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Coaches’ Battle: LaFleur Has an Edge Over Nagy

When the Packers head south to Soldier Field in early September, it will be the first in what will probably be a long series of meetings between two young NFL head coaches. Matt LaFleur will have a unique advantage in this contest, and it’s my guess he’ll try to exploit it to the fullest.

Matt Nagy, in his rookie year as a head coach, came away with both the Associated Press and Pro Football Writers Association NFL Coach of the year awards. Though they finished the season ranked only 21st in offensive yardage, Nagy’s Bears compiled the third stingiest defensive unit in the league. Green Bay in contrast, finished in 18th place defensively. If the Packers are to open the LaFleur era with a victory, they’ll need to find a way to score against a mighty tough defense.

So why might LaFleur have an advantage over Nagy? It’s because for the first and only time in his career, the head coach’s specific offensive schemes and strategies will largely be a mystery going into the Chicago game.

We do know that the Packers’ offense will have much in common with that of the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers. That’s because the 49ers’ Kyle Shanahan, the Rams’ Sean McVay, and LaFleur all helped put an offense together when they were Redskins’ assistant coaches under Mike Shanahan from 2010 through 2013.

What we don’t know, however, are what particular wrinkles LaFleur will add to it, and we don’t know how greatly he’ll depart from basic West Coast Offense that Packers’ fans have watched over the last 25 years or so.

Aaron Rodgers and Matt LaFleur on sideline

Aug 8, 2019; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) talks to head coach Matt LaFleur during the game against the Houston Texans at Lambeau Field. Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

It makes sense that Coach LaFleur will try to keep from disclosing his offensive plans and looks prior to the Bears game. I certainly didn’t detect many “new-look” offensive features in the Packers’ first preseason game against the Texans. We’ve been endlessly hearing about options, motion, variations, disguises, and so on being features of the Pack’s new offense. Fans will probably have to await the Bears game, however, before seeing a Packers offense that is noticeably different from those of Coach McCarthy.

The Packers’ final open practice will be on August 19. All practices thereafter will be closed to the public for the rest of the season. You can bet that high security will surround the closed practices in the week leading up to the Bears game on September 5. It will be in that private setting that LaFleur will finally be imparting his own signature style to the team’s playbook and play calling.

After 13 years of planning for the predictable plays and calls of Big Mike, the Bears’ defensive staff will at long last have to put some real effort into preparing for what LaFleur might unveil. I figure that the element of surprise by the Green Bay offense in this year’s opener against Chicago will be worth about seven points – which should be enough to put this crucial game into the Packers’ win column.

Rob Born

Smart drafters don’t select the best available players, they fill a team’s positions of greatest need.



  1. cobaltdriver August 15, 2019

    why do the Packers play the Vikings at home early again?? Did someone whine too hard to God-ell about bad weather games??

    1. KILLER August 18, 2019

      Tis well known Packers fans love whine with their cheese and you are case in point.

      A little research by you would reveal the error in your thinking. Tis well known the NFL gives preferential treatment to the Packers in many ways. For instance, still not ever having to play a game in London.

      Another way is with the Thursday games outside of Thanksgiving Day. It is a well known huge gigantic nearly game deciding advantage to be the home team in these contests. The Packers have hosted the Thursday night game 5 of the last 6 seasons (including this coming one). That is very nearly like the schedule makers giving the Packers a victory free of charge 5 of the last 6. Even the one Thanksgiving Day Thursday game the Packers had to play the schedule makers went out of their way to help the Packers. How? It was at Detroit and so no homefield advantage for the Packers. However, the schedule makers had them play a home Thursday night game the previous week — advantage Packers — and then they still had a full week to prep for Detroit and, of course, minimal travel time. Thus avoiding any disadvantage. That was 2015 and the Packers did go ahead and win that game. Now, despite all the help the schedule makers gave them the Packers did lose the previous week at home to the Bears.

      This huge advantage to be at home on a Thursday is why the Cowboys are so set to keep their Thanksgiving Day game and the NFL is so set to make sure they do. To honor “tradition”. A tradition of helping the Cowboys and Packers at nearly every turn.

      This year and last year the Vikings played at Green Bay in September. True. In 2017 the Vikings came to Green Bay in December the 2nd to last week of the year. (And won in a shut out of the Packers 14-0. Go Vikes!)

      In 2016 the Vikings ALSO came to Green Bay in December the 2nd to last week of he year!

      In 2015 the Vikings came to Green Bay in JANUARY (!) the very last game of the year! (Beating the Packers 20-13. Go Vikes!)

      So, 3 of the last 5 years including this one, the Vikings came to Green Bay in a week of greatest advantage to Green Bay who, of course, also enjoyed the actual home field advantage.

      So, in conclusion, if anyone has gotten an advantage or break from the schedulers, it is Green Bay. Even before you consider, as Rob Born has pointed out, the advantage of being an unknown new offense. This advantage lasts more than just the first week of the season. It can last a good halfway through the year. So, you see, facing the Vikings so early at home is actually a further advantage to the Packers, trumping the later weather advantage. Just look at how well the Vikings have done vs. the Packers late in the year!

      So typical for a Packer fan to get all these advantages and good breaks and/or favoritism and then complain and whine thinking it is unfair.

  2. PF4L August 15, 2019

    Call me crazy….but as a head coach LeFleur is nothing, nothing and nothing. While Nagy went 12-4 and won coach of the year.
    I think you have to respect that, for now.
    Now if the Packers beat the Bears in the opener in Chicago, then maybe you have something. But not unlike the lifelong losers to the west of Green Bay, LeFleur hasn’t won anything…..yet. Lets not forget the dumpster fire this team was merely months ago.The last game i remember we walked into Detroit, walked out 0-31.
    i don’t know man, but all that money spent to improve this Packer team….should improve the team….right? No matter what, just like the last 2 seasons for me, win or lose, i’m going to be entertained.

  3. Howard August 15, 2019

    I’m not sure the element of suprise from the Packers offense will have as much effect on the final score as: (1) The Bears new defensive coordinator/play caller, (2) Dix not being able to, or shying away from tackles of WRs, TEs, or RBs in the open field, (3) the Bears approach to screwing with the mind of their new field goal kicker, whomever that may be.

  4. Deepsky August 15, 2019

    I don’t think the Packers will be competitive for many games as they “come up” with an offense. Although the hiring of LaFleur is similar to the hiring of McCarthy and Holmgren, both young offensive coordinators, it’s going to be half a season where the offense looks in disarray, with a chance it could derail.

    You’ve got coach LaFluer, with the 27th ranked offense last year by points, Nathaniel Hackett with the 31st offense last year ranked by points, an offensive line coach who has never coached the offensive line before, a quarterback coach who has never coached the quarterbacks before, a tight ends coach who has never coached the tight ends, a wide receiver coach who has never coached in the NFL before.

    My guess is in order to win games, its going to come down to heroics by Rodgers again.

    1. Stiggy August 15, 2019

      Im not predicting the pace of success (or lack there of) but LaFleur had The Kevin king of qbs last year, Mariota, and Hackett had a trash heap known as bortles to go along with the cancerous Fournette. My guess is AR will outperform any of those players. Its hard to pass when your Qb is hurt all the time… or your QB is blake bortles. Its hard to have a good offensive rating when you cant throw the ball.

  5. JRILLA August 15, 2019

    Bears D is more talented, New Offensive Holding penalty will hurt the Packers more than almost any team.. no more bear hugs for them!! Bears 23-13. Could get out of hand though depending on how big Mack’s plays are (just sacks or sack/fumble/touchdowns)