Matt LaFleur's History of Identifying Coaching Talent

How well has Matt LaFleur performed at assembling his coaching staff since team president Mark Murphy hired LaFleur in January 2019?

Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur has accomplished quite a bit since he took over at the helm. In his first three years, he won three-straight NFC North titles, clinched the No.1 seed in the NFC in 2020 and 2021, guided the Packers to back-to-back NFC Championship appearances, and won 39 games – the most wins by an NFL head coach through his first three seasons. However, how well has LaFleur performed at assembling his coaching staff since team president Mark Murphy hired LaFleur in January 2019? Let’s take a look. 

LaFleur’s first offensive coordinator, Nathaniel Hackett, who was fired as OC by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2018, turned out to be an excellent hire. While the offense under Hackett did not exactly light up the scoreboard in 2019, finishing the season 14th in points scored per game (23.6), they committed the second least amount of turnovers and scored touchdowns in the red zone, which Hackett later dubbed as the “gold zone,” at the second-highest clip in the league (67.86%). In 2020, that number increased to 76.81%, first in the NFL, as did the points scored. The team averaged 31.5 points per game, again first in the NFL. Last season, the Packers’ rate of touchdowns scored in the red zone dramatically slipped to 57.53% (18th), and the points per game declined by a touchdown to 25.6 points/game, but still ranked 10th in the league. I think it is fair to argue that the Packers miss Hackett at offensive coordinator, as the offense is averaging the seventh least amount of points per game (18.4 points/game) and has generally looked like a shell of its former self. New offensive coordinator Adam Stenavich clearly has not made the impact that LaFleur presumably thought he would. 

LaFleur has had much worse luck in the special teams department. He hired Shawn Mennenga away from the University of Vanderbilt, where he served as the special teams coordinator. He previously served as assistant special teams coach for the Cleveland Browns from 2011 to 2017. Mennenga’s tenure did not get off to a hot start by any stretch, as his unit ranked 18th in special teams DVOA (0.1%, which is damn near league average), 22nd in average yards allowed per kickoff return (24.21), and 25th in average yards allowed per punt return (8.96). Rick Gosselin, who has ranked all 32 special teams units each year based on various special teams categories for the past 40+ years, had the Packers at No. 26 in his rankings. 

The following season, the train came off the tracks. The special teams unit was the best at allowing punt return touchdowns, but that is certainly not an area to lead the league in as they surrendered the most (2) in the NFL. They were also dead last in average yards allowed per punt return (17.13) and ranked 23rd in average yards allowed per kickoff return (24.18). They did not fare that much better from an analytics perspective. The special teams unit ranked 25th that season in DVOA (-2.7%), and Gosselin ranked them 29th. LaFleur fired Mennenga after the 2020-21 season and decided to promote from within, tabbing Maurice Drayton as the new special teams coordinator. That, and I cannot state this emphatically enough, was an awful decision. 

The Packers ranked dead last in DVOA (-4.9%) and average yards allowed per punt return (12.76), while allowing an average kickoff return of 25.66 yards, 26th in the NFL. Gosselin had the Packers as the worst special teams unit in the entire league for the 2021 season. And lest we forget the utter meltdown that was on display in the divisional round against the 49ers: a blocked field goal at the end of the first half, a blocked punt returned for a touchdown that tied the game, and having only 10 players on the field during Robbie Gould’s game-winning field goal. 

Drayton was canned after a single season and LaFleur turned to one of the most well-respected special teams coordinators, Rich Bisaccia. Things have not exactly gone swimmingly in Bisaccia’s first season. The team sits 29th in special teams DVOA (-3.5%), 22nd in yards allowed per punt return (9.65), and 24th in yards allowed per kickoff return (23.13). Plus, at one point this season, the punt protection allowed punter Pat O’Donnell to be pressured on almost 24% of his total punts, the highest rate over the last five seasons according to NextGenStats. Moreover, Bisaccia’s decision to continuously stick with Amari Rodgers as the primary punt returner, despite the constant fumbles, was mind boggling. 

