Temper Your Expectations for Year Two

Before we get too far ahead, let's remember what Matt LaFleur accomplished last year was not normal. 

What Matt LaFleur accomplished in his first season with the Green Bay Packers was unprecedented: a 13-3 record, division title, and trip to the conference championship. No coach in Packers history had ever made the playoffs in his first year. It’s safe to say LaFleur has his work cut out for him in year two if he wants to top that. That team certainly has a lot of pieces in the right places, but fans may want to temper their expectations after a season that should probably be considered somewhat of an anomaly.

That is to say, nothing should be taken away from what the Packers did last year. After two years of missed playoffs, the energy LaFleur instilled into the offense and locker room was refreshing. However, anyone speaking truthfully would not have expected him to do so well this early.

When president Mark Murphy decided to hire LaFleur, the decision kind of came out of left field. LaFleur didn’t have a glamorous resume to begin with, as he was only an NFL play-caller for one season. However, while reflecting on the events over the last season, Murphy is certainly happy with his choice. 

By and large, LaFleur did everything the Packers could have asked from a rookie head coach. He set the single-season wins record for a first-year coach in Green Bay and was one game away from the Super Bowl.

Leading up to the season, many questioned his readiness to lead an NFL franchise and whether he could manage a future Hall of Fame quarterback in Aaron Rodgers. Of course now those questions have been put to rest.

Prior to last season, a Rodgers-led team had only reached at least 13 wins one other time. He reached 12 just once.

Now that LaFleur has a year of experience under his belt, it’s admissible to expect more in year two. However, before anyone gets too far ahead of themselves, it's time to be more realistic.

The Packers had one of their healthier seasons of recent memory in 2019. It would be misguided to count on that kind of injury luck again.

Luckily, Green Bay is returning pretty much all of their key playmakers. Aaron Jones has one year remaining on his rookie deal and Davante Adams should be back at full health. Meanwhile, free agents Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith, and Adrian Amos will hopefully build upon encouraging starts to their time with the Packers. Also, don’t forget about Rodgers, who will be expecting more from himself after what can only be considered an average year per his standards.

Although, even with a roster with so much talent and potential, LaFleur knows it will be tough to top even after all he’s learned in the last year.

“Now, we understand that also, going into year two that there's pressure with how we performed in year one for the most part,” LaFleur said earlier this month. “There's gonna be some heavy expectations, and we've all got to be ready to embrace those and make sure, again, that we're doing everything in our power to get better each and every day so we can live up to those."

It’s a pretty by the book statement from a by the book coach.

LaFleur knocked it out of the park in 2019, but all of us may need come to our senses a tad as far as the build-up to next season. Constructing a Super Bowl-caliber team takes time, and as Green Bay still appears to be in a transitional stage, they will be fortunate to be considered among the contenders next season.

 

 

Brandon Carwile is a Packers writer who also enjoys watching and breaking down film. Follow him on Twitter @PackerScribe.

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Comments (26)

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Lare's picture

June 29, 2020 at 06:37 am

One point of clarification- I don't think Gutekunst hired LaFleur, I think Mark Murphy did.

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BrandonCarwile's picture

June 29, 2020 at 08:24 am

Good catch. Thank you

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stockholder's picture

June 29, 2020 at 06:55 am

Don't need to Temper anything. Rodgers always put points on the board. It's THE DEENSE that has been the problem.

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jannes bjornson's picture

June 29, 2020 at 03:18 pm

They should be 12-4, if there is a season.

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Bearmeat's picture

June 29, 2020 at 07:14 am

Yeah we need to temper our expectations. We were 13-3 last year, but our record in 1 score games, turnover margin and injury rate were huge drivers of that. We probably "should" have ended up at 9-7 or 10-6. And that's what I'd expect this year too. Outside of Kirksey, who could possibly be an upgrade, we have not made our starting 22 better in any meaningful way. This offseason was about 2022, not 2020.

I'm still guessing 9-7 and a wild card.

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taarons420's picture

June 29, 2020 at 08:45 am

Possible realistic/legitimate upgrades...

Defense...
Z. Smith - 2nd year in this defense
P. Smith - 2nd year in this defense
A. Amos - 2nd year in this defense
K. Clark - Only 24 years old (just entering his prime)
D. Savage - 2nd year as a pro
Kirksey > Martinez
J. Alexander - Only 23 years old (just entering his prime)
Return of Greene
Gary - 2nd year as a pro

Offense...
ENTIRE OFFENSE - 2nd year in new system
Adams/Lazard/Funchess > Adams/Allison/Valdez-Scantling
Sternberger > Graham
Dillon > J. Williams
Deguara - true H-back added to the offense
E. Jenkins - 2nd year as a pro

Special Teams...
Ervin for a full season

Coaching...
LeFleur - 2nd year as a HC

Injuries...
More OL depth
More ILB depth
More OLB depth
More S depth
More RB depth
More WR depth
More TE depth
More QB depth
Chance to improve on being the 14th healthiest team (based on PFF adjusted games lost)

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Coldworld's picture

June 29, 2020 at 08:56 am

I agree with the first half of your comment. I think, however, the point is we used this off season to give LaFleur what he thinks he needs. If he is worth having, that should be a major upgrade!

