We’ve already witnessed major differences regarding the general manager changeover, in 2018, from Ted Thompson to Brian Gutekunst. Now we are all watching changes taking place during the McCarthy-LaFleur coaching transition. New strategies, different play calls, attitudinal differences. . .
Of all the changes I’ve read about, among the first and most noticeable is the players adopting a new approach to their work. The Packers are once again enjoying their jobs – they are having fun!
The Packers gathered as a team on April 23 for their first practice since December. With Matt LaFleur now in charge, the first thing that was noticed by a Fox News reporter was: “After two difficult seasons for the Packers, LaFleur wants to make things fun again.”
Jason Wilde, writing for the Wisconsin State Journal, got the same impression back in April: “New coach Matt LaFleur wants his guys to have fun while they’re working.” Wilde reported after the second day of minicamp that receiver Davante Adams is enjoying the changed atmosphere:
“I love it. The music playing at practice, having fun, jelling together — it’s a little bit of a different dynamic. It adds a little bit of a youthful vibe to practice, and a little bit of juice. And it’s contagious, too.”
Wilde noted that music was played inside the Don Hutson Center throughout minicamp practice, not just during breaks, and he added:
“LaFleur has encouraged his players to enjoy their jobs as much as they can. While that’s undoubtedly easier now, before the team has played – much less lost – a game under their new coach, the different atmosphere is palpable.”
When asked about where his philosophy on fun comes from, LaFleur made reference to working for Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn in 2015 and 2016:
“Who doesn’t want to have fun when they go to work? I want to. It kind of goes back to my time in Atlanta, just seeing the environment, the culture that Dan Quinn instilled in our organization. I just think that you get more out of people when they enjoy what they do.”
When the full team gathered for organized team activities (OTAs) on May 19, Matthew Schmidt of Clutch Points noticed the change in quarterback Aaron Rodgers:
If there is one thing Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers wasn’t having over the last couple of years, it was fun, but apparently, that is changing. Packers head coach Matt LaFleur says that he is enjoying his time with Rodgers thus far, and the feeling appears to be mutual. “I think it’s going great, man. He’s fun to be around,” said LaFleur.
During the early OTAs, Brian Jones of 247 Sports got this quote about Rodgers from La Fleur:
“You can see how much fun he has out on that field, but we’ve had a lot of good conversations and I think we’re growing together. The more time that we can spend together, I think we’ll have a better feel for each other. Certainly, it’s been a lot of fun up to this point.”
After two seasons of failing to make the playoffs, the players appear eager to start fresh with their young and energetic new head coach.
Whether the fun training atmosphere will help the team achieve wins is anyone’s guess, but I’d say that almost any departure from what the Packers’ ways were under McCarthy is welcome news.
When I googled “Mike McCarthy” and “fun,” about all I came up with was McCarthy reminiscing, following his firing, that coaching Rodgers was both challenging and fun. That was perhaps so in the duo’s early years together, though it’s apparent that Aaron wasn’t having much fun on the field over the past two years.
There is one quote by the ex-coach, however, of which players, coaches, and fans can all agree: “Winning is fun.” It’s not profound, but if the fun in Green Bay is to flourish throughout the 2019 season, it needs to be accompanied by several more wins that the team achieved in 2017 (7) or 2018 (6).