hope for is firing most of the existing offensive coaches and the Special Teams coaching, and hope they get real about building a decent offensive staff to forward this team from despair.

Please don not retain the offensive coaches. If they retain Philbin, I'm not sure why they hired this HC. Philbin must go.

Final word, I was stoked at the Philbin hiring last offseason. What a massive disappointment that was, he couldn't motivate the Packers to score a single point against a horrible Lions team at home. He's "NOT PACKERS PEOPLE" moving forward please. Fire that entire staff. Campen must go also, need new coaching at WR, OL, RB, and OC in general..

The TKstinator's picture

We wanted a fresh approach, and now we have it.
Things are good.
Giddyup!

Coldworld's picture

I don’t know how much input to the scheme Philbin had last season. If I did, I could determine his value. If I have to guess I would infer that his job was to handle the execution more than the formulation. If so, he may have value under a better scheme, as he did earlier in MM’s tenure.

By the last few games, the roster was depleted and it was too late to do very much with the design of the offense. I will be candid and say that my gut says clear house completely, but if Philbin can truly help realize LaFleur’s objectives then he adds the value one would seek in a OC under LaFleur. I will let LaFleur call this one, and reserve judgment fit the moment.

Rak47's picture

Say what you want about Gute. This years failure surely wasn't for lack of trying. I believe Gute has a real eye for talent and will bring some solid players in. Last offseason he heavily pursued Allen Robinson, Kyle Fuller, and Khalil Mack and all 3 ended up with the Bears thanks to them having tons of cap space, draft picks and Gruden agreeing with McCarthy that the Bears still suck. All 3 played really well and Fuller and Mack are headed to the pro bowl.
Gute offering Fuller a contract before his breakout year shows his eye for talent just as much as drafting Alexander @ 18 overall does. He's in on every conversation and not afraid to pull the trigger unlike shell shocked Ted Thompson. I trust this LaFleur hire.

Coach JV's picture

LaFleur is going to be fine... in fact, better than fine. I have no doubt he will right this sinking ship. Bet.

JimR_in_SoCal's picture

I'm pretty hopeful, excited. I hope he pulls together a strong coaching staff.

LeotisHarris's picture

A lot of people are saying the Marketing Team has been working overtime since the hire. They've apparently subcontracted the bumper sticker work to the local mom and pop shop that came up with "A Fresh Start With Bart."

Inside sources say "We're Pretty Sure With LaFleur" is going live tomorrow at the press conference. What a time to be alive!

Skip greenBayless's picture

Let's see, you are a JV coach and John Kirk is a highly respected professional sports journalist who basically resigned here yesterday for the Packers selecting this LaFleer guy. You have "no doubt" this LaFleer is the right choice? I think I'll stick with the pro sports journalist opinion over yours. No offense.

Dash

JimR_in_SoCal's picture

Your logic is undeniable.

Lare's picture

And he can fly.

Coach JV's picture

No offense taken... and your opinion means as much to me as mine to you. In a few months, you'll be singing his praises and hoping that no one remembers the bashing you're giving this guy.

And as far as journalist understanding the game... LOLOLOLOL..... Hahahahahaha... okay dude. If he quit over a coaching hire, then I must question whether he lets his opinions get in the way of facts.

But you da man Dash... you da man.

Rash Diprock's picture

I am cautiously optimistic. I was listening to some sports guy from Tennessee on TMJ this afternoon. They are elated that he's gone and wondering WTH Gute was thinking.

Old School's picture

Dash, I'm trying to be optimistic. And I hope I'm wrong, really wrong, and Lafleur and Rodgers take us back to the top of the division.

But here's what I really think:

I think that Aaron Rodgers best football is behind him and he'll never win another title. That would have been true no matter who they hired as HC.

If the defense is good, and Rodgers doesn't just fall off a cliff, we should be good enough to win the division (assuming Zook gets fired, but I don't know if I can assume anything anymore).

I would have done a lot of things different than Gutekunst did in the last year. I wouldn't have cut Nelson and kept Cobb, especially if I could have renegotiated Nelson and traded Cobb before the season.

I wouldn't have extended Rodgers when I already had control of him until he was 38.

I would have done more with the offensive line. All Gutekunst did was draft a guy on the last day who never showed up and brought in a low-rent stop gap UDFA in Bell. That's it....to protect the franchise.

