It’s Time For Matt LaFleur To Win NFL Coach of the Year

Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur has a strong record since he took over as head coach of the team in 2019. His overall regular-season record is 35-9, a win percentage of .795. He has won back-to-back NFC North titles and taken his team to two straight NFC Championship Games. But when it comes to consideration for the NFL Coach of the Year, LaFleur has not gotten much respect.

In 2019, despite turning the Packers around from 6-9-1 in 2018 to 13-3 in 2019, he received only three votes for Coach of the Year and finished a distant third behind Baltimore’s John Harbaugh and San Francisco’s Kyle Shanahan.

Last year, Cleveland’s Kevin Stefanski won the award. LaFleur did not finish in the top three despite leading the Packers to a second consecutive 13-3 season and the top seed in the NFC.

Voters have overlooked LaFleur in part because he is working with one of the best quarterbacks of all-time in Aaron Rodgers. They argue that LaFleur should be winning with Rodgers under center and the Packers quarterback was the league MVP last season and is in the conversation for the award again this year.

But that overlooks significant reasons why LaFleur deserves consideration for the award. Here is why it’s time for Matt LaFleur to get real consideration for the NFL’s Coach of the Year Award this season:

1. LaFleur Has Been Consistent

LaFleur’s teams have been remarkably consistent over the past three seasons. The Packers have never lost two games in a row under LaFleur. They have earned a bye in the first round of the playoffs in each of his first two seasons and they have won a playoff game each year.

In addition, LaFleur’s teams have dominated the NFC North, going 14-2 against division opponents with one game left against each of other three teams in the division. By Sunday night, the Packers may also win their third straight division title under their present head coach.

2. Working With Rodgers

Yes, Rodgers is a future Hall of Fame quarterback who is still playing at an elite level at the age of 38. But that doesn’t mean coaching Rodgers is easy. Just ask Mike McCarthy who had friction with Rodgers towards the end of his tenure in Green Bay.

When the Packers hired LaFleur, most observers were wondering if he would be able to work with Rodgers and earn his respect. That was settled quickly as the two quickly developed a strong working relationship.

In LaFleur’s first season, the Packers ran a hybrid offense that incorporated a mixture of the system the coach wanted to introduce and some of the more successful plays that Rodgers was accustomed to from the previous offense. The give and take and ability of both parties to quickly create a positive and constructive working environment was a major reason for the team’s immediate success.

Rodgers faced a clear challenge in working with Rodgers and he passed that test with flying colors.

3. Culture Change

One thing LaFleur did as soon as he arrived in Green Bay was change the culture. McCarthy was the coach of the Packers for 13 seasons and by the end of his tenure, things were getting a bit stale.

Once LaFleur came in, he made changes from Day 1. It went beyond painting and rearranging the locker rooms and meeting rooms. The new coach instituted a leadership council full of players who served as a liaison to the rest of the roster.

The addition of players like Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith, Billy Turner and Adrian Amos also helped change the atmosphere in the locker room and of course, winning helps.

Under LaFleur, the Packers locker room became a fun place to be and that was a big step forward.

4. Injuries and Other Obstacles

This season, the Packers have been hit by a rash of injuries to key players that would have crippled most teams.

The Packers haven’t had All Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari all season. They moved Pro Bowl guard Elgton Jenkins to replace him at left tackle and he missed three games midseason before being lost to injury for the rest of the year in November.

The Packers also lost their best cover corner in Jaire Alexander and their best pass rusher in Za’Darius Smith. Alexander played four games before getting hurt, Smith played in just one.

Starting center Josh Myers has missed significant time due to injuries and tight end Robert Tonyan’s season ended early as well when he was hurt.

Despite all these significant injuries, the Packers are 9-3 and that is due in large part to coaching.

Last season, LaFleur kept the team united and together through the Covid-19 pandemic and led the team to the best record in the NFC.

All of this shows LaFleur’s ability to lead and overcome difficult obstacles.

