La-la-la-la-la-la-la-LaFleur

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports reaction to new Packers coach Matt LaFleur:

National writers and talking heads had plenty to say when it came to the Packers’ hiring of Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur to be the franchise’s next head coach, and while many felt the match with Aaron Rodgers was a good one, many well-known talking heads questioned LaFleur’s experience and recent track record.

Danny Heifitz at The Ringer makes note of the success LaFleur has had with quarterbacks Robert Griffin III, Jared Goff and Matt Ryan and notes the obvious: LaFleur’s success in Green Bay will hinge on his work with Rodgers.

“The Green Bay Packers have hired Aaron Rodgers a new head coach. I mean, the Packers have hired a new head coach. According to reports, Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur will lead Green Bay next season, and while he’ll be leading a staff and a 53-man roster, he’ll be graded primarily on how well he does as Rodgers’s boss. Rodgers, the highest-paid player in NFL history and perhaps the most gifted quarterback of all time, needs a Super Bowl win to justify his contract and burnish his legacy, and LaFleur’s job will be facilitating that.” …

Some high-profile sports-opinion personalities question the hire, including Colin Cowherd of Fox Sports.

“Congratulations on hiring somebody who people question whether he has the stature and gravitas to lead a coordinators meeting. Maybe you’ve heard Aaron Rodgers is aging, he ran a Super Bowl-winning coach out of town. Good luck to Matt LaFleur.” — @ColinCowherd

Shannon Sharpe and Skip Bayless of Undisputed discussed the hire on Fox Sports, with Bayless summarizing by suggesting Aaron Rodgers arranged for a “pushover” to be the next coach. Bayless pointed out that LaFleur was simply a coordinator at unheralded Ashland University as recently as 2007 and doesn’t have any head-coaching experience at any level.

ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith felt underwhelmed by the hire, as well, again pointing to the recent track record.

“The offensive coordinator chosen to coach Aaron Freaking Rodgers — talent wise, the best, as far as I’m concerned, that I’ve ever seen  …. the offensive coordinator that you hire had the 27th ranked offense? 25th in points? The 29th ranked passing attack? That’s the guy you chose? What am I missing?”

Deion Sanders at the NFL Network was similarly unimpressed, suggesting that the Packers should have looked to hire someone who could address problems on the defensive side of the ball.

“I want the man to get an opportunity, I want his family to be blessed, trust me. But are you kidding me? Tennessee’s offense? So, I’m going to get somebody from Tennessee’s offense and put him with arguably the best quarterback in the national football league? please. the problem isn’t their offense. It’s their defense, isn’t it? … You can put Aaron Rodgers on the field with me, you and Amber, and we’re going to get it into the paint. The problem is, are we going to stop anybody? That seems to be the problem with me.”

“The offensive coordinator chosen to coach Aaron Freaking Rodgers — talent wise, the best, as far as I’m concerned, that I’ve ever seen  …. the offensive coordinator that you hire had the 27th ranked offense? 25th in points? The 29th ranked passing attack? That’s the guy you chose? What am I missing?”

Peter Schrager of the NFL Network disputes the idea that he merely serves at the pleasure of Aaron Rodgers.

“Knowing LaFleur and Rodgers … I think it’s a great mix. I think all Rodgers really probably wants is innovation and something new and a fresh look in the same offense I’ve been running for the past 10 years. LaFleur will bring that. This guy is one of the one’s who will sit in the lab all day long working on X’s and O’s, but he’s not a pushover. … He’s the kind of guy that will push back, and he’s pushed back on (Sean) McVay, he’s pushed back on (Kyle) Shanahan. And I’ll tell you that he and (Titans coach Mike) Vrabel, as great as they got along, he was an equal voice in that room when it came to offense, and he pushed back on Vrabel.”

Turron Davenport of ESPN looks at the past season with LaFleur as Titans offensive coordinator to present a glimpse of what the Packers can expect, and he arrives at a positive conclusion.

“Putting players in position to excel shouldn’t be an issue for LaFleur in Green Bay, as the new coach’s scheme seems like a perfect fit for Rodgers.”

Ryan Phillips of the Big Lead writes that the hire is “exactly what NFL teams are looking for.”

“Is LaFleur going to be successful as a head coach? Time will tell. But the trend in the NFL clearly points towards teams hiring young quarterback whisperers with a history of offensive innovation. Everyone wants the next McVay or Matt Nagy. If they can’t go young, franchises will still go after quarterback coaches/offensive coordinators. They’ve seen Doug Pederson and Frank Reich have success as well.”

Ryan Glasspiegel of The Big Lead also considers the move the “ultimate referendum” on team president Mark Murphy.

“When Murphy relieved Thompson of his duties and installed Brian Gutekunst as GM, he also enacted an odd structure where Gutekunst and McCarthy both reported to him. By all accounts, Murphy had final say over the coaching hire, and it is doubtful that the reporting structure will be any different under LaFleur than with McCarthy last season.

“Therefore, this hire should stick to Murphy. There are eight head coaching openings this offseason and just by the math and the way the NFL works, 1-2 of those new coaches are going to enact an immediate turnaround. Even with a lack of obvious slam dunk candidates in this coach cycle, there will be a unicorn that hastens other organizations’ impatience with fast results like Sean McVay and Matt Nagy have done the last two seasons. Maybe LaFleur is That Guy.”