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nostradanus's picture

June 29, 2020 at 07:19 am

I’m not tempering anything Brandon, this is Green Bay man we go for Championships! Super Bowl baby!!
Go Pack!!

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gkarl's picture

June 29, 2020 at 10:08 am

ND

You will probably give T 4 12 an uncontrollable LOL moment when she reads your comment.

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nostradanus's picture

June 29, 2020 at 11:10 am

True ;)

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NickPerry's picture

June 29, 2020 at 07:47 am

"The Packers had one of their healthier seasons of recent memory in 2019. It would be misguided to count on that kind of injury luck again."

The Packers DID have one of their healthier seasons last year BUT they there's a TON of room to be healthier. The Packers ranked 14th in adjusted games lost and I heard a podcast that put them 17th last year (not sure why there was a difference). The Packers were still middle of the road in that stat with PLENTY of room for improvement this year.

We as fans are so used to the Packers being near the bottom of that stat, last year SEEMS like we could probably never be so lucky again. Obviously WHO gets injured matters and the Packers were lucky in that regard but I'm not going to automatically assume we can't do better.

The Vikings were the HEALTHIEST team in the NFL last season and we kicked their ass TWICE. With all the changes on their roster AND the world right now, I think we'll kick their ass twice AGAIN this year! If the season does start on time and all games are played, at least we'll know they aren't piping in noise in week 2 if no fans are in the stands!

Sorry Brandon but I don't think I'm misguided one bit for thinking the Packers could be healthier. Maybe the changes to the strength and conditioning staff last season and Mike McCarthy no longer the HC, THIS is the new norm.

How much ya wanna bet the Cowboys are one of the most injured teams in the NFL this year...

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dobber's picture

June 29, 2020 at 09:25 am

"The Packers DID have one of their healthier seasons last year BUT they there's a TON of room to be healthier. "

The key to injuries is either having good backups (which not many teams have) or being able to shift your schemes to de-emphasize the players lost and emphasize others. Certainly the injury to Taylor, which accounts for many of the lost player games in 2019, falls under the first category. Jenkins turned out to be a superior player. In the case of Adams' injury, that falls under the second category. They struggled to cover Raven Greene's and Darnell Savage's injuries.

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Johnblood27's picture

June 29, 2020 at 09:39 am

queens are week one...

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Stroh's picture

June 29, 2020 at 09:41 pm

As the article states... fans should temper expectations, that is all. A lot went the Packers way last year. Some was their own making, but a lot was luck. Turnovers aren't a stat thsg usually replicate itself from one year to the next. As an example.

They could be a much improved team and still finish with a worse record than last year. By most statsthey should have been 10-6 last year. A regression to norm is likely. 10 or 11 wins is more realistic than 13 or 14 wins.

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Bure9620's picture

June 29, 2020 at 08:52 am

Yes, I would temper expectations, but not for being a playoff team. 10 wins is a reasonable expectation and It think they can squeak out another close one. With a healthy Rodgers, my prediction is 11-5, and NFC North champs with a home playoff game.

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mrtundra's picture

June 29, 2020 at 09:39 am

I'm looking forward to this season, a lot! However, when I drive through the area where I live, I see all sorts of signs that says we may have a truncated season, if we have one at all. The bars/restaurants in my town are packed with people and the only people wearing masks are the bar/restaurant employees. The coronavirus numbers keep climbing in my county. In the Green Bay area, the numbers are worse. I hope we can corral this virus, but reality tells me that we are flirting with disaster by not taking the basic steps to stop it's spread. If we do not have another Stay At Home order, by mid Fall, I will be amazed. I hope I am wrong and I hope this virus gets obliterated. Some say there is a 99% chance of recovery from Covid-19. Let people who say that tell me what they think the survival rate is while the nurses and respiratory therapists are intubating them, while putting them on a respirator,in a makeshift ICU, because they cannot breathe. I love the Packers. I want a full season of football and another NFC North title which leads to a Super Bowl Victory. Unless we get serious about fighting this pandemic, a shortened season is what we can look forward to, IMO. Any word on how the Cowboys and Texans players who contracted coronavirus are doing? IMO, It won't be long before the Cardinals team members catch the virus, either, as it is running roughshod throughout Arizona. Same thing goes for the Florida NFL teams.

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Stroh's picture

June 29, 2020 at 10:50 pm

I live in AZ in the Phx area. Our restaurants and bars were open for a few weeks or month. Today all restaurants, bars and fitness facilities were just ordered closed again for a month dur to a similar more pronounced spike in Covid numbers.

I don't see the season being shortened because of the financial implications, but it is likely fans will be very limited during the season. The TV money is too astronomical not to play the games. Game attendace income is a relatively small part compared to TV revenues.