Last, but not least: the defense. Boy, oh boy, I need a cigarette and I don’t even smoke. LaFleur’s first defensive coordinator, Mike Pettine, was a holdover from Mike McCarthy’s staff. During the 2019 offseason, general manager Brian Gutekunst spent significant resources on the defensive side of the ball. The team signed free agent edge rushers Za’Darius Smith (4 years, $66 million) and Preston Smith (4 years, $52 million) as well as safety Adrian Amos (4 years, $36 million). They also used both of their first round picks on defenders: edge rusher Rashan Gary and safety Darnell Savage. 

While Pettine’s unit allowed 352.6 yards per game, 18th in the NFL, they only allowed 19.6 points per game (down from 25 points allowed per game in 2018), the least amount of points a Packers defense had given up on average per game since the 2010 Super Bowl season. They also finished the regular season strong in the points allowed department, ranking second in points allowed over the last five contests. However, they had trouble stopping the run (128.7 rushing yards per game, 26th in the NFL) and that reared its ugly head in the NFC Championship Game against the 49ers. San Francisco ran the ball 42 times for 285 yards (6.8 yards/carry), including 29 carries for 220 yards and 4 touchdowns from Raheem Mostert. Jimmy Garoppolo had a whopping 8 pass attempts in the 37-20 victory. 

Despite LaFleur proclaiming after the loss that he was “still working through everything” as to his staff, Pettine returned for a second season but his contract was not extended with one year remaining on the deal. The unit ranked 7th in opponent passing yards per game (221.2 yards/game), 9th in total defense (334 yards/game), 13th in scoring defense (23.1 points per game), and 14th in opponent rushing yards per game (112.8 yards/game), but ranked 17th in DVOA. The nail in the coffin came in the loss in the NFC Championship Game against the Bucs, highlighted by an inexcusable long touchdown pass allowed to Scotty Miller at the end of the first half. Despite recording three interceptions against Tom Brady, the unit still allowed 31 points. 

LaFleur did not renew Pettine’s contract, so the hunt was on to find a new defensive signal caller. LaFleur sought out Wisconsin defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard, but Leonhard stayed with the Badgers and is expected to take over as head coach of the Badgers. Current Broncos defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero, who served as a defensive quality control coach for the Packers in 2016 and overlapped with LaFleur in Los Angeles, was reportedly a candidate as were others, but LaFleur ultimately sided with defensive coordinating experience (despite poor results), naming Joe Barry as the next defensive coordinator. Evero has been very successful in his first year with the Broncos. Well, the same cannot be said for Barry over halfway through his second season. 

After Green Bay’s defense bottled up the 49ers in the NFC Divisional Round, limiting San Francisco to 13 points and 212 yards of total offense, I thought that Barry could carry those results into the 2022 season. After all, they pretty much brought back everyone on that side of the ball and drafted two defenders with their two first round picks. I was obviously wrong. Barry’s troops are 14th in total defense (328.3 yards/game), 16th in scoring defense (22.1 points/game), 20th in DVOA, and 24th in rush defense (135.8 yards/game). Yes, they are 5th in passing defense (192.5 yards/game), but they seemingly cannot seem to stop crossing routes to save their lives, play far too much soft zone, refuse to assign Jaire Alexander to the opposing team’s No. 1 wide receiver, and made Ryan Tannehill look like the second coming of Joe Montana in the team’s last contest. 

Plus, it is not like resources have not been devoted to the defense as a whole. Gutekunst has had seven first round selections since taking over at helm – he has used six of those picks on defensive players. 

Hiring is probably more of an art than a science. And even if it is a science, it is an inexact one. I am not going to pretend to know the ins and outs of the NFL hiring/interview process, but one thing I do know is this: LaFleur’s eye for coaching talent, or lack thereof in certain spots, has impeded the Packers from reaching their fullest potential.

__________________________

Rex is a lifelong Packers fan but was sick of the cold, so he moved to the heart of Cowboys country. Follow him on Twitter (@Sheild92) and Instagram (@rex.sheild). 

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6 points

Comments (40)

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

November 25, 2022 at 11:16 am

About as poorly as any coach I can name.

