Matt Lafleur had a subpar first press conference, he seemed nervous and certainly not like someone who could control a room. Of course, this led to mass panic among Packers fans, but Lafleur quickly turned it around in press conferences and the locker room.
Almost four years later, Lafleur may have lost his mojo. The team is in the midst of its worst season under Lafleur (at times it looks like a late-era McCarthy team) and many players just don’t seem to care. So how can Lafleur get his mojo back? I think there’s three main things that need to happen this offseason.
It’s obvious that the team needs a replacement at defensive coordinator. There are six or seven first round picks and another 4 pricey free agents on the defense. You can argue that the Packers have put more assets into the defense than any other team. And it’s still awful.
We all know about that, but I think Lafleur needs to go a step further than just hiring a new defensive coordinator. I think he needs to hire someone who he can fully delegate the job to. Like he did this past offseason with Rich Bisaccia.
In the past, Lafleur defensive coordinators have run the defense that he wants them to run, and they may not be what they wanted to run.
Mike Pettine spent a decade plus on blitz heavy defense that majored in man coverage and then played off zone coverage with hardly any blitzing when coaching with Lafleur. Joe Barry spent a career running the Tampa 2 scheme and then under Wade Philips, before spending one year in the Fangio system. Now he’s trying to run some hybrid of the Fangio system and has no answers.
The best NFL head coaches delegate. Hire a great defensive coordinator and let him run the defense. Obviously, the head coach needs to hold the defensive coordinator accountable but its cringeworthy to hear about things like Lafleur telling Joe Barry to play more man or Pettine thinking Lafleur told him to play cover 1 in a Hail Mary scenario against the Bucs in the playoffs.
You wouldn’t see the CEO of a construction company in the accountant’s office telling them exactly how to reconcile a bank account or on a job site telling an electrician how to wire something. The best managers find experts, delegate to them, and then hold them responsible.
If Lafleur is spending less time straying into areas where he isn’t an expert, you have to think he’ll be more confident in the other decisions he’s making.
This one’s tough. I think Lafleur would be a better offensive coach with Jordan Love at QB next year. Too often, the offense slows down because Rodgers is holding the ball, choosing P on every RPO, or letting the entire play clock run down to try to read the defense.
With a young QB, like Love, Lafleur would be able to run his offense. He wouldn’t have to run some sort of strange evolution of his offense minus the stuff that makes it great (motions, bootlegs, shifts, misdirection) plus the plays that Rodgers has loved since 2008.
Whether or not the offense can be as successful as it was in 2020 and 2021 with Lafleur running it the way he’d like, Lafleur having more agency in the plan and execution will likely make it better than it has been in 2022.
It’s an interesting question whether this can happen with Aaron Rodgers at QB. Some QBs have gotten older and played more on schedule and within a system (John Elway, Drew Brees) but for every one that did that there are several who got older and never evolved (Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Big Ben).
If Rodgers can personally evolve to allow the offense to function more like a Lafleur offense than a Rodgers offense, it could still return to its former glory next season with Rodgers at QB.
This is another tough one. Rodgers often talked about the impact that Nate Hackett had during games not letting the offensive coaching staff get too serious and too distraught over a bad game. Adam Stenavich seems more like a Lafleur type than a Hackett type. Having too many high strung and highly logical guys may contribute to the Packers’ lack of success in comeback scenarios (prior to the Christian Watson era at least).
Obviously, I’m not calling for Stenavich to get fired or any nonsense like that. But it could be worth hiring an older veteran coach who has a lighter personality as a consultant or something. Hell, Nate Hackett may be available in a few months.
Mike Price is a lifelong Packers fan currently living in Utah. You can follow him on twitter at @themikeprice.