After a wide-ranging coaching search, the Green Bay Packers have made their choice. On Monday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter broke the news that the Packers had offered their head-coaching position to Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur.
Word of LaFleur’s selection came just a day after multiple reports pointed to Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels as the team’s next head coach. The two assistants stand in stark contrast in several areas; LaFleur has only run an offense for a single season with only middling results while McDaniels piloted one of the most consistently dominant scoring attacks over the past decade. On paper, McDaniels seemed like the safe choice Green Bay should go in the final years of Aaron Rodgers career. LaFleur, who did not interview with any other team, looked more like a reach.
Yet, LaFleur overcame the odds to win over the Packers and secure their head-coaching job. Undoubtedly, much of the 39-year-old coach’s appeal stems from his pre-2018 résumé. LaFleur first arrived in the NFL in 2008, working as a quality control assistant under Houston Texans head coach Gary Kubiak and alongside offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. LaFleur followed Shanahan to Washington in 2010 where the two first met Sean McVay.
Those connections served LaFleur well in the time since. When the Atlanta Falcons hired Shanahan to run their offense in 2015, he imported LaFleur as his quarterbacks coach. Matt Ryan won his first MVP the following season. LaFleur then leveraged that success to reunite with McVay, whom the Los Angeles Rams had recently tabbed as their new head coach. The Rams offense immediately became one of the league’s premier units, jumping from dead last to sixth in DVOA.
That performance helped LaFleur become a play-caller for the first time last offseason with Tennessee. The Titans didn’t thrive under LaFleur’s guidance, finishing 25th in offensive DVOA. Those struggles come with caveats, as Pro Bowl tight end Delanie Walker missed essentially the entire season, the offensive line had to reshuffle starters on a near constant basis, and Marcus Mariota dealt with a nerve issue that affected his passing all year. Perhaps those personnel issues helped the Packers overlook 2018 when considering LaFleur.
LaFleur wouldn’t have secured the Packers job on his résumé alone. Since entering the NFL, he has worked in variations of the West Coast offense. Green Bay ran its own variation of the offense during Mike McCarthy’s tenure, and while the scheