Packers: It’s about time to give Matt LaFleur his due
By David Ruiz
The Green Bay Packers have had no shortages of historically great head coaches throughout their history dating back to Vince Lombardi, Curly Lambeau, and now towards the present in Matt LaFleur.
Matt LaFleur may be in only his second season as an NFL head coach but the accolades he’s reached have already been outstanding.
While LaFleur has a ways to go to reach the same pinnacle of success such as Lombardi, Mike Holmgren, and Mike McCarthy, the writing is on the wall that’ll get there.
Plus, two previous “M” head coaches have gone on to win a Super Bowl — just saying.
The unknown hiring of Matt LaFleur
The 2018 Packers season will go down as one of the more head-scratching seasons in franchise history. First, we saw a hobbled Aaron Rodgers lead a furious comeback against the Chicago Bears only to lose to a two-win Arizona Cardinals team.
That loss, unbeknownst at the time, would lead to McCarthy coaching his final game with Green Bay. The very same coach, who in 2010, led the Packers to a Super Bowl XLV win ushering in a successful transfer from Brett Favre to Rodgers.
However, as many coaches have found out and will continue to find out, the NFL can be a very, very cruel place.
But one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
LaFleur had been no stranger to coaching as he held previous stints with the Atlanta Falcons, Los Angeles Rams, and Tennessee Titans serving as an offensive coordinator for Los Angeles and Tennessee, respectively.
LaFleur, a quarterbacks coach with Atlanta, helped Matt Ryan win league MVP in 2016 as they would win the NFC by beating the very team he coaches for now.
Even with his previous success, many thought LaFleur wasn’t the right man to come into Green Bay and revamp an unhappy Rodgers and Co. back into championship form.
There was a concern for Sean McVay when he became the youngest head coach in league history at age 30 when taking the Los Angeles Rams job. But LaFleur, who comes from the McVay coaching tree, was also a young buck at age 39 tying Lambeau for the youngest head coach in Packers history.
There is a slew of NFL head coaches who are north of 40, but recent history has shown us that younger coaches can get the job done.
Sure, LaFleur is only four years older than Rodgers, but they say age is just a number. And that adage helps when the head coach and quarterback become one on the field.
Not many head coaches can enter a job and dominate a division right off the bat, but LaFleur has just done that. NFC North head coaches Mike Zimmer, Matt Nagy, and the rotating door in Detroit, have failed to contain LaFleur’s teams since becoming the head coach.
In fact, in LaFleur’s two seasons with Green Bay, they are 11-1 (5-1 at home; 6-0 on the road) against divisional opponents.
Winning your division guarantees you at least one home playoff game, and if you haven’t noticed, Lambeau Field has once again become a special place that favors Green Bay.
LaFleur has coached this team to back-to-back NFC North division championships, back-to-back 13-3 seasons, back-to-back playoff berths, and back-to-back NFC Championship Games.
While LaFleur is 2-1 in playoff games, being given a chance, just a chance, to advance to the Super Bowl is more than anyone could ask for. Winning a Super Bowl is its own beast, but being in the Championship two years in a row is equally impressive. LaFleur is the seventh head coach in NFL history to accomplish that feat.
Buying what LaFleur is selling
Perhaps LaFleur’s greatest attribute is the experience he obtained with some pretty high-profile players. It’s easy to enter a team where Rodgers is your quarterback and expect a normal Rodgers-like season. But with his experience with Ryan, a Todd Gurley, a Derrick Henry, it bodes well to understanding how Green Bay’s offense shines best.
One of the major criticisms of McCarthy was not using his players to full effect. We’d see a big Aaron Jones run in the first half to never see him again as the game went on. Or staring down a Davante Adams when a number of other options were available.
They weren’t terrible decisions but given how his final season panned out, it’s easy now to see the writing on the wall with McCarthy and why a change was needed. McCarthy did a lot of good in his tenure in Green Bay, but if McCarthy was the sample, then LaFleur is the buffet.
You still have the big throws to Adams, the big runs by Jones, but now you’ve started to see players such as Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling take some defenders off Adams. Tight ends such as Robert Tonyan and Marcedes Lewis go to work, and a three-headed running back committee of Jamaal Williams and AJ Dillon working with Jones.
It’s been an offensive sight to enjoy because fans always knew this team had playmakers outside the usual names, and a lot of that credit and success, deservingly so, needs to be attributed to LaFleur.
Whether it’s the energy, the swag, the quotes, the likability, or the fact that he’s damn good at coaching, LaFleur has the Packers organization headed in the right direction.
The last thing left to do for Matt LaFleur?
Win a Super Bowl.