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What to Expect from the Packers' Offense Under Matt LaFleur

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What to Expect from the Packers' Offense Under Matt LaFleur

The truth of the matter is that no one will know if Matt LaFleur was the right hire for the Packers any time in the next 12 months, and it may take even longer than that.

When Mike McCarthy was named the head man in Green Bay, I remember being confused and sad that they had chosen the architect of the pitiful 49ers’ offense. The only justification I could remember for that hire was that McCarthy was supposed to revive Brett Favre, so it seemed like a short-term fix.

Now, 13 years later, it’s fair to say that hiring McCarthy was the right move, as he led one of Favre’s several career resurgences and shepherded Aaron Rodgers into world-class stardom. Despite the ugly end to his tenure, there’s no question McCarthy was a good coach and the right hire at the time.

So, with the final verdict on LaFleur months or years away, what do we know about him now?

His background made him a qualified candidate, and the 39-year-old was the right age to present the long-term upside teams are looking for in a head coach. His 2016 and 2017 seasons made him a rising star as he was Matt Ryan’s quarterbacks coach in his MVP year and Jared Goff’s offensive coordinator for his turnaround season.

LaFleur is a product of the Shanahan coaching tree, having spent time under Mike and Kyle, as well as Rams wunderkind Sean McVay. It’s always hard to apply previous tendencies to a new job and brand-new personnel, but the 2018 Titans could provide a broad framework for what to expect from LaFleur, the 2019 Packers and beyond.

STATS, LLC records play concept data, and last year’s Titans showed some signature tendencies. The first lesson is that the Packers’ running game will not receive the diverse makeover that I was hoping for. LaFleur stays true to his roots, calling inside and outside zone for 67 percent of his run plays. For comparison, the Patriots’ run game under Josh McDaniels consists of 31.9 percent zone plays.

Zone schemes are the bread and butter of NFL rushing attacks, but the Shanahan tree emphasizes them in particular. The philosophy is that it is better to do a simple thing extraordinarily well then to do many things at just an average level. The downside is that the opponent doesn’t need to prepare as much for pulling linemen, misdirection, traps, counters and other run-game wrinkles.

The second lesson to be gleaned from Tennessee’s offense last year is that, much like McVay, LaFleur doesn’t immerse himself in run-pass options. RPOs have been the talk of the league this year after Doug Pedersen’s Eagles and Andy Reid’s Chiefs have had so much success with them the last two seasons.

But more traditional play calls are still the norm in the league. The Chiefs led the league in RPOs at nearly 19 percent. The 2018 Packers called a fair amount of RPOs, 7.2 percent of their plays. But LaFleur’s Titans utilized the concept less than 3 percent of the time.

Tennessee, however, called much more traditional play-action than the Packers did last season. If McVay’s tendencies are any indication, Rodgers could be under center more than he was last year, turning his back to the defense and selling hard play-fakes.

The third impression to be gathered from these concept numbers is that LaFleur appears to favor shorter drops in the passing game, calling 1- or 3-step drops on 68.5 percent of passing plays, compared to 53.3 percent for the Packers under McCarthy. Obviously, Rodgers has the ability and tendency to hold on to the ball regardless of dropback depth, but the play designs should feature fewer home-run attempts than under McCarthy.

All of this, of course, is subject to LaFleur’s own interpretation of the Packers’ roster, not to mention the numerous changes to the roster and coaching staff that are sure to come this offseason. But a zone running game and quick passing game that rarely utilizes RPO reads appears to be what the Packers have signed up for in 2019 and beyond.

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Matt Kelley is a staff writer for Cheesehead TV. He can be found on Twitter via @hustleandheart1

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (42) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

zoellner25's picture

Joe Thomas had some great things to say about LaFleur this morning, and I have to trust the word of a hall of fame player.

RCPackerFan's picture

I was listening also.

If anyone has any doubts about him, or at least his offensive scheme, they shouldn't have listening to Thomas!

NJMagic's picture

This really does have shades of McCarthy hire from San Francisco. no one had him at the top of the list, particularly after coordinating that awful offense, and I would say he did rather well...

My one remaining area of concern is the lack of play calling experience. Every previous head coach has had more than one year of play calls. That's not to say he'll be bad at it, but there will definitely be a learning curve; his time in Tennessee prepared him to at least be adaptive to the roster (see Tennessee Weeks 8+).

The best news, though, is that all interviews I've read say he is able to command the locker room. The ability to do so and keep players working at a high level when things don't go right it's probably the number one asset I was looking for in a coach. Tennessee certainly showed that!

Really hoping he can hire another young offense of coordinator to really up the ante on the offense. I don't mind Phil been hanging around to handle the administrative duties though, but please don't make him the number one sounding board for game planning.