8 points
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Since'61's picture

November 25, 2022 at 12:06 pm

MLF’s track record has been mediocre. This season’s results are the proof. What exactly is this coaching staff doing? They haven’t had solutions all seasons for the mistakes that plague this team week after week after week.

Except for Hackett MLF’s hires have been abysmal
failures. The team is out prepared, out coached and out played nearly every week. Thanks, Since ‘61

13 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

November 25, 2022 at 12:18 pm

What in the hell has Tom Clements contributed?

1 points
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Since'61's picture

November 25, 2022 at 01:49 pm

Less than nothing up to this point in the season. Thanks, Since '61

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Oppy's picture

November 25, 2022 at 08:35 pm

He's a great personal cheerleader for Rodgers.
Let's be really honest, that's exactly why they hired him, because it's the only guy Rodgers wanted.

2 points
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canadapacker's picture

November 25, 2022 at 08:24 pm

Totally agree - mediocre to under mediocre. It was only because of the terrible fiasco last years playoff loss and the incompetence of Davis ( Raiders moving on from Rich) that he was kind of forced to hire him. Dont you find it kind of funny that the coaches with a lot of success now have exhead coaches at their DC position - KC Spags Bradley Donatell Morris Joseph Dan Quinn. And dont givem how good Hackett has been because he cant even be his own OC and do his other jobs - so maybe his success much like Lafleurs was due to 12. He probably would have been better off trying to get Zimmer - I mean Zimmer seemed to have AR's number over the years. Some of these young guys are afraid to bring in some more experienced guys because they might replace them. I have always felt that you always surround yourself with the best guys you can and actually you want them to succeed and be able to replace you - that is how you become the best. Do you think Bill B worries about having somebody too good? You are totally correct - when the chips are down Lafleur has failed to live up to the expectations. And final note that is also on Gute.

3 points
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bjkdad44's picture

November 25, 2022 at 11:49 pm

And on Murphy….

2 points
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Guam's picture

November 26, 2022 at 08:53 am

Agree with everything except your last sentence canadapacker. It is not on Gute but on Murphy. The coaching staff does not report to Gute, they report directly to Murphy and Murphy hired LaFleur.

Although Gute carries the title of GM, he is really the director of the draft and pro player acquisition. Gute, the HC and the financial side (salary cap) all report directly to Muphy, making Muphy the defacto football GM despite his title of President.

2 points
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Johnblood27's picture

November 26, 2022 at 11:41 pm

...and therein lies the problem...

fix Murphy's control of football operations and then other problems could be addressed by simple accountabilities.

1 points
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croatpackfan's picture

November 25, 2022 at 12:15 pm

MLF is not material for HC. He has no balls to make neccessary decision or to push his view of the offense and defense and ST (I'm not talking about ACR). After all he allows others to interfere in what is his job and he is more OC than HC. That is also one of the problems that haunt Packers team.

Neccessary decision? To call his pick DC for responsibility, to protect Rich Bisaccia from forcing him to use Amari Rodgers as PR (at the end BG did neccessary move, and maybe ruin AR carrier). Than insist changes at OL when it was obvios that 5 players that was pick to form OL didn't do their job at least at average level. To force man who exclusively played on left side of the OL to try to be RT (Jenkins), to ignore some other talented OL rookies for 5 + games (like Zach Tom) and so on and so on...

For me, this crew (except of Rich Bisaccia) of coaches and assistents should be replaced at the moment season ends.

As this article is about coaching, I do not want to take on any player. That is for another article.

3 points
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PackyCheese500's picture

November 25, 2022 at 01:51 pm

Stenavich needs to be put back at HC. He doesn't look like a good OC, and the unit clearly misses him

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croatpackfan's picture

November 25, 2022 at 04:17 pm

I suppose you ment not to put him back at HC, but OL coach...

1 points
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bjkdad44's picture

November 25, 2022 at 11:51 pm

?