More reaction comes from the Journal Sentinel’s Tom Silverstein:

LaFleur comes to the Packers with a solid coaching background that includes jobs on the same staffs as San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan and Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay. He also has been a coordinator for just two seasons, only one of which included play-calling duties.

Almost all the opinions here solicited from or randomly offered by NFL scouts, former Packers staffers and agents of coaches leaned in the same direction: “Why did they choose him?”

Around league circles, it was not a heavily embraced decision, and many wondered what role Murphy’s influence played in picking a 39-year-old with no head-coaching experience and only one year of play-calling experience.

Time will tell whether it was a good decision, but here are 20 burning questions as the LaFleur era is set to begin:

1. Was this hire made to satisfy quarterback Aaron Rodgers? It smacks of that given the bent toward the McVay offense, so what message does that send to Rodgers? That it’s all about him? Do the other players feel LaFleur is their head coach?

2. Did general manager Brian Gutekunst truly approve of this hire or did Murphy pick the candidate he wanted to coach the team? Who led the search and who was the front man in the interviews?

3. Why did Murphy and Gutekunst move so quickly on LaFleur? Did they get so blown away by his interview Sunday night that they had to hire him Monday, even though no other team sought to interview him? Ted Thompson’s last interview in 2006 was with Jim Bates and it went great, but what did Thompson do? He slept on it and asked himself, ‘Who’s the best candidate?’, instead of who’s the best interview?

4. Along those same lines, why wasn’t LaFleur brought in for a second interview? Shouldn’t he have toured the facility and met with others in the organization so the brass could see how he relates to people? Didn’t they have any follow-up questions that needed to be answered in person?

5. Was the desire to tap into the McVay/Shanahan offensive revolution the primary goal in selecting the next head coach? Do they see that as the future in the NFL and what makes them think it’s not just a fad that defenses will figure out next season?

6. Did the Packers pass over Josh McDaniels and Adam Gase because they thought their personalities were too abrasive? Did they think they might rub Rodgers the wrong way? If they said no to them for that reason, didn’t they just play into Rodgers’ need for control? Wouldn’t hiring either of them send the message that the coach would be in charge?

7. How strongly was consideration given to McDaniels? How much did they weigh his success with Tom Brady and more importantly, did they consider how capable he had been in putting together a coaching staff? Or did they feel he burned all his bridges with his last-second pullout in Indianapolis last year?

8. Was this a Trace Armstrong manipulation? Did Armstrong, who is Mike McCarthy’s agent, orchestrate it all so that LaFleur and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, two other clients, were brought together to replace his first client?

9. And did Armstrong make it seem like there was a mystery team involved with LaFleur, thereby making Murphy panic and pay more than he probably needed to? Why else did Murphy move that quickly to sign a guy who had no other head-coaching options?

10. How much is LaFleur getting paid? Is it anywhere close to the $8 million-to-$9 million McCarthy made last year?

11. Did Murphy require that LaFleur hire Pettine? Or did LaFleur single him out as his favored defensive coordinator?

12. In the month before the season ended, did Murphy put a full-court press on Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald and make him feel this was an opportunity he couldn’t pass by? Did he think Fitzgerald was the perfect guy for the job and, if so, why couldn’t he get him to at least interview?

13. And while dealing with Fitzgerald’s agent, Bryan Harlan, the son of former Packers president Bob Harlan and also the agent of Baltimore coach John Harbaugh, did Murphy and Gutekunst try to find out if Harbaugh was a possibility? Did they ever consider offering the Ravens a draft choice for Harbaugh just to see if there might be interest?

14. Why wasn’t Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio interviewed?Was it because he has a reputation as a bit of a curmudgeon or was it because Murphy and Gutekunst were locked in on bringing Pettine back? Wouldn’t you want to talk to one of the best defensive coordinator’s in the game?

15. Did McVay vouch for LaFleur and was it sincere or was he just helping one of his best friends get a job? Has LaFleur been riding the coattails of McVay and Shanahan or is that just the opinion of those who don’t know him well enough?

16. What separated LaFleur from former Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Todd Monken? At age 52, doesn’t Monken has far more experience, including a head-coaching stint at Southern Mississippi?

17. Who will be the voice of experience on the offensive side of the ball? Does LaFleur have plans to hire a veteran quarterbacks coach or offensive coordinator to help him learn the head-coaching ropes?

18. Will LaFleur’s easy-going manner be an asset as he becomes the face of the organization and can he maintain it with the criticism that will come if the team struggles? How well is he prepared to deal with the daily media obligations a head coach bears?

19. Should LaFleur be expected to turn things around offensively right away? Or will he need a year to get the system in place, the same way Pettine needed time to get his defense running smoothly?

20. If this works out, will it solidify Murphy’s legacy with the Packers? If it doesn’t work out, will the executive committee clean house? Will McCarthy’s record be the standard by which LaFleur will be judged? And will LaFleur have a street named after him?

The street part depends on a Super Bowl win, of course. As for question 19, history says the Packers are unlikely to make the playoffs next season. In fact, no Packers coach has ever gotten his team into the playoffs in his first season.

One thought on “La-la-la-la-la-la-la-LaFleur

  1. Very interesting compilation of views on the new Packer coach. I enjoyed reading it. Also enjoying your music selections. A new fan.

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