Excited to see what the new year brings.
Go get 'em some help BG!

splitpea1's picture

..."Shorter drops"..."fewer home-run attempts"..."quick passing game".... Music to my ears!

splitpea1's picture

Self follow-up: But can our receivers get open fast enough to facilitate this?

zoellner25's picture

with a better scheme, yes. they are NFL athletes

Jonathan Spader's picture

"they are NFL athletes"

I think this undersells the athletic ability if our rookie WRs. The trio all scored in the top % of SPARQ. They all have elite athletic ability. They are tall & fast and MM/Rodgers didn't know how to use them. I can't wait to see how MLF uses their athletic attributes. Especially Moore & Graham if they spend time on the JUGS machine and get over the drops. With MVS, ESB, and Aaron Jones I expect to see a much better scheme to maximize their abilities. I don't mention Davante Adams because the guy is unstoppable regardless of scheme or QB.

zoellner25's picture

Didn't mean to "undersell" with this. What I meant was, these guys are all great athletes and can get open. A better scheme/system will help that, and better play calling

Rebecca's picture

Let’s nip this mlf acronym in the bud. Don’t even! Too much like

Jonathan Spader's picture

Lafleur is a mouthful, Matt seems disrespectful. If you want to nip MLF you gotta offer something better Becca that's how these things work. In the meantime MLF MLF MLF MLF
We already have MVS & ESB, what's a MLF? Lol.

Skip greenBayless's picture

How about Frenchie. I think we can live with that. Easy to spell easy to remember.

Rebecca's picture

Ok rules are rules, but he better not mess up this head coach thing or he’s milfed! lol

Rebecca's picture

How about laf as in LaFleur?

Laf Laf Laf

Skip greenBayless's picture

I actually thought of that too Rebecca but went outside the box with Frenchie. Here's one, how about everyone just learn to spell his last name correctly. LaFlore is not that difficult to spell to be honest.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

Narrower WR splits too. It forces the safeties to pay attention to even more receivers. The Rams use this a lot.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Tennessee had a pile of injuries and a right side of the OL that made Bell and Spriggs look decent. So 3 step drops make a world of sense in that situation.

Despite all the fuss, GB's OL when healthy is much better than the Titans' OL in 2018. If we plug the RG hole, it is miles better. The Titans OL could not run block either. 45 of GB's 53 sacks occurred more than 2.5 seconds after the snap. I assume that some of those were because AR was able to run for his life for a little while or made the first guy miss, but it is an interesting stat.

Maybe the 1 and 3 step drop is indeed a tendency, but it might simply have been a necessity.

porupack's picture

thanks for insights and introing MLF to some of us that don't know much about him. I would hope a young coach will hire the right OC which can also impact the design of GB offensive schemes (I think you suggest that in your conclusion). Perhaps the new OC should even be the play-caller given how much MLF will be taking on this year at the ripe young age he is.

>>>>>All of this, of course, is subject to LaFleur’s own interpretation of the Packers’ roster, not to mention the numerous changes to the roster and coaching staff that are sure to come this offseason.<<<<<

Bure9620's picture

Well all of the Hot Take shows are t

Bure9620's picture

Well all of the Hot Take shows are talking about what a mistake this is, makes me smile.....

packerbackerjim's picture

The Hot Take “artists” are simply playing the odds and if Lombardi were reincarnated they would do the same to him. Don’t look for validation; it will come soon enough from the people who truly matter.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

The truth is there are a lot more haters that tune into those shows than those with logical balanced perspectives.

I still remember when people where pissed that Holmgren was hired, and Sherman, and McCarthy.

I expect LaFleur is as good a choice as any of the other top options.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

"But LaFleur’s Titans utilized the concept (RPO) less than 3 percent of the time."

It's possible that is a function of marginal QBs in Mariota and Gabbert. Once he has a guy like Rodgers who reads defenses well he will start to do that more.

The thing I like about LaFleur is he is flexible and has a record of adapting, even in Tennessee.

mamasboy's picture

Limiting (RPO) might be a very good thing for the Packers, as far as reigning in coach Rogers' ego. Good luck with that. Those are fighting words to Aaron. He wants the option of doing what ever the hell he wants, to be available, or he's going to be upset. Will La Fleur humble Rogers? I hope so!

Tarynfor12's picture

Expectations based on the hire of LaFleur should be tempered until after the Draft and FA, two very important things which will tell us where the FO mentality has gone and if Gute can get back to back good drafts ,especially with the selections and talent. The success of LaFleur will be highly dependent on these events. Then preseason depending on the tools supplied from the previous mentioned....Let's not forget the elephant in the room...how does Rodgers take to him...anyone hear a statement from the man yet about the hire.

mamasboy's picture

I almost wish that Rogers doesn't "take to him". Rogers doesn't like being TOLD what to do, someone needs to break him of that habit for the
sake of the team. I read a report that said LaFlure uses a lot of play action to set up the pass. Will Rogers want to just hand the ball off about half the time? He also likes quick passes from the QB. Rogers said he wants to be coached.I hope he does, but we'll see.