0 points
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PhantomII's picture

November 25, 2022 at 12:40 pm

When run of the mill fans from this site that care about their team and can pinpoint the exact changes that need to be made (WEEKS) before the coaching staff does. We have a problem. Have we missed our calling? Or is ineptness rampant today. Common sense is not so common, that is a fact. My old boss said when it hits the fan.....It doesn't matter what you do...you gotta do something. Definitely a big lag at 1265 before anything happens....

6 points
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TarynsEyes's picture

November 25, 2022 at 01:59 pm

When the crap hits the fan, it's already too late. Seeing it before it reaches the fan is the mark of a good/great FO/HC and not being afraid to do what is necessary to keep it away from the fan.
A year earlier than a year late.
Bidding wars always result in getting less.
Well traveled (different team) players are risks, and short term assets.
FO should never be a bandwagon jumper, on or off.
RAS isn't everything.
FA isn't much more than a player (mostly not worth it) money grab scheme.
Fully guaranteed money is a horror.
There is no such thing as loyalty, by player or FO.
Play good, stay, play bad, gone. Succeed/fail. No third plus chances.
SB windows are only open a crack every year, don't close them for years with stupidity.
Don't get wrapped up in a single moment of a player, it's more likely to be the only one.

Some of the things I believe any FO should believe also.

However, I'm just a fan, who is often told they know better, and yet, they more often look the fool and stupid.

2 points
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bjkdad44's picture

November 25, 2022 at 11:52 pm

Just look at last year with the ST coach!?!?!?

1 points
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splitpea1's picture

November 25, 2022 at 12:52 pm

Given the Packers' frame of mind, it wouldn't surprise me one bit if they tried to do some recycling and brought back Hackett in some capacity, who has a 99.99% chance of being available at season's end, if not sooner.

ST: There's no other conclusion to be reached except that the Packers have a drafting problem in this regard. If O'Donnell, Ford, Leavitt, and Nixon hadn't been been signed, this unit would probably be at the very bottom again. It really shouldn't be that hard to find a reserve safety or WR in the draft that can do a decent job returning kicks--every other team manages to do it. As for Amari, who knows whether that was Bisaccia's fault? The front office was probably trying to wring every last hope out of him before he met The Turk.

DC: Evero is water under the bridge as there is no way he will be available. Plenty of other recycle candidates out there, though. Remember Joe Whitt? He might be one of them, as he is an experienced secondary coach on a very good Cowboys' pass defense.... Before sneering at any recycling attempts, remember that almost anyone would be an improvement at this point.

4 points
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PackyCheese500's picture

November 25, 2022 at 01:50 pm

Maybe Evero as HC?

-1 points
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Coldworld's picture

November 25, 2022 at 01:51 pm

I doubt that it would be worse and it could be better.

0 points
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Starrbrite's picture

November 26, 2022 at 12:51 am

Good post splitpea—and I agree with you on Bisaccia.
I know I’m dreaming l, but would love to see Payton as HC.
I also believe Frank Reich is a very good coach.

-1 points
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jlc1's picture

November 26, 2022 at 08:56 am

But Bisaccia had an influence on those signings so that is a plus for him.

3 points
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Lphill's picture

November 25, 2022 at 01:39 pm

Mike Zimmer?

-5 points
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PhantomII's picture

November 25, 2022 at 02:54 pm

His son died recently. He's gonna need some time.

0 points
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PackyCheese500's picture

November 25, 2022 at 01:46 pm

I think, as of recently, MLF is a good play-caller. He doesn't have the leadership, toughness, or grit to be a HC though. His hirings have been very bad aside from Hackett.

4 points
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PatrickGB's picture

November 25, 2022 at 01:48 pm

Often players suck. Even with good coaching some players are inferior.

2 points
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stockholder's picture

November 25, 2022 at 02:23 pm

MLF- 45-20 .692. Thats not bad. He's young. He needed more. The criticism he faces would send anyone to hell.

-6 points
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LeotisHarris's picture

November 25, 2022 at 03:00 pm

A lot of people at the Ashwaubenon Bowling Alley are saying LaFleur didn't even ask any of the candidates "where do you see yourself five years from now?" Just what I heard.

