The trend continues of play-calling head coaches perhaps no hire more important this offseason than in Green Bay with Aaron Rodgers. Matt Lafleur is headed to the Packers where he’ll be tasked with capitalizing on the last years of Rodgers’ prime. An argument can be made that this is the most important year in Packers recent memory as the ship needs to be turned around after a more disastrous than appearing 2018 season. If this upcoming season goes poorly another year of Rodgers career will be wasted. What can we expect to see in his first year on the job?
Lafleur’s specialty comes in protecting the quarterback and enhancing his ability to succeed. Matt Lafleur also has a stellar reputation among his peers. Notably working with zone offense guru Gary Kubiak in early parts of his career NFL career. Then he went onto work closely with Kyle Shanahan who was joining his Dad who had just gotten the head coaching job. Shanahan brought Lafleur to be the Redskins’ QB coach which he was from 2010-2013 working closely with RGIII., “I knew I was going to bring Matt because he was my guy,” (*Per ESPN) and Shanahan
Whether you are among those in the camp that Lafleur has been working on teams with fantastic staff and talent but hasn’t showcased why he’s worth the Packers head coaching job then let me explain to you why you’re wrong. Working with Shanahan again in Atlanta, like it or not a part of and partly responsible for Matt Ryan’s greatest years of his career thus far only further enhanced his reputation. In 2017 he followed Sean Mcvay to LA becoming his offensive coordinator although not calling the plays.
Next going onto Tennessee to be the offensive coordinator and call the plays, Shanahan said “He went to L.A. And then I thought it was important for him to go out on his own. I think a lot of people thought Matt was crazy, but it shows that Matt was confident and ready to be on his own. He went from a great situation offensively with Sean to not the easiest one, and he is so much better because of it. He might be in the same spot, but I know he’s better from doing it.”(*Per ESPN)
Yes, what was supposed to be a Marcus Mariota reclamation project didn’t fully exactly live up to expectations to say the least to some. Mariota however improved in spots that can be seen from Lafleur’s impact while Mariota showcased his own incapabilities in many areas. To fully explain Mariota’s deficiencies and what’s going to happen with him in Tennessee is a whole other story.
However, let’s dive in just a little bit. Aaron Rodgers ball security has been some of the best in the league, a welcomed gift to Lafleur who dealt with Mariota fumbling 12 times in 13 games. Mariota’s passing attempts were down by 122 from the previous year rightly so with Mariota proving his inaccuracy and incompetence at recognizing reads, coverages, and blitzes consistently. A place where Mariota saw improvement was in his completion percentage up from 62% to 68% as well as his QBR up from 79.3 to 92.3. He took a dip in yardage and posted an abysmal 11-8 touchdown to interception ratio.
To put that further in perspective; on 3.3% percent of Mariota’s passes this season he threw a touchdown and on 2.8% of his passes he threw an interception. Aaron Rodgers threw for 25 touchdowns and 2 interceptions this season throwing an interception on 0.3% of his total passes this year. To put it lightly Mariota to Rodgers is a big jump for Lafleur. (all statistics from Pro Football Reference)
ASSEMBLING HIS STAFF
Most if not all coaches prefer the opportunity to install their own staff entirely. That’s somewhat been the case this year outside of the defensive side of the football. Defensive coordinator will remain Mike Pettine and Jerry Montgomery will remain the defensive line coach. Tight ends coach Brian Angelichio will stay put while they are losing widely respected and result proven offensive line coach James Campen to the Browns. Onto the offensive coordinator position, where the hiring of Nathaniel Hackett has been made official. Many will be further frustrated believing that the plaguing offensive philosophy of the past may continue after seeing Hackett’s results from this past year. However, Hackett has pulled the best years out of Blake Bortles, Blaine Gabbert, and Kyle Orton. Expecting competence from Hackett should be a minimum for those concerned. With his ability for consistency and ability to work alongside quarterbacks fruitfully we should expect success combined with Lafleur’s creativity, innovation, and strengths.
AREAS OF IMPROVEMENT
Natural improvement will occur for the Packers by the power of addition by subtraction. Mccarthy being out of town is right for the team and the offense. A big year should be expected for Aaron Jones being set free from the shackles Mccarthy had him locked in. Further so giving Rodgers more advantageous looks from the defense to work his pre-play magic. The defense needs improvement as well. Lacking talent Mike Pettine worked well with what he had but more draft capital and cap space needs to be allocated to the defense. If the Packers were to give Rodgers an above average defense with the offense he currently he has they will be very scary. The year the Packers won the super bowl they had one of if not the best defense in the league. Outside of protection a defense is a great quarterback’s best friend. As a stud defense keeps the other offense off the field and keeps the opponents score low allowing the greats to play at their highest level.
Going into this offseason it’ll be extremely interesting tracking the Packers personnel moves with their needs. Regardless we should expect a vast improvement for Rodgers and a successful season for Lafleur’s first as a head coach.
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