Packers: Put some respect on Matt LaFleur’s name
By Dillon Graff
The Green Bay Packers were a team in disarray, ending the 2018 season 6-9-1 and suffering their second straight losing season. Gone was long-time Packers coach Mike McCarthy who had won 127 games in Green Bay, including a Super Bowl, big shoes to fill.
Matt LaFleur would be named the man tasked with righting the ship, becoming the franchise’s 15th head coach on January 8, 2019.
As with any big decision, there were skeptics amongst Packer fans. Some cited his youth (39 at the time of hire) and limited resume as cause for concern.
- Two seasons as OC (2017 Rams/2018 Titans)
- Two seasons as QBs Coach (2015-2016 Falcons)
- Four seasons with the Washington Football Team (2010-2013)
- One season as an offensive assistant with Houston Texans (2008-2009)
There was no doubt going to be all eyes on the first-year head coach, and despite coming off two straight losing seasons, the expectation was always going to be winning from day one. No pressure, right?
Fast forward two seasons and any doubt there may have been has surely been erased. What Coach LaFleur has accomplished has been nothing short of incredible. He has led the Packers to a 26-6 regular-season record, and made an absolute mockery of the NFC North, going 11-1 against divisional opponents.
Ball security and controlling the time of possession were priorities of LaFleur when he arrived in Green Bay. This has become the identity of the Packers, who are now 19-0 under LaFleur when they win the turnover margin.
But that’s not where the impressive feats stop. Coach LaFleur became just the sixth head coach since 1970 to make it to the conference championship in each of his first two seasons. He also became the second coach since the NFL formed divisions to win 13-plus games and a division title in each of his first two years at the helm.
LaFleur made history in first season with Packers
No coach had ever made the playoffs in their first season as the head coach of the Packers. LaFleur changed that in a hurry, finishing 13-3 with a No. 2 seed and NFC North title in hand. Coach LaFleur became the fifth head coach in league history to win 13-plus games in his first year. The Packers would also finish second in the NFL in giveaways (13).
Not to mention that LaFleur and his system were a large contributing factor to the Packers having had their biggest one-year improvement in the history of the franchise (plus-7). While the team didn’t win the NFC championship, it was clear things were back on track and LaFleur was a young coach on the rise.
Most among the fanbase/the media expected regression for LaFleur and the Packers in year two. Which would be fair considering the unprecedented success they found right out of the gate.
All Coach LaFleur did in year two was establish himself as one of the brightest young coaching stars in the league. His Packers team achieved this in 2020:
- Led the league in points scored (509), second-highest in franchise history
- Led the NFL in PPG (31.8)
- First in the league in giveaways (11), lowest mark in franchise history
- Only team in the NFL to rank top 10 in: yards per game, yards per play, passing yards per game, passing yards per play, rushing yards per game, rushing yards per carry
- Only team in the NFL to have three players with 10-plus touchdowns (Adams 18, Jones 11, Tonyan 11)
- Fifth in yards per game
- Fifth in total passing yards
- Eighth in total rushing yards
It’s impossible to argue with the results. LaFleur brought his scheme to Green Bay and put his stamp on this team from day one. Now the team has an identity as an efficient team that prioritizes scheming players open and taking care of the football.
Possibly the greatest beneficiary of LaFleur’s scheme change was none other than Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers would go on to be named the MVP, leading the NFL with a 121.5 QBR (second-highest in NFL history). Fun fact, Rodgers also has the highest QBR in NFL history (122.5), but I digress.
Rodgers had not only the highest QBR in the league, but also led the league in completion percentage, passing touchdowns, and interception percentage. Rodgers was the first to lead the league in all four since Steve Young did it in 1992. It’s safe to say Rodgers and LaFleur bring out the best in each other.
Coach Matt LaFleur has been a significant reason for the Packers’ success and should be recognized as the star he is. I have no doubt that he is the right man for the job. We should consider ourselves lucky to have a coach that has found this kind of success at just 41 years old.