They don’t award championships or awards one quarter through a season.
But if they did, it would be hard to see anyone but Matt LaFleur as Coach of the Year.
Four weeks into the 2020 season, the Green Bay Packers have the hottest offense in the league, Aaron Rodgers is in MVP form, the team has given zero turnovers, and Robert Tonyan leads the NFL in touchdown receptions. Oh, and of course, they have a perfect record. Hard to ask for more.
The Packers had been a nationally maligned team for the most part the past few years. Sure, they aren’t the Jets or Lions, but most national media coverage skewed negative. Common hits included ‘Aaron Rodgers Is Washed Up,’ ‘Most Fraudulent 13-3 Team All Time,’ ‘No First-Round Wide Receivers’, and the ever classic ‘The Packers Are Wasting Aaron Rodgers’ Prime (Remix).’ Throughout all of these criticisms, this team is proving the pundits wrong week after week. And it starts with head coach Matt LaFleur.
Many were unimpressed when LaFleur, a first-time head coach with one year of play-calling experience, took over the stagnant team following the 2018 season. Yet LaFleur, along with excellent personnel adage from GM Brian Gutekunst, not only turned this team into an immediate contender but changed the culture of the Green Bay Packers into something truly special.
His debut season led to a 13-3 season record and an NFC Championship appearance. That’s, like, pretty good. There were ups and downs, and, of course, no Lombardi trophy, but the beginning of something magical was in place.
One quarter into the 2020 season and the Packers, a “prime-regression candidate,” are even better. The positive takeaways are endless. The team scored 30 or more points in every game with zero turnover-worthy plays. They have the best overall and passing offense in the NFL. And they’re doing it with a cache of weapons largely considered “not good enough” by the talking heads.
LaFleur’s scheme has been a master class in getting guys open. Every week, a different player breaks out. After Davante Adams shredded the Vikings like a fine cheese, the Lions focused on him in Week 2, and Aaron Jones came out to play. When the Saints tried to march all over Jones, Allen Lazard had himself a day. In Week 4, no Davante, no Lazard, no problem, as it was Big Bob Tonyan’s day to shine.
LaFleur is able to create mismatches and adapt to opposing defenses in a way that means you never know who will break out. This isn’t like older Packers teams that relied on winning one-on-one matchups to get open. LaFleur’s scheme works smarter, not harder.
Of course, it helps when you have an MVP quarterback. And the quarterback believes in his head coach. Aaron Rodgers and Matt LaFleur have developed that all-important trust with each other, and Rodgers clearly believes in this scheme. He gets the ball out faster, trusts his weapons, and understands how LaFleur’s plays build off of each other.
Just as important to the on-field success is the culture LaFleur created in Green Bay. The free agents brought in immediately felt at home. Players are having fun on the field and spending time with each other. There is a real sense of community on this team, and, while it often sounds cliched, they truly act as a family. That’s good leadership.
Matt LaFleur is 17-3 in the regular season as a head coach. He’s 6-0 without Davante Adams, his star receiver. He’s a major factor in Aaron Rodgers playing at an MVP level again. It’s time to seriously start talking about LaFleur has a Coach of the Year candidate. Because he’s absolutely been the Coach of the Quarter.Matt Hendershott is a Packers fan and Miller High Life enthusiast from Northwest Ohio. He has a Master of Arts in Media and Communication from Bowling Green State University. You can follow him on Twitter @MattHendershott.