Matt LaFleur was disrespected from the moment he walked in as the Green Bay Packers' new head coach five years ago.
How could the Packers hire the guy who ran that Tennessee Titans offense? They only want him because he's friends with Sean McVay, and every team is looking for the new McVay. We heard this a lot.
"Sean McVay—hats off to him. You should give him a cut because he's influencing everyone in the league right now," Deion Sanders told NFL Network after the Packers hired LaFleur.
Three years later, LaFleur had revolutionized the Packers' offense. He inherited a team that didn't make the playoffs and led them to three straight 13-win seasons, an NFL first. In that time, Aaron Rodgers threw for 12,416 yards, 111 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions and took home consecutive league MVP awards in 2020 and 2021.
LaFleur had stepped out of McVay's shadow. He eliminated McVay's Los Angeles Rams in the 2020 playoffs and beat them again the following regular season.
But LaFleur still didn't get enough respect to win an NFL Coach of the Year award. Now, it was because "he had Aaron Rodgers."
This season, Rodgers was gone. Not just Rodgers, but pretty much any offensive player with more than one year of NFL experience. LaFleur was left with a first-year starting quarterback, a receiving corps of exclusively rookies and second-year players, and a former seventh-rounder playing the most important position on the offensive line.
LaFleur lost his five-time All-Pro left tackle after one game, while his star running back missed seven of the Packers' opening 13 games.
Packers coach Matt LaFleur snubbed in AP Coach of the Year voting
It was a "rebuild" year, and Green Bay started 2-5. The ingredients were there for everything to fall apart. But LaFleur led his team to a 9-8 record, good for a wild-card berth. The Packers then dropped 48 points on the No. 2-seed Cowboys and came painfully close to sending the top-seeded 49ers home.
Jordan Love reached an MVP level in the second half of the season. The Packers were supposed to be a bad team without Rodgers. Now, we're talking about the opening of a new Super Bowl window.
Yet LaFleur still doesn't get the national respect he deserves. On Thursday, the NFL announced the five AP Coach of the Year award finalists. LaFleur is not among the nominees.
LaFleur no longer has Rodgers, and his roster was seemingly so bad that they had zero Pro Bowlers. But he still led this team to the NFC's final four.
Among all active NFL head coaches, LaFleur has the second-highest win percentage behind only a returning Jim Harbaugh. He has guided the Packers to four playoff berths in five years. LaFleur did it with Aaron Rodgers. He did it without Aaron Rodgers.
But he seemingly didn't do enough this season to be named a finalist for the AP Coach of the Year award. The LaFleur disrespect continues.