5. Winning

The bottom line is that LaFleur has been a winner. And he finds ways to win close games. Pro-Football-Reference.com has an expected won/loss record for each team and every year under LaFleur, the Packers have exceeded those expectations.

In 2019, the team’s expected record was 10-6 but the Packers finished 13-3. Last season, the expected record was 11-5 and again, the Pack finished 13-3.

This season, the expected record is 7-5 but the Packers are 9-3 through 12 games.

Overall, LaFleur finds ways to win enough games that his team is not expected to win. He has shown himself to be a coach that gets the most out of his team.

The Packers head coach deserves to be named NFL Coach of the Year. Hopefully, the voters will finally recognize the success LaFleur has had and that he is worthy of recognition for those accomplishments.

You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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5 points

Comments (23)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
Brockrice99's picture

December 09, 2021 at 12:21 pm

MLF has been awesome, this season and the past two seasons! But I do not want to be a debby downer, but two of the games we lost, we could have one with simple adjustments. In KC they were sending an all out blitz every play and MLF did nothing to help Love out, he kind of expected him to be Aaron Rodgers out there and figure it out. With Minnesota, for nearly the entire first half we struggled to move the ball consistently, and that was in large to not making adjustments, and continually trying to force the deep ball (which eventually worked) but there needed to be a change before that. I do really love MLF and hope he is here for a long time, but in some of these games he has to learn to take over and make changes, Aaron is a HOF quarterback, but you are the coach, make the changes when you see changes need to be made, and we probably would only have 1 loss right now.

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GilMartin's picture

December 09, 2021 at 12:35 pm

Hard to argue with your analysis. MLF is a great coach but he's far from perfect and those adjustments are sometimes an issue. Thanks for the comment, Brockrice99.

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Brockrice99's picture

December 09, 2021 at 01:52 pm

But to agree with you, he has had to overcome so so so much this season, where I think MLF and only 1 other coach (Bill Belicheck) deserves it.

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marpag1's picture

December 09, 2021 at 04:25 pm

I would argue that "easy adjustments" are never quite so easy as people think they are.

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splitpea1's picture

December 09, 2021 at 12:33 pm

Right now the oddsmakers have MLF third in line behind Belichick and Kingsbury to win Coach of the Year. In many cases the award goes to the coach who engineers a big turnaround record-wise in the regular season. Since Belichick has done it with a rookie quarterback to boot, don't be surprised if he wins it.

We're more interested in slashing through the playoffs and getting a shot at the Trophy than any individual award, anyway.

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jurp's picture

December 09, 2021 at 01:17 pm

Hmm. Belicheck is East Coast, and Kingsbury is far enough West to attract West Coast attention. Both are in very large markets. Last year, Stefanski from a very large market won it, before that John Harbaugh, in yet another large (and East Coast) market, in a year when MLF led a rebuilding Packers to 13-3 from a losing 2018 record. You know, the kind of turnaround that CotY voters supposedly love (as you correctly point out).

What do all these coaches have in common? Mostly, their teams are coastal, except Stefanski. Cleveland itself isn't much larger than Metro Milwaukee, but unlike Wisconsin there are two other major large cities in the same state, and Chicago, Detroit, and Pittsburgh are near enough to count as part of their TV market at times.

As I posted earlier today, MLF's chances as CotY are hurt by his low-ley personality and GB's tiny market. No press = no respect. Cynically, I doubt that he'll be named CotY anytime soon.

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LambeauPlain's picture

December 09, 2021 at 01:17 pm

Matt is a coaching star in the making. I believe his core strengths are communication, motivation, focus and a big brain. He take responsibility and never castigates players after a loss. I believe he reprimands very privately as he praises players and coaches very publicly. In short, he is a boss you want to work for....positive, a good listener/communicator, and adept at Xs and Os.

Speaking core strengths, I was distressed to read Cobb has probably played his last game for the Pack with a severe core injury. Sounds like a sports hernia, surgery, and the end of 2021. I was wrong about Randall as he showed little drop off in production at age 31. I was sadly correct he would be injured this season per his history.