2 points
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Fubared's picture

November 25, 2022 at 03:11 pm

Thank God. I went through being unemployed during a hiring freeze, a long long time ago and the young interviewer ask me this question and she was dam lucky I didn't choke her chicken. What a dumb FN question.

-1 points
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LeotisHarris's picture

November 25, 2022 at 05:44 pm

That was my point, little buddy.

I'm relieved to hear you didn't lay hands on a young woman during a job interview. The whole choking the chicken thing, well, you'll need to work that out on your own.

5 points
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Oppy's picture

November 25, 2022 at 08:37 pm

As today's youth might say, you're "low-key" the wittiest mf'er on this site.

2 points
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jlc1's picture

November 26, 2022 at 08:57 am

Nailed us Leotis. Good one.

1 points
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Fubared's picture

November 25, 2022 at 03:01 pm

I see a dual problem. First the coaches for the most part had a previous connecting to GB or worked with LeFleur. That isn't unusual but passing up talent for friendship doesn't win football games. Making an easy decision hire versus doing an extensive search for that perfect fit makes a huge difference down the road. Barry was a God awful choice. No defensive coach experience for a team on the verge of sb competition? Wtf
Second, giving weak coaches like Barry an anchor, drafting players who aren't very bright. I know they stopped using the wonderlich but they do still interview and hopefully study college film.
IMO Stokes isn't very bright. He hasn't learned the corner position. He will never learn it because it's more then he can handle. He wouldnt be on most teams but possibly a second team back up.
Ditto on Amari, just not bright enough for the NFL.
This is on Gutt giving so so coaches so so players. It's going to be a bitch going forward looking at the makeup of this org.

-9 points
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NickPerry's picture

November 26, 2022 at 06:07 am

I'm sorry sir but this comment makes absolutely NO SENSE...

There's so many things that are just flat out WRONG, not even remotely true it's really amazing.

I've felt for a long, long time you're a Vikings Troll who only shows up after a loss or a bad season. Np offense but I think the Daily Norsemen just called and is looking for input...

Better hurry, Vikings success only comes about every 5 years and lasts one season!

4 points
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jhtobias's picture

November 25, 2022 at 04:17 pm

I'm gonna give Matt a pass on two things. 1. Offensive staff and play calling . I truly believe rodgers controls most if not all the final decisions and rodgers controls the play calling but will through his coaches under a bridge and teammates whenever possible. I dont believe any head coach stands a chance with rodgers at this point of his career. In fact why hire a head coach at this point we have rodgers to make decisions save the money

As for defense it is absolutely inexcusable that he hired Joe berry and for that reason alone should have absolutely no input in hiring a staff member ever again. Absolutely horrific and one of the worst coaching hires in nfl history.

-4 points
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fangirl's picture

November 25, 2022 at 05:26 pm

Agree with Fubared--MLF didn't scour the country for up-and-coming talent, offensively/defensively.

--He hires DC and ST's coaches and walks away, ignoring 2/3 of his team, (defense, ST's) There is no accountability, no consequences, no adjustments.

--He needs to hold Bisaccia accountable for the poor showing after he was paid 2 million $$

0 points
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Oppy's picture

November 25, 2022 at 08:43 pm

MLF's inability to put Rodgers in check in his biggest failing.

Unfortunately, there isn't a coach in the NFL that can do so.

2 points
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Leatherhead's picture

November 26, 2022 at 01:41 pm

If LaFleur had hired me, we'd have two fewer fumbled punts this year.

0 points
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Starrbrite's picture

November 26, 2022 at 08:21 pm

And no returns—tsk tsk.

0 points
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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

November 27, 2022 at 04:20 am

I don't know if Steno, Hackett, Getsy, Clements, or Vrabel had anything to do with the offensive scheme.

0 points
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vin0770's picture

November 27, 2022 at 12:11 pm

So who’s the BIG PERSONALITY, BIG PRESENCE coach that MLF has hired? Yeh he identifies with guys like himself so when it’s time that you need someone that has that IT to rally the troops, loud and in a clear voice hold people accountable and otherwise show some balls…there isn’t a guy around. I’m shocked said…NOBODY!

1 points
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