Here's the thing tho. This is a virus that isn't going away. The only way to really syop the spread is for people to become immune to it, either by recovering from having it or by immunization, like a flu shot. Nearest I can tell an immunization shot is over a year away, possibly 2 years. Life has to get back to normal sooner than later. Take the best precautions you can especially if your more susceptible (like myself), but you can slso resign yourself to the fact that you could easily get it at some point even if you protect yourself. I've resigned myself to getting it at some point even if I take major precautions to protect myself. I'm 55 now and have asthma.

Get used to this staying around and that you may very well be infected at some point.

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wildbill's picture

June 29, 2020 at 10:22 am

One of the best things MM said was having a team learn how to deal with success, or something to that effect. The NFL is a year to year league and many things that worked well last year may not this year. As it’s been stated that everybody has a plan until hit in the mouth and I’m anxious to see our game plans, and adjustments, play out this year. If Rodgers stays healthy I don’t see any way we miss the playoffs and being old school I wish all this talk about a play action based offense lends itself to some old fashioned smash mouthed football

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marpag1's picture

June 29, 2020 at 12:21 pm

No one who has any sense of history will expect the Packers to win 13 games, and you'd have to be pretty much insane to expect them to win even more than 13.

The 16 game schedule was installed in 1978. Since that time there are seven teams who have NEVER posted 13 wins or more in a single season - CIN, CLE, DET, HOU, NYJ, OAK and TB. (Yes, I know some teams weren't around in 1978). Only 28 times did an NFL team record 14 wins or more. Only 7 times did an NFL team win 15 or more. Only once did a team win 16. The point is that 13 wins is a ridiculous high number historically. Here is a list of how many seasons of 13 or more wins for each team in the past 40-some years since 1978. Only 5 teams have averaged more than one 13+ season per decade.

SF 10
NE 7
DEN 6
CHI 5
GB 5
IND 4
NO 4
PIT 4
ATL 3
DAL 3
KC 3
TEN 3
BAL 2
BUF 2
LAC 2
LAR 2
MIN 2
NYG 2
PHI 2
SEA 2
WAS 2
ARI 1
CAR 1
JAC 1
MIA 1
CIN 0
CLE 0
DET 0
HOU 0
NYJ 0
OAK 0
TB 0

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splitpea1's picture

June 29, 2020 at 12:32 pm

Everybody keeps saying last season was an anomaly; okay, so maybe we got a couple of lucky breaks, but the bottom line is that we won the close games. It may not have always been as dominant or pretty as maybe some would like, but we got the job done in the end, whether it be on offense or defense. We won a playoff game and got as far as we could with the talent on our roster.

I'm not tempering expectations. Maybe the W-L record won't be as glossy, but people should look forward to the team getting better so we can eventually get over the hump and reach the Super Bowl.

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Stroh's picture

June 29, 2020 at 10:56 pm

Winning close games is itself a stat that is very difficult to repeat. It might help to have an elite QB, but even with that continually winning close games is not sustainable.

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Ferrari-Driver's picture

June 29, 2020 at 12:48 pm

Brandon, I couldn't disagree more. I think the Packers offense is going to be a powerhouse this year and the Packers will dominate on time possession which will keep our defensive team fresh and energetic.
I believe the entire league is going to be surprised by the strong play by the team this year and it will likely come down to a battle to get to the Super Bowl between San Francisco and Green Bay, only this time around we will have the edge in the run game and WE ARE HUNGRY!

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

June 29, 2020 at 11:10 pm

Ferrari,
I like it!

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ChuckCecilKO's picture

June 29, 2020 at 01:19 pm

Players, coaches, and fans all hopefully expect to improve each season. Nothing less than another NFC championship or 13-3 record should suffice. It's the attitude needed to live up to standard. Go Packers!!!!!!

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CoachDino's picture

June 29, 2020 at 05:53 pm

"Luckily, Green Bay is returning pretty much all of their key playmaker"
It has zero to do with Luck. It has to do with the Fantastic Job the front office has done.

It wasn't luck that Elkins was available - It wasn't luck that Big V was available, it wasn't luck that the defense drastically improved. Great Draft, Great FA signings, great mid season signings. It wasn't luck that AR adapted a didn't give the opponents anything - make them earn it.

I agree it will be tough to repeat going 13-3. They now play a 1st place schedule is the biggest reason. Others have pointed out why the Packers are poised to be better this year. Guys get better over the years both in skill and scheme execution. It always amazes me that fans think guys should be drafted and produce big time in year 1. FA should produce in year 1. Yeah maybe a top 5 pick should make some impact but other than those - - "war" drops off fast. Not me saying this just the quantitative analysis (facts).

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dobber's picture

June 30, 2020 at 08:55 am

"They now play a 1st place schedule is the biggest reason."

Remember that the finish only changes 2 games in your schedule. It means that the Packers have to play San Fran and Philly this year rather than some other teams. Yes, that's almost 13% and can be pretty important in a 16-game schedule, but really given the rise and fall of teams, I would argue that it's not all that much.

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