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No Question, Coach LaFleur Was the Right Choice For Packers

Congratulations are in order the Green Bay’s first-year head coach. It’s 10 wins and counting, something no other Packers’ head coach achieved in his first year at the helm.

I had commented back in early 2019 that LaFleur was far and away the best head coaching candidate available – that now seems to be an understatement. At the time, a commenter advised me never to go “all-in” on such a prediction. But Matt was one of three young, ingenious coaches who had risen rapidly through NFL assistant coaching ranks. He was smart, energetic, highly praised by insiders, and the offensive tactics he espouses were starting to prove to be potent.

Under Mike Shanahan’s guidance in Washington DC, Kyle Shanahan (now the 49ers’ HC), Sean McVey (now the Rams’ HC), and Matt helped create or refine several new offensive strategies that were being recognized by many experts even before the tactics had achieved great success on the field. To date this year, the Packers, Rams, and 49ers are a combined 29 wins and ten losses.

Packers Head Coach Matt LaFleur on sideline

Dec 1, 2019; East Rutherford, NJ, USA;
Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur looks on during the game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s the latest Win-Loss updates (best to worst) for the class of 2019 – the numbers speak for themselves:

Matt LaFleur (GB) – 10-3
Bruce Arians (TB) – 6-7
Freddie Kitchens (CLE) – 6-7
Vic Fangio (DEN) – 5-8
Adam Gase (NYJ) – 5-8
Kliff Kingsbury (ARI) – 3-9-1
Brian Flores (MIA) – 3-10
Zac Taylor (CIN) – 1-12

Next in line, but well behind LaFleur, is Bruce Arians (67), the oldest of the new coaches. Outside of LaFleur, it’s been a bumpy start for the four other youngest new coaches: Taylor (36), Flores (38), Kingsbury (40), and Gase (41). Fangio is 61, and Kitchens is 45.

Also, already on the season there have been two midseason firings and hirings. On October 7, the Redskins, after starting 0-5, fired Jay Gruden, and named Bill Callahan as interim head coach. Callahan has gone 3-5 to date. On December 3, Carolina replaced 57-year-old Ron Rivera (5-7), and named Perry Fewell (0-1) as interim head coach. Both interim coaches, who were already assistant coaches on their teams, are in their mid-fifties.

So there is no confusion, I’ve supported nearly everything LaFleur has done since he was named head coach on January 8. The exception is, and remains, his overly cautious and conservative usage of running back Aaron Jones. I’ll have more to say about Jones’s transcendent performance against the Redskins shortly.

While at it, it would hardly be fair to salute LaFleur, and the job he and his hand-picked coaching staff are doing, without a tip of the hat to President/CEO Mark Murphy, general manager Brian Gutekunst, and everyone else involved in that selection process. Here’s a reason for optimism: what they’ve done might well keep Green Bay at or near the top of the standings for the next two decades!

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Rob Born

I’m with Matt: “You gotta make those chunk plays!”

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10 Comments

  1. KzooPackFan December 10, 2019

    The record has definitely exceeded expectations and speaks for itself. However, there are many things behind that record that are concerning, and LaFleur probably had the best situation of all of those new head coaches, including by far the best QB. We will see what happens in the playoffs and over the next year or two. The sample size is too small to start thinking about naming streets…

    1. PF4L December 10, 2019

      There are things for LeFleur that could go for both the Pro’s and Con’s. But i think at this point, there are more Pro’s than cons. Hell…just the fact he’s not McCarthy carries positives for me. KzooPackFan makes strong valid points I couldn’t agree more about judging LeFleur at this stage. I mean, he doesn’t even have one season under his belt. But again, i’m more pro than con. If it’s too early to judge Gute, then it’s way too early for LeFleur.
      *
      This kind of reminds me how a week after the draft, some media hacks are grading team’s drafts before they get on a NFL practice field.. As i’ve said many times, it’s foolish to crown a draft pick after 1 season, the same goes with this. Most Green Bay fans should, and do know better.
      *
      Excellent post KzooPF

  2. MJ December 10, 2019

    I was rooting for McDaniels. That offensive system makes unknown players thrive. As I’ve said before, they get previously-unknown guys, and all of the sudden we see them become serviceable players. As much as I admire Brady’s cold blood and ability to deliver when the pressure is on, McDaniels’ scheme has continuously given him open WRs, RB checkdowns, and mismatches for him to exploit.
    And that is a team that will adjust in game to the opposition tendencies.
    To what extent is that due to McDaniels or Bellichick that is anyone’s guess, but Bellichick comes from a defensive background, and also doubles as GM, so I find that offense likely to be McDaniels’.

  3. John December 10, 2019

    Are you really comparing the situation Matt walked into to the ones for the other first year HC’s in the league?? You can’t honestly compare the Packers personnel to any of the teams in the class of 2019.

    Don’t get me wrong, Matt has done very well in GB, but he has a lot more to work with – a solid OL, dynamic rising RB, experienced top 3 QB in the league, revamped secondary on D, revamped pass rush, experienced DC, etc.

    As for the couple knocks against Matt, I think he’s actually been very strategic. By only showing enough in games to win, he has a lot of options to go to for game planning the next week. This also gives him even more to bring out come playoff time. Unfortunately it has put a lot of pressure on the D, which has made games closer than they needed to be.

    When it comes to Aaron Jones’ use, I’m glad he’s been conservative. Jones has been known for getting injured plenty and RBs in general only have so many lifetime snaps available. I’d love to keep Jones around for as long as possible, so let’s keep him healthy!

    1. Deepsky December 10, 2019

      I agree with what you say about LaFleur only showing enough to win games. The play calling was extremely conservative in the last game against Washington, basically, line up, your guys against our guys. I can’t remember a misdirection play at all.

      Either that or he’s really just a terrible play caller. We’ll see come playoffs.

      1. KzooPackFan December 11, 2019

        Good point on the vanilla plan v Washington. If it was intentional from the standpoint of “we are confident we can win the game this way, minimize risk, save our better stuff for when we need it” than that is actually a good thing. While the game was boring and lacking in excitement, the outcome never really felt in doubt. Would love it if that was intentional.

  4. Kato December 10, 2019

    The offensive line deserves it’s due, as they probably had their best game of the season. Aaron Jones averaged 4?5 yards before contact. That’s pretty nuts

  5. PF4L December 10, 2019

    James Brown..who i think everyone respects said today about a QB that…”he doesn’t have the same kind of weapons, particularly at the wide receiver position that he’s had before.”
    *
    Any guess who he was he talking about?

    1. rebelgb December 11, 2019

      Hmm didnt seem to faze him when Adams was out….

      1. PF4L December 11, 2019

        Well, it was Tom Brady, but thanks for participating.