Opportunity for A. Rodgers and ESB.

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marpag1's picture

December 09, 2021 at 03:56 pm

It'll never happen, of course - not this year. Too many people said too many stupid things about Lafleur back when he was hired and especially when the whole ARod fiasco was going down. "LaFleur is out of his depth. LaFleur is arrogant. He has no experience. His offense in TENN sucked. LaFleur is Mark Murphy's water boy, etc. etc."

A lot of people need a few more years for their dumb comments to be forgotten before they can publicly praise LaFleur.

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flackcatcher's picture

December 09, 2021 at 04:23 pm

Lafleur came into a tough situation that wasn't any of his fault. While his flaws as a HC been obvious over the past two years, his growth and understanding of the whole pro game has him made him not only a better HC, but a much more humble and understanding man. His handling of the Joe Barry hire after the first game lost to New Orleans is a perfect example of how Lafleur has changed and grown as a HC. Odds of him winning HC of the year, slim. But that's OK. Matt Lafleur's time will come soon enough...

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HarryHodag's picture

December 09, 2021 at 05:54 pm

Fans/media comments have nothing to do with it. It's all about performance on the field and this year has seen the team move through the ranks even though many top players are missing.

MLF is proven to be more than a good NFL coach. He might be on his way to a great coach status.

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marpag1's picture

December 10, 2021 at 11:08 pm

So the AP Coach of the Year is elected BY THE MEDIA but perceptions held by those same members of the media have nothing to do with it?? Interesting.

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stockholder's picture

December 09, 2021 at 04:06 pm

Yes- Coach of the year!

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Starrbrite's picture

December 09, 2021 at 04:10 pm

Great article—I’m with you Gil—it’s time he is rewarded.

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TarynsEyes's picture

December 09, 2021 at 05:28 pm

MLF has had the advantage, to varying degrees by many, of having an HoF QB, a top WR who in many eyes is the best in the league, the top LT though not this year, and many other position players ranked in the top ten. When considering also that the Division has been and still is a destination for one team with little to no threat from the other 3, and while the Patriots have had the same easy path longer, Belichik is doing something special with a rookie QB and a bunch of players that needed to be coagulated into the team they are at this moment. There is no chance that MLF gets COTY unless the Patriots fail to make the playoffs, but they will and they might become the frontrunner to represent the AFC in the SB.

MLF's best chance will likely be next season if he can survive the coming carnage the salary cap will inflict upon them.

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HarryHodag's picture

December 09, 2021 at 05:55 pm

When Vince Lombardi took over few remembered a guy name Jack Vainisi who was key to drafting and trading for most of the Glory Days players.
Using the comments above, then Lombardi should never have been acknowledged for the success the 60's Packers had.
Dallas has always been seen as a hotbed of talent yet none of their recent coaches, until McCarthy, have been able to move the team forward. Making the personnel perform is a key to a successful coach.
Matt LaFleur certainly deserves top consideration for COTY. He has endured almost unbelievable personnel challenges and still has a record better than Lombardi or Holmgren at this point.
While you tout Bill Belichick as COTY, never forget the AFC Least is almost every year one of the worst divisions in football. Only recently have the Bills risen to the challenge, but the Patriots have feasted on the Jets and the Dolphins. New England was almost guaranteed a playoff spot.

Matt LaFleur is one of the best coaches in the NFL, and if the Packers make it deep into the playoffs, he absolutely should be considered for COTY.

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TarynsEyes's picture

December 09, 2021 at 07:21 pm

" and if the Packers make it deep into the playoffs, he absolutely should be considered for COTY."

MLF has gotten to two NFCCG's in a row and has failed miserably. That speaks volumes to his capability when up against the other conference winner. Having a deep playoff run will not boost him above Belichik, especially if another loss is suffered. Even if he wins the SB, MLF would be achieving what the NFL experts, etc, expected to be a high possibility for this team. Yes, injuries have plagued the Packers again, but that's one of the things that an HC needs to overcome. Perhaps if Rodgers was lost for 4-5 games and they were where they're at now, MLF would have done more than Belichik has done with less, and the COTY would be MLF's.