And I wouldn't have hired a kid to coach a vet like Rodgers. I wonder what'll happen the first time there's some friction? I'd have gone for an older, more veteran guy who already had a relationship with Rodgers.

Gutekunst has made his bed. If LaFleur/Rodgers gels we could be good again next year. If not, that'll be three straight losing seasons, two under Gutekunst, and there'd better not be anymore or there'll be a total house cleaning.

Hoping for the best, but planning for the worst.

Lare's picture

Everybody can look into the past, nobody can see into the future, the best anyone can do is make the best decisions they can with the information they have available at the time.

Thankfully, the Packers have experienced people in charge that just keep doing their best to make the team a winner in the future.

LeotisHarris's picture

So true, Lare. So true. But remember; today is only yesterday's tomorrow, so it is what it is, not what it was, and not what it will be.

The TKstinator's picture

Somebody’s making my head hurt.

dobber's picture

I'm not aware of too many things
I know what I know if you know what I mean...

Skip greenBayless's picture

Old School, you just responded to some loser who was trying to fool people into thinking it was me. I actually agree with pretty much everything you say. I am hoping for the best but I also think Rodgers best days are behind him. It's not even a question after watching him this year. Some guys like Brady age gracefully. Rodgers is one of those guys that is not. He's quickly not only looking old but he's playing old. It's been a dramatic turn of events to see someone physically age right in front of your eyes this season. This coaching move has disaster written all over it. I also agree no HC would have been able to help him other than maybe Jeff Tedford who he totally respects or Jim Caldwell who might have been the one outsider to reign him in simply due to his skin color sadly. Rodgers would never try to go against him otherwise he'd be called a racist. The liberal PC Rodgers would never ever think of doing that. He has too much financially on the line to do what he did to MM, an old white guy who have become free punching bags with no repercussions for the left. State Farm would cut ties with him in two seconds if Caldwell called in plays and Rodgers purposely didn't listen to him. That's my take. We are pretty much on the same page here.

Rash Diprock's picture

Oh, Dash, Dash Dash, Are you still upset after all these years? For those of you who don't know, Dash and I are identical twins (some physical differences). You have to cut Dash some slack. Dash is my fat, shorter twin brother. He has some anger issues and is a contrarian stemming from Momma dropping him on his head.
Word of advice, is that once he gets into one of his fits (especially the one above where he's discussing using a minority coach, sheesh. Really? Dash), it's best to let him finish and don't challenge him. He's still upset with me for taking the last helping of mashed potatoes.

Old School's picture

This post has no football content and is just a personal attack.

Richard Smith's picture

Your simply naming every negative thing that could happen, while trying to sound like you know what your talking about. Truth is, nobody knows anything accept LF has coached some very good QBs, he's been on the staff of successful HC's and his Titans were injured last year. He runs the ball and plays a motion style WC offense. Just like every GB fan has been yelling for over the past 3 years. Stop whining and cheer for your damn team.

Doug_In_Sandpoint's picture

I wonder why nobody ever tries to be Slug In Badpint or Dug In Sandpit. No one ever tries to capitalize on my posting fame. Just scratching my head here. Al is probably catching them first.

LeotisHarris's picture

You sure all that head scratching isn't due to your mad self-barbering skills?

Paul Konieczny's picture

I’m hoping for a coach more like Holmgren, and less like Gregg. Time will tell.

Skip greenBayless's picture

I hate to say this but it appears we have a Matty Nice. That will definitely strike fear into our NFC north rivals.

dobber's picture

Three days into the process is a little early to make those assertions...

Skip greenBayless's picture

Jersey Al, everybody has a name here. This guy is clearly here to troll me because he's a weak individual who can't make a name for himself. He already has Old School responding to him thinking it was me. Please cut this guys 15 seconds of fame now before it even starts. I will not have people here trying to capitalize off my fame.

Thanks,

Dash

LeotisHarris's picture

I concur, Dash. CHTV needs to crush this fraud immediately.

Wield your mighty Ban Hammer, Jersey Al, and send Nash Ziplock, Lash Liplock and all others who would disgrace the name of our beloved colleague into the abyss, never to be heard from again!

Gort's picture

Agree with the request from Dash. Make up your own name, just like the rest of us!

Johnblood27's picture

but..,

But...

BUT...

What if it is really John Kirk!?!?!?!?!?!?

