Reports from around the NFL are that the Green Bay Packers have begun the process of hiring Tennessee Titans Offensive Coordinator Matt LaFleur as their next Head Coach.
Before I dive too far into it, it’s worth noting that at the time of writing this, it isn’t official yet. Reports are that the job offer has been made and a deal is being finalised, but pen hasn’t been set to paper just yet, however that is expected to change very soon.
With that caveat out of the way, let’s dive on in shall we.
Firstly, I say this is an excellent hire. Now granted I wrote a piece not so long ago which mentioned getting a defensively minded coach in, however, when looking at the available coaches it’s blatantly obvious that what the Packers have in Mike Pettine at Defensive Coordinator is better any of the candidates that were on the market.
This is rather important since all indications are that LaFleur intends to keep Pettine on; with some sources reporting that he even addressed this in the interview, stating both Pettine and current interim Head Coach Joe Philbin would ideally remain on his staff.
Not that it matters (nudge nudge, wink wink), but LaFleur, Pettine, and Philbin share the same agent, Trace Armstrong. Who, in a cruel twist of irony also represents deposed Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy. Talk about lightning striking 3 times, and by lightning, I mean bags and bags of money. Well played Trace, well played. Then again, the man does also represent Stugotz so…. “how ‘bout that”.
LaFleur has an excellent track record as a coach working with highly regarded offensive minds in Kyle Shanahan (Atlanta Falcons), and Sean McVay. (LA Rams)
As Quarterbacks coach of the Falcons, LaFleur turned Matt Ryan into the 2016 MVP winner in a season that Ryan has yet to surpass, and quite frankly he hasn’t looked the same since LaFleur’s departure.
In 2017 LaFleur was appointed Offensive Coordinator for the LA Rams, under head coach and 2018/2019 Coach of the Year candidate Sean McVay. He worked extensively with Rams QB Jared Geoff, who has developed into a legitimate MVP candidate, in one of the most explosive offensives the league has seen. He deserves some credit for Todd Gurley’s Offensive Player of the Year award from the same season, which saw the LA running back post 19 total TDs and rush for 2093 yards.
Ultimately LaFleur left LA for Tennessee because he wasn’t calling the plays for the Rams, and the Titans offered him a chance to do so.
It’s fair to posit that working with Aaron Rodgers is going to be a step up from Marcus Mariota; don’t get me wrong Mariota is a serviceable QB but he’s not Green Jesus. This somewhat explains the downtick in aerial yards for the Titans, also name a receiver on the Titans without using Google. It’s OK, I’ll wait.
What is impressive however is that under LaFleur, Titans’ running back Derek Henry posted his first ever, that’s right first ever 1000-yard season. Gaining 1059 yards on the ground and 12 touchdowns, the team total was 15.
On a side note, Derek Henry has been in the league since 2016, so it’s not like he’s lacked the opportunity to do this already. This bodes rather well for the Packers young running backs in Aaron Jones and Jamal Williams. Since neither one saw correct usage under McCarthy. If he’s healthy Jones should be the clear winner in the backfield, with hopefully a consistent number of snaps coming his way.
At the age of 39, LaFleur is closer to superstar quarterback, nay, football god Aaron Rodgers (35) than both Mike McCarthy (55) and Joe Philbin (57). I’m not suggesting age has anything to do with job performance, in fact sometimes with age comes experience.
However, while older coaches may have seen more of the game, they become stuck in their ways. This sends a strong message that the organisation wanted to move in a new direction. A welcome change from the Dom Capers defensive method: keep doing the same thing over and over hope nobody notices.
This hire, coupled with the 2 first round picks (thanks New Orleans), should serve as an injection of youth, innovation and hopefully a man who appreciates The Big Lebowski as much as Rodgers. The Packers may well be set to have big rebound in 2019.
What this means for the rest of the league is that Josh McDaniels is staying put in New England. The Patriots OC was only set to interview for the Green Bay job and barring LaFleur pulling a McDaniels; which FYI would be both heartbreaking and a little hilarious, McDaniels will be staying with the Pats for another season. Good news for Patriots’ fans, not such great news for fans of anyone else in the AFC East.
Talking of the AFC East, reports are that Mike McCarthy’s been shelved from the Browns’ coaching search, and he’s now the favourite to be offered the vacant Head Coach position at the New York Jets.
Jets fans, I feel for you, if you end up with a coach considered not good enough for Cleveland, then I hope you find solace knowing that the “vaunted” McCarthy offense of run, run, pass, punt, is on my shitlist too.