It's a different league than it was in the Lombardi era, so let's stop using that as a reason for today's voting criteria.

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HarryHodag's picture

December 10, 2021 at 03:12 pm

I guess having an understaffed team running away with the division after fielding an off-season of grief from a malcontent isn't enough?

All I referred to was MLF surely deserves CONSIDERATION for the award.
The silliness of blaming MFL for not winning the Super Bowl the past two years shows a lack of knowledge of where the Packers are today. It is very difficult to win the Super Bowl and the idea that unless you do that you're dismissed as a failure is laughable.
Belichick, MLF, and a couple others deserve CONSIDERATION . MLF's ability to keep the team focused on winning despite the rash of injuries and having to deal, successfully, with his 'excitable' quarterback shows leadership beyond measure. His game planning has been very good to exceptional. He found a person to lead the defense to a place Mike Pettine never found.

It is a different league now. About every decade the players get bigger and faster but the core of the game is still the same: run the ball, throw judiciously and play defense. The argument that Lombardi era lessons are not relevant is specious. Do we ignore the lessons of World War II simply because it happened a long time ago? My point was a coach as great as he was in his era was helped by others, just like MLF and also Belichick.

2 points
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Kevin Carpenter's picture

December 09, 2021 at 07:28 pm

Yeah, nothing special going on in GB. He's only been without 3 all-pro players for a majority of the season and has been without his other two at different points throughout the season, has missed every single pro bowl player on the roster for at least one game, has had to start 3/5 of his offensive line off of the practice squad and now 4/5 are playing either out of position or off of the practice squad earlier on in the season, has started practice squad players at both cornerback positions and went in to Arizona with essentially 3 practice squad receivers having a combined less than 40 professional catches between them, has been without their primary kick returner and top receiving option TE for half of the season and routinely dealing with collectively one of the worst special teams units in the entire NFL which singlehandedly cost them two games this year. However, he only has a 9-3 record, so it's not that impressive. (Obviously sarcastic eye roll)

4 points
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BAMABADGER's picture

December 09, 2021 at 07:42 pm

Forget Coach of the Year, just win the Super Bowl. Vince Lombardi cared about winning NFL championships not the coach of the year award (of which he won two '59 and '61).

3 points
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egbertsouse's picture

December 10, 2021 at 08:20 am

Sorry, not while Belichick is still around.. Being Rodgers’ personal valet and flapping your arms on the sidelines does not get you coach of the year over a guy that has his team in 1st with a rookie QB with a weak arm. Even if you do know how to correctly do the Wave. BTW- Someone from CHTV needs to tell the Hoodie that you can’t start a rookie QB, you have to sit his ass on the bench for 4 years while he is “mentored.” I hear that all the time in here so it must be true.

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HarryHodag's picture

December 10, 2021 at 02:59 pm

Gee, you sound like a Bears fan.

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PAPackerbacker's picture

December 10, 2021 at 05:45 pm

There's not a more deserving head coach to win coach of the year than MLF. His record speaks for itself. He has won games many expected the Packers would not win because of so many top players injured. His leadership skills are second to none.

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Since'61's picture

December 10, 2021 at 05:56 pm

It doesn't matter if MLF wins Coach of the Year. It would be impossible for me to care less about such a meaning less award.

What MLF needs to do is win the SB. That determines who is the NFL coach of the year. The rest are Superfluous, nice to have participation awards. Who remembers who the Coach of the Year was last season or the season before or 10 or 20 years ago>. However we can all name the Sb winners from any particular season.

Lombardi never won Coach of the Year but his name is the trophy which is awarded to the team and the coach who has demonstrated excellence for the NFL season. That says it all.

Win the SB and the HC is the coach of the year. GPG! Thanks, Since '61

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