Does Packers Coach Matt LaFleur Deserve Mention Amongst NFL Elite?

Matt LaFleur was named as the Packers 15th coach in franchise history on January 8th, 2019 replacing the storied clubs second winningest coach, Mike McCarthy.

For the past three decades the head coaching position of the Green Bay Packers has been one of most coveted blue-chip posts in professional sports.

But, with an extensive culture of winning (and a trophy case to match) comes great expectations and little margin for error.

And what has Matt LaFleur done? In the words of the late, great, Al Davis: “Just win, baby”.

Jul 25, 2019; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packer head coach Matt LaFleur (left) talks to Packer president and CEO Mark Murphy during first day of training camp at Ray Nitschke Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

There’s been a “chicken or the egg” discussion in Green Bay for quite some time with regard to the quarterback play.

Did Mike Holmgren unlock Brett Favre’s true potential?

Did Brett Favre turn Donald Driver into a Packers hall-of-famer from a 7th round draft pick?

Did Aaron Rodgers make Mike McCarthy look good?

And most recently, how much credit can Matt LaFleur take for Aaron Rodgers (and the Packers) turnaround?

Like any good football discussion, the “answers” are best served in a corner bar over a few adult beverages.

The great equalizer is, as always, Super Bowl wins.

Holmgren & Favre share one, and went to two.

McCarthy & Rodgers share one, and should’ve gone to at least two.

Matt LaFleur has shown that he is a historically great regular season coach, racking up three division titles in three seasons to go along with a couple of playoff wins.

But he’s also overseen three ugly playoff exits, two of which were on the doorstep of a Super Bowl berth in the NFC championship game.

Sep 20, 2020; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) talks with head coach Matt LaFleur during the third quarter of the game against the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

If the Packers win the Super Bowl this season, Matt LaFleur will deservedly cement his position as one of the top 3-5 coaches in the NFL.

But I don’t think he’s there yet.

Much has been written about MLF’s connection to the Sean McVay/Kyle Shanahan coaching tree.

There is no question that he has aided Aaron Rodgers in his career resurgence via his playbook and some osmotic connection to Bill Walsh.

But also, we know that Aaron Rodgers on-field play can be as much a byproduct of his off-field slights as any new wrinkles in the X’s & O’s.

The most underrated attribute MLF may have brought to Green Bay was an ability to get Rodgers to buy-in, making him feel like a stakeholder again.

An engaged Rodgers almost makes the play sheet irrelevant, almost.

Outside of Rodgers, LaFleur has certainly done a good job molding the talent given to him by general manager Brian Gutekunst, but he hasn’t had to face an inordinate amount of adversity either.

I’m going to stop just short of saying that we need to see Matt LaFleur win games without Aaron Rodgers, but you have to presume that MLF will still be manning his post after Rodgers has filed his retirement papers.

While Matt LaFleur has certainly been impressive to date, what will catapult him to coaching royalty (or not) will happen in the next 1-3 seasons.

You can follow Adam on twitter at @adamjcarlson28.



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