When you look at the Green Bay Packers offense this season, there’s one word that comes to mind describing their play. Flat. We were warned that it could take a few weeks for the offense to find its legs. We already knew in Training Camp, that the defense would have to hold it together for the first few games. This offense is very young and inexperienced. But we didn’t think it would be this bad. However, it doesn’t completely lay on inexperience. Part of it in my opinion has to do with scheme and play calling on the part of Matt LaFleur.
When Matt LaFleur was hired as head coach of the Packers there was one word often used to describe him. “Innovative.” He was said to be one of the faces of a new era of NFL offenses. His previous coaching friends and colleagues, Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan were enjoying success as the sideline bosses in Los Angeles and San Francisco. So, it was now LaFleur’s turn to find that same success. It seemed at first that that would be the case. Two straight trips to the NFC Championship game. Three straight 13-win seasons. But it all just kind of crashed down in the playoffs each year and he finally saw his first losing season in his fourth campaign last year in 2022. Nobody knew who to blame. Was it LaFleur’s play-calling? Was it Aaron Rodgers playing favorites with the ball and calling audibles? Either could be to blame.
Fast-forward to today, and Aaron Rodgers is gone. Jordan Love is now at the helm. It’s now on LaFleur. And so far, he’s not doing himself any favors. For a coach that was labeled “Innovative” he’s kind of been far from that this year. There rarely seems to be much change. LaFleur seems to coach hypothetically, and that needs to stop.
What is one thing we hear Matt LaFleur say a lot after a loss? Variations of “We just need to do a better job of sticking to our game plan.” Now, most of the time for those who don’t know, a gameplan is created before the game. It’s a blueprint of how coaches want to attack the opposition. But there’s something about game plans that all coaches should know how to do. Throw it out if it’s not working. Adjust, evolve, innovate. And I don’t think that’s one of Matt LaFleur’s strong suits.
I believe Matt LaFleur coaches too hypothetically. Meaning he looks at his opposition for the week and decides the best way to attack them. What should work against them, in theory. Which is normally the way to go. But there’s one problem with it from LaFleur’s standpoint. It feels sometimes like he doesn’t take his player’s skills or experience into account with that plan. If he sees a team could be beat with a lot of long-developing pass plays, he calls those plays most frequently. But he doesn’t take into account that his offensive line is a bit battered-up and can’t hold the pass rush much longer than two seconds. Or maybe his receivers aren’t getting the expected separation. But he calls the plays anyways because that is what should hypothetically work.
It seems as if Matt LaFleur spends too much time dwelling on his homework from the past week and refuses to cast it out. Perhaps he’s lost his ability to make those needed changes on the fly. If so, it begs the question, could it be some form of Aaron Rodgers PTSD?
Aaron Rodgers PTSD
We have all heard that Aaron Rodgers had a big say in the offense he ran. If he didn’t agree, he’d make it known, and he’d strike what he didn’t like out of the offense. It’s possible that changes to the gameplan made during the game, could’ve come a lot from Rodgers. This would cause LaFleur to kind of just take a backseat and let his future Hall of Fame QB do his thing. If it worked, why fight it?
Well, four years of this luxury could’ve caused LaFleur to lose his own abilities to adequately make these adjustments. You’ve gotten so used to watching number 12 come over to you and say, “We need to do this, not this” and just trusting him that making those adjustments on your own now has become hard. “Well, this is what Aaron used to do in this situation” isn’t an option. Jordan Love isn’t Aaron Rodgers. Christian Watson or Romeo Doubs aren’t Davante Adams. It’s not as easy to just do what you used to do.
Coach the team you have
Coaching hypothetically only works if your team matches every facet of the theory you came up with. What worked last year, or two years ago, may not work today. A first year starting Quarterback with young targets need rhythm and confidence. Give it to them.
We’ve barely seen quick passes or manufactured five-yard catches. If you start a drive with a 5-yard Romeo Doubs catch, and a five-yard Luke Musgrave catch to move the chains, the confidence will grow. 5 yards here, 7 yards there, focus on moving the chains. Then try those deep shots. If the only target a young receiver has in two drives is a 40-yard shot attempt that they missed, it’s going to hurt confidence. But get them the ball on 1-2 short catches before that shot, the confidence could be high that they’re going to get that ball. If they don’t, it’s okay, get back to the basics and the long ones will come.
Help your offensive line with bootlegs. I said last week that more bootlegs are needed for Jordan Love. When the line is banged up, help them out. Get the QB out of the pocket so they have more of a chance of holding up that pass-rusher before they get near the QB. If the pass isn’t there, then he has time and space to run.
Hopefully during this Bye week, Matt LaFleur has had the chance to re-evaluate himself and recognize what he could do better. One of which is to not focus on how a team could beat his opponent hypothetically, but how his team as it could be on that field this week, and that alone could beat the opponent. And also learn to let the wind take that gameplan away if it’s not working.
Greg Meinholz is a lifelong devoted Packer fan. A contributor to PackersTalk as well as CheeseheadTV. Follow him on Twitter at @gmeinholz. for Packers commentary, random humor, beer endorsements, and occasional Star Wars and Marvel ramblings.