CheesyTex's picture

I know many posting here are down on "Magic Mark", but I believe that he is now the only top exec to have played in the league. With any luck at all, he has used his experience and contacts well in making this hire.

He did put himself squarely on the spot by leading the search personally rather than using a search firm, so it looks like he'll live or die with LaFleur.

Maybe next year we'll be singing his praises.

egbertsouse's picture

What is it with the stripper names? We already have Matt LaFleur and Katrina Bibbs and now you want Magic Mark?

Rick F's picture

The creativity to scheme players open is the weekly goal. I think the first order of business is some big maulers to protect Rodgers. Once you can control the line of scrimmage and dictate down and distance. They need NFL starting quality lineman. The cap money that is available will get them 2-3 starting caliber players for either side of the ball. You must get front 7 help out of this draft with great length, speed and size. That is Gutekunst job now get this roster as much talent to be competitive.

Rick F's picture

The creativity to scheme players open is the weekly goal. I think the first order of business is some big maulers to protect Rodgers. Once you can control the line of scrimmage and dictate down and distance. They need NFL starting quality lineman. The cap money that is available will get them 2-3 starting caliber players for either side of the ball. You must get front 7 help out of this draft with great length, speed and size. That is Gutekunst job now get this roster as much talent to be competitive.

4thand1's picture

What to expect, hhmmmmmm? The best thing will be the other teams won't know what to expect anymore. Mike M didn't change or adjust ....................EVER! I'd give my eyeteeth for some halftime adjustments that make a difference.

Swisch's picture

A great offensive or defensive coordinator may not have what it takes to lead an entire team. There's no shame in being a great assistant who doesn't make it as a head coach.
Let's hope that LaFleur has leadership qualities, including the ability to motivate men over a long period of time, as well as being firm but adaptable. Let's hope he works hard, but also takes time off to have some balance in his life.
It sounds like quite a challenge for any head coach to work with 53 players and several assistant coaches.
I'm excited about LaFleur so far. Sometimes a team has to take a chance on a guy who is quite promising but still somewhat under the radar. This seems like a good choice.

HankScorpio's picture

Leadership is far more important than having been part of offensive innovation in the past. Once upon a time, Mike Martz was a visionary offensive genius. It lasted a couple of years. Then his innovations became stale. He didn't develop new ones. Eventually, he was just a doofus that didn't know how to coach.

I don't care what ML did last year. Or the years prior. That was then, this is now. What matters is what ML decides to do with his assistants each and every January. And how he leads the team. And how he is at identifying, acknowledging and correcting his own mistakes. We may start to get a picture of that next fall. But chances are it will take longer for the picture to be complete.

Holecrap's picture

I read a couple of posts on another sports page that originated with Titans fans and they were saying, thank God he is gone, thank you Packers.
Apparently these posters were not impressed with the job Mr Fluer did and his leaving will benefit the team.
In addition he did not call plays while with the Rams and left because he wanted to be a play caller. Sounds like Mike. One track mind, focused on play calling.
My take he's got one an a half seasons before the pack says good bye.

dobber's picture

"Sounds like Mike. One track mind, focused on play calling."

Sounds like a guy who wanted to be a head coach.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

I don't think MLF can win under your philosophy. If he had never called plays, you'd say he isn't qualified to be a head coach. When he took a job with more responsibility, that's somehow a bad thing.

fthisJack's picture

i'm hoping that if the new coach retains Pettine that he demands a brand spanking new ST coach for the D. Zook is just horrible and it cost games!

Lphill's picture

lets wait and see the moves he makes before we reach a decision so far it looks like a good move.

Lphill's picture

Viking fans are all over this so it must be a good signing .

4thand1's picture

Maybe they're worried he knows Cousins?

Doug Niemczynski's picture

Only Time Will Tell!

PAPackerbacker's picture

Of course the Titans fans would say that they're glad MLF is gone. There were many Packer fans glad to see MM gone too. Yet MM will likely be hired by another team soon. And I don't think age has anything to do with success in the NFL. A coach that can motivate a team and make adjustments is going to do very well in Green Bay, or any other city. A coach that commands respect and has strong leadership abilities can bring out the best in everyone, players and other coaches alike. I hope MLF has all these qualities and all the other tools necessary to mold the Packers into the champions we all have become accustomed to. Go! Pack! Go!

4zone's picture

Because we don't have an 'owner', I think MLF will be given a longer timeframe to show his wares than he might get at another organization. That is, unless he does a face plant and we end up with a top 3-5 pick in next year's draft.

I won't make predictions until he announces the final staff, and after the draft and FA signing period before hand. Then it will be a lot clearer where we stand at that point.

The last stage is I'd say our first 6 games of the season next year. Do we come out hard and fast, or do we lay an egg like in years past.

Let the speculation begin.

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