Coldworld's picture

Dash, I value and enjoy your input, but Kirk is and was never the count of all wisdom. Certainly he was right and perceptive sometimes, but certainly not always.

I have no idea if LaFleur has what it takes, but I don’t have one iota of credible evidence to believe that he does not either.

If Kirk was that set against him, absent a crystal ball, nor does he. While we may miss his thoughts, one who would quit posting based upon mere opinion is truly a petulant fan not a true believer. Miss him if you wish, but let’s move on without the dulcet and allow time to tell whether he was prescient or merely misguided.

As you know, I doubt Murphy. I add that I have some questions about this decisions and the reasons for it. I also admit to not having watched his team during the season. At this point, however, let’s do two things, give LaFleur a chance because he has been appointed and accept that no one knows whether that is justified at this point, including Mr. Kirk.

Rash Diprock's picture

Ban? Seriously? All you do is troll people, Dash.

dobber's picture

Shades of ALP...

Tundraboy's picture

And WinUSA .

Bearmeat's picture

You just wait and see. The words "Well liked" "Genius" "QB guru" "spread concepts" are exciting. You just have wait to see what you get.

WestCoastPackerBacker's picture

"He has no qualifications." He's been in the league 10 years, worked under 5 different head coaches and oversaw the development of some great offenses. Took RGII, Cousins and Matt Ryan to their best play in the league. That's some qualifications right there.

dobber's picture

Some people here were also calling for the Packers to look at Zac Taylor, Kliff Kingsbury, and other coaches with names that sound like they come from a Disney channel show and less NFL experience than Laffy (I agree with Rebecca: MLF probably was in pretty poor taste). I'll admit that I wanted them to look at Pat Fitzgerald, with NO NFL experience.

The bottom line is that we live in an era where social media allows us to not hold ourselves accountable for our own arguments.

kevgk's picture

Regardless how this hire turns out, I'm so happy Murphy took a big chance on a high upside guy like this.

Coldworld's picture

I have posted elsewhere that actually this may be Murphy taking the easy option for the current FO team. That said, I see no other candidate guaranteed to be better so time to let LaFleur prove his worth. At this point all I can say with certainty is that he seems to have got the best out of players he coached consistently. That alone is an attribute not to be sniffed at. Time will tell if this is a good move or not, but looking at it at this point in time, it does not stand out as one justifying immediate derision or praise. Let us see the wisdom or otherwise on the field next fall!

dobber's picture

I think the easy option would have been to hire a Philbin or Caldwell, cite their experience and track record with high-end QBs (or #12 in particular), and let it ride.

What's more, an easy option would have been to go with the high-profile candidate--coming from the franchise that has been the envy of NFL teams for almost 20 years--who only interviewed with the Packers (McDaniels) and most pundits (some grudgingly) cite as the 'most qualified' candidate in the pool. If his demands didn't meet what the Packers wanted for the organization--control of the roster, coaching selections, temperament, salary--then walking away made sense. The easy thing would be to meet his demands, and then step back, put your hands up, and say "we did all we could do"...while praying it doesn't blow up in your face behind closed doors.

I think LaFleur wasn't what I would call an easy choice. He wasn't a media darling or frontrunner. He's not got an NFL track record of leading teams. He doesn't have a history with the team. He's someone that, when they hired him, the FO would have to convince the media and the average fan that he was a good selection. I think he was a good choice because he's NOT engrained in the Packers culture.

I think the only way you grow is to bring in new voices from the outside...promoting from within perpetuates the current culture and tends to solidify the positions of people at the top. Pettine coming in from the outside last year was a good call: he was new, used to doing things in a different way, and had a fresh eye for personnel and relationships. This being said, most established teams tend to promote from within arguably because it leads to more 'seamless transitions'. The greatest value in LaF is that he's brand spanking new---for good or for ill.

ShanghaiKid's picture

Test #1: fire Zook. If Zook is retained I have no faith in the hire.

Coldworld's picture

If Zook is released that won’t give me much either. Too obvious.

dobber's picture

True. But when I write an exam, I always put a couple 'bunnies' on it because it helps to bolster scores, build some confidence, and show you who really is trying.

Come on LaF: bolster your score, build some confidence, and show us you're trying.

Graham Crackah's picture

You forgot my favorite, “it’s like anything...”

Demon's picture

I wonder if MLF has his brainless/mindless coach drivel written down on cue cards yet?

