Oh my, have you seen how many of the Packers faithful, egged on by some skeptics in the mainstream media, are on edge over the Matt LaFleur hiring? Is the guy ready? Should we have picked someone with prior head coaching experience? Will Rodgers respect a guy who’s only four year older than himself?
Well, for all of the risk-adverse crowd out there, my advice is to relax: the Packers not only made the right choice, but they were damn lucky that LaFleur was available. His rise in the league has been ten years of pure ascendancy. He’s planned and prepared the entire time for this eventuality.
As Mark Murphy made clear in his transparent press announcement, Matt was the clear and unanimous choice of himself, Brian Gutekunst, and Russ Bell. The council of nine current team players representing the various positions was also strongly in his favor.
Some fans were hoping for someone with maybe ten years of head coaching success and a few Super Bowl appearances. Those few coaches are already gainfully employed. Almost every new head coach hiring involves an element of risk. But LaFleur has some big-time supporters in a couple of renowned head coaches who’ve worked side by side with him on multiple teams.
Kyle Shanahan is acknowledged as an NFL offensive master mind. He first met up with Matt when both were assistant coaches for the Redskins from 2010 through 2013. In 2012 as quarterbacks coach, Matt helped rookie QB Robert Griffin III earn a Pro Bowl berth and be named NFL offensive rookie of the year.
When Shanahan moved on to be Offensive Coordinator of the Falcons in 2015 and 2016, the Falcons went out and got LaFleur to again be the Quarterbacks coach. That led to QB Matt Ryan being named the NFL’s 2016 MVP. He completed 69.9 percent of his passes, threw for 38 touchdowns, had only seven interceptions, and compiled a passer rating of 117.1 – that’s in the vicinity of Aaron Rodgers’ all-time annual QB rating of 122.5. Shanahan was named NFL Assistant Coach of the Year in 2016.
When LaFleur joined the Rams in 2017, Shanahan said:
“They’re getting a hell of a coach. Matt understands the game. He played college quarterback. He knows a lot about that position. He knows the run game, he knows the pass game, He knows how to tie them together”
When LaFleur was named Offensive Coordinator by the Rams in 2017, Shanahan commented that Lafleur had been “ready for a while” for such a role.”
Sean McVay, who was named NFL Coach of the Year in his rookie season of 2017, first got to know Matt in 2012, when both were assistant coaches for the Redskins. He eagerly brought Matt on board as Offensive Coordinator when he was named head coach in Los Angeles. Matt helped QB Jared Goff go from a 63.6 passer rating in his rookie year to a 101.5 rating in 2017. Along the way Goff threw for 28 touchdowns while throwing only seven interceptions.
When McVay heard that Matt was named head coach of the Packers, he exulted:
“That’s awesome. . .Matt’s obviously, he’s one of my closest friends. So to see that for him you couldn’t be more excited. He’s a great football coach. He’s got a great understanding from offensive football. . .He’s such a great guy. He cares about people He’s going to be honest in his communication. He’s going to be invested in working hard in trying to help put guys in great spots.”
In 2016, the Rams were ranked 32nd in total offensive yardage. Under McVay and LaFleur they zoomed up to tenth in 2017, and in 2018 McVay has them ranked second – just under Kansas City and over 800 yards ahead of the Packers.
So, even if you are less than confident about the Packers’ current management triumvirate, you can take the glowing words of Shanahan and McVay to heart. They are currently among the smartest – and most successful – offensive minds in pro football. The two are intimately aware of Matt’s abilities, and they flat out love the guy!
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