Packers Botch Head Coach Search
Earlier this week the Packers got a new coach. With names like Chuck Pagano, Bruce Arians, and Josh McDaniels available, the Packers could have gotten a proven head coach. The Packers didn’t go through this route though, and it hasn't been the first time. Mike McCarthy was an offensive coordinator for the San Francisco forty-niners before he became the Packers head coach. McCarthy had the most wins as a coach in Packers history, plus a Super Bowl on his resume. Mike Holmgren had just as much success in Green Bay as the head coach, and just like McCarthy, Holmgren was also the Niners offensive coordinator before taking the head coaching gig.
The Packers felt like they could strike gold again hiring Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur as the team’s 15 head coach. When I first heard this hiring I had to say “who the heck is Matt LaFleur?”. I was somewhat confused and had no answer to the hiring. I felt worse after the Buccaneers announced Bruce Arians would return to be their head coach. I was hoping Green Bay would hire Arians. Bruce turned the Arizona Cardinals around and gave extra life to Carson Palmer's career, not to mention Arians was also a two-time head coach of the year with the Cardinals. The Packers missed out on a big coaching name Arians, who can bring a bad team and make them a contending team that plays hard. Despite saying he wouldn’t go to Green Bay and only go to Cleveland if he came out of retirement, Arians went back on his word as he joined the Bucs coaching staff. The Packers hiring a lesser known guy is a typical Green Bay Packers move. They don’t want to spend money so they hired somebody that they don’t have to pay a lot. Hire somebody that’s new to head coach a team and pay them cheap. It’s a cost-saving move that I’ve seen the Packers do over and over again.
Matt LaFleur has been in an NFL coaching role since 2008, Green Bay will be his sixth team in the league, and first as a head coach. LaFleur coached Robert Griffin III in his first two seasons in the NFL and would help the young QB snag offensive rookie of the year. LaFleur also pushed Kirk Cousins into relevancy, as he eventually took the reigns from RG3 as the Skins starting QB.
In 2015, LaFleur coached Matt Ryan in his second offensive coordinator gig in the NFL. In 2016 Matt Ryan would win league MVP on their way to a Super Bowl birth. The next season LaFleur would help revamp Jared Goff who was suffering under Jeff Fisher in his rookie season. Sean McVay hired LaFleur and the Rams ended a long playoff drought. LaFleur has shown that he can make offenses look dangerous, this season though LaFleur was going to his third team in 4 years, unlike Atlanta or Los Angeles, LaFleur couldn’t spark the Titans offence. Tennessee’s offence struggled and the stats were near the bottom. Mariota couldn’t get hot and threw just 11 touchdowns this season which ranked 31st in the League. In eight games this season Mariota failed to throw a passing touchdown Jameis Winston played fewer games and three more touchdowns while piling on more yards than his co 2015 draftee. The only thing going for the offence was Derrick Henry who somehow rushed for more touchdowns than Mariota finding the back of the end zone. Henry also eclipsed the 1000 yard season rushing mark for the first time in his career. Still, LaFleur's brief tenor in Tennessee was a failure. Tennessee didn’t make the playoffs as LaFleur’s offence was the weakest part of the team. With LaFleur, the offense was worse than the previous year, not being able to get Mariota running in his offense is seen as a red flag.
Aaron Rodgers seemed to like management’s decision. He even called LaFleur hours before he was announced as the head coach. Will Aaron Rodgers even listen to someone that has no head coaching experience and is only a few years older than him? There’s a chance that he might ignore LaFleur and his play calling altogether. LaFleur has had success in the past but Rodgers is a different kind of quarterback, and although Rodgers might have not looked like the Aaron we're used to seeing, the offense really wasn’t the problem. Hire LaFleur as the offensive coordinator, not the head coach, there were better candidates for sure and LaFluer had a dreadful season.
The Packers didn’t need to get someone to just coach the team, they needed a proven guy. It’s another decision that’s a head-scratcher. Do the Packers want to win games? Or just keep wasting Rodgers time while he's in town? As a Packers fan, you have to be skeptical about this coaching hire. If the Packers were rebuilding and hired Matt LaFleur as their coach than at least expectations wouldn't be as high, but they aren't fully rebuilding which means they want to be contenders and win another championship. It’s a lot of pressure on a young coach in a market that has big expectations for their team even though they've missed the playoffs for two straight seasons. It’s a pressure cooking situation that might be too hot to handle for the young Matt LaFleur.