MM would be a tough act to follow in that regard. I sure am going to miss....

1. Pad level
2. I cant answer that now
3. Im going to have to review the film
4. We're going to get that cleaned up
5. We have to run the ball more

While the whole time having the same look on his face that I had while looking over my first Greek studies exam. Completely lost.

NMPF's picture

Oh come on Whitey, from your negative comment I'm pretty sure you don't need a Greek studies exam for that look.

Demon's picture

Oh you're good NMPF. You thought of that all by yourself? I am thoroughly impressed! Now go sit at the kids table so the adults can talk.

NMPF's picture

adults CAN spell also

Paul Konieczny's picture

That is funny.

Lare's picture

McCarthy won a lot of games in Green Bay, but it was time for him to move on. Kind of feel sorry for him a little bit, lots of HC openings this year and he only got one interview. But it does kind of reinforce the idea that the Packers did the right thing. He might want to check out the TV commentating gig to see if it works out better for him.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

If he lands with the Jets I'll really feel bad for him.

Demon's picture

Thats where i'm hoping he does land JJ. If he stands at a podium spewing that garbage they will eat him alive.

Lare's picture

Yeah, they'd roast him alive in NY.

He gets around $8-9 million not to do anything this year. I think it's best if he takes a year off, absence makes the heart grow fonder.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

With the jobs left, I hope he takes the year off.

Coldworld's picture

I think he needs a year to decompress and take stock. Don’t know him, but he seemed ground down by the end.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

I wonder if Murphy will be like the Cardinals and put in the presser that LaFleur is friends with McVay and that McVay is a genious?

mobile.twitter.com/BonaguraESPN/status/1082760386024157185

LMAO

albert999's picture

Lions had the #24 defense....Cooter gets fired
Titans had #25 defense.....Lafleur gets hired
??????

Coldworld's picture

It’s all about what was expected, who you played, and who was available to play for you. Statistics are a lens that can be focused anywhere. Don’t be gulled into trusting a random stat without context.

albert999's picture

Sorry meant offense
ha ha

The TKstinator's picture

(Edit button)

Johnblood27's picture

How about the mute button?

Bure9620's picture

I fired my Cooter as well

Bert's picture

The key for any HC is whether or not he can lead a group of men to reach a common goal. Offensive or defensive genius or not.....LaFluer's success will ultimately come down to his ability to lead.

Johnblood27's picture

I dont follow you...

wildbill's picture

Not sure he would have been who I thought they should pick but he will get my full support until he proves that he is not up to the job. Gotta give him some time

Skip greenBayless's picture

We'll know rather quick Wild Bill what Gee LaFleur is made of when Rodgers comes into Green Bay. The question at the time will be.. will LaFluer pick him up at the airport like Brad Childress did with Favre?

LaDash

Bure9620's picture

You mention Guy Lefleur from Da Montreàl Canadièn? You betur be care-fell my friend...

Johnblood27's picture

Big Bird gonna tee off on ya or maybe Chartraw...

Nobody disses da Guy in Mon-Ree-All!

Paul Konieczny's picture

Was waiting all day for someone to mention Gee.

The TKstinator's picture

Last name Willickers?

dobber's picture

I used some ghee in an Indian dish I made the other day...

Old School's picture

The real test will be when they disagree. What happens then?

dobber's picture

As long as he doesn't bring his F'in TOYS with him!

...I figured this was a good opportunity to start getting my Slapshot references in...

Guitar dan's picture

I don't think this decision was made hastily or without much thought, they got who they wanted and chose him over the popular choice of McDaniels who obviously wanted the job.

Some times we have to go with an educated guess, if it doesn't work out they will all be sent packing.

This is what Murphy and Gutekunst do, Murphy has done a fine job moving the Packers ahead on the business end and Gutekunst has a keen eye for talent.

I am excited to see what 2019 brings and beyond!

2 or 3 years down the road who knows, teams may be looking for the next Matt LaFleur!

The battle of the Matt's (Nagey & LaFleur) should be fun for years to come!

Go Pack!

alforno54's picture

This has been cemented in my mind as a good hire simply by the fact that Steven A Smith doesn't like it Now if Bayless opens his mouth it will be complete.

alforno54's picture

This has been cemented in my mind as a good hire simply by the fact that Steven A Smith doesn't like it Now if Bayless opens his mouth it will be complete.

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