I love when the NFL playoffs start off the new year, not because we got a few classic games like Philadelphia and Chicago gave us or the blend of “hot takes” that television shows on ESPN or FS1 throw at its audience. No, no it is the head coaching vacancies in the NFL. Ranging from insane moves like Kliff Kingsbury to the Cardinals to a retread of Bruce Arians in Tampa Bay. The Packers continued to make under-the-radar signings with 39 year old Matt LaFleur as the 15th head coach in Packers history.
Another “dark horse” move. The definition of a dark horse is…
a little-known person or thing that emerges to prominence, especially in a competition of some sort, or a contestant that seems unlikely to succeed
Why is it nothing new though? Because since 1992, the Packers have created many successes and even a failure or two through quarterbacks, coaches and defensive stars that no one saw coming. Hear me out.
In 1992, Mike Holmgren was introduced as head coach when Lindy Infante was sent out the door after a 24-40 coaching record. Holmgren’s main guy behind center was the “Majik Man” in Don Majkowski, but off a gutsy move by new general manager Ron Wolf. He risked a first round pick on the Falcons quarterback Brett Favre who was third on the depth chart and only known for winning football throwing bets for head coach Jerry Glanville.
No one saw Favre become the pop culture laden, Hall of Fame jacket wearing southern boy who will always be known for the insane plays he made through his Packers career. Come on, how many times have you seen Brett Favre throw his helmet off after the first touchdown pass in Super Bowl XXXI? I will admit it, 52 times.
Suddenly in 1999, the Packers took a dive and gave embattled Eagles head coach Ray Rhodes a chance to succeed Holmgren (who took an amazing deal in Seattle). In fact, he was the ONLY candidate interviewed for the position. it was a huge risk because he his last two seasons he was a combined 9-22. It showed badly there was nothing left and even though it was Favre’s best year (statistically), the team was never together and missed the playoffs.
You want more risk? After Rhodes was fired, the Packers went through a few candidates and decided on…Seahawks offensive coordinator Mike Sherman. Wait, who? A coach whose last time being a head coach was at Stamford High School in 1978. Many thought the Packers’ time at the top was the “beginning of the end” with this new hire. From 2001-2004, the Packers were still winning divisions and making playoff appearances, but he also was given the task of general manager as well. That started off well and then led to him being fired as general manager and head coach.
You would think that the Packers would listen to the media for their next coach. WRONG. When Mike McCarthy was hired as head coach in 2006, he only had one year of Green Bay experience as quarterbacks coach in 1999. His offense in San Francisco was nothing to sniff at, but his resume showed he trained quarterbacks in college and the pros ranging from Marc Bulger, Rich Gannon and even…Joe Montana. Still no one saw that coming. What happened? Best winning percentage since Mike Holmgren, 125 wins, a Super Bowl ring and a future invitation to the Packer Hall of Fame someday.
Which leads to LaFleur, I watched his press conference a few days ago. He was impressive, charismatic and family oriented even if he appeared a little nervous. However, the media has been lukewarm on the hiring accusing the Packers of picking fruit off the Sean McVay coaching tree. Ah, the talking heads of sports television continue to manufacture laughter at Green Bay. At least, he worked with him unlike a team in the west that hired their coach because he was friends with McVay. You know that LaFleur’s first job was by Brian Kelly, back in his days at Central Michigan. His first NFL job was with Gary Kubiak, he was trained under Super Bowl winning coach Mike Shanahan and his innovative son, Kyle. Not only that but he gave top ranked seasons to Matt Ryan, Jared Goff and even Kirk Cousins.
You want to say he is a risk, go ahead. Instead why don’t you use something better like a “dark horse.”
See you next Friday, Packers fans.
Jake Turner is the host of the passionate Turning Points podcast on iTunes and co-host with Mark Eckel on the Pack a Day podcast. Follow him on twitter at @JakeTurnerSport Instagram: jaketurner61.