Let’s try to get those blood pressure readings back down. Sure, change is usually accompanied by some anxiety. But too many Packers faithful are unnecessarily worried, skeptical, and even pessimistic. I’ve jotted down a few reasons why gleeful optimism should be the mood in Packerland.
Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson had become incompetent at their jobs. They weren’t getting anywhere near the most out of their players. They’re gone. Is there anyone out there who doesn’t believe their replacements are a massive improvement?
Brian Gutekunst has been solid, if not sensational, in his first year as GM. He’ll only get better. And, he believes in free agency acquisitions.
Another reason for optimism: Mike Pettine has replaced Dom Capers as the defensive coordinator. The consensus is that Pettine did a good job under trying circumstances as the new defensive coordinator. I’m pleased he’s been retained.
We can all agree that Aaron Rodgers, the franchise, has been on the descent for three or four years running. It’s almost certainly not due to the aging process, which doesn’t normally reveal itself at age 32 or 33.
Much of his regression appears to have everything to do with his frustration with the head coach – who’s now gone. I suspect that the weight of the world came off Rodgers on December 2, when Murph finally gave Mac the hook. The departure of Big Mike, in itself, should cause Aaron to rebound in 2019.
More than anything else, the Packers needed a new head coach who would revive Rodgers and the pass offense. They got him. Just a glance at his past experience should calm most fears. This is a guy who’s spent most of the last ten years being a quarterbacks coach or an offensive coordinator. He’s raised the games of Robert Griffin III, Matt Ryan, Jared Goff, and others. He’s helped RGB III become Rookie of the Year and Ryan become the league’s MVP in 2016.
I can’t think of any other conceivable head coaching candidate with a comparable record of improving passing attacks. Who better to mentor Aaron than Matt? My optimism runneth over.
I’m coming around to the point of view that very good coaching can make all the difference in the world in terms of NFL success. Just look at this season’s final four: four very good to great coaches! Very good coaches succeed, or at worst remain competitive, despite injuries and misfortunes – and seemingly even despite the composition of their rosters.
Other recent coaching changes should also reduce fans’ qualms. Sean McVay, Matt’s bosom buddy, was coach of the year in his first campaign, and two weeks ago Chicago’s Matt Nagy received the same honor. Nagy is one year older than LaFleur, and both are former quarterbacks themselves. It obviously doesn’t take several years as an NFL head coach to turn teams around or achieve fine win-loss records. It’s hard for me not to envision LaFleur having success along the lines of McVay and Nagy. Don’t worry, be happy!
Here’s the clincher. Which of the skeptics out there, and I’m including any number of national sports media among them, personally know and have intimately witnessed LaFleur’s progression up the coaching ladder? Those intimately familiar with Matt and his body of work – I think without exception – give him through-the-roof endorsements.
The LaFleur fan club includes those who have been coaches alongside him, the quarterbacks he has helped nurture, and the players on the teams in which he’s been a coach: Texans, Redskins, Falcons, Rams, and Titans.
I haven’t seen one negative word from the guys who know him best, have worked with him the closest, or observed him close up for one or more seasons. I put great reliance on these opinions, and little reliance on media blowhards or fans who don’t really know the guy.
I could go on, and talk about having ten draft choices, or being in a good financial position to acquire some quality free agents.
I also have a post coming out about Green Bay needing 17 different defensive backs on the roster in order to get through the onslaught of injuries in 2018. That of course was the worst defensive backfield attrition rate in the league last year. Surely it won’t repeat itself in 2019.
To sum up: a smarter GM in Brian Gutekunst, a seasoned defensive coordinator and good fit in Pettine, a more energetic and modern coach in LaFleur, and a happier and more inspired quarterback in Rodgers are reasons enough for Packers fans to think happy thoughts about the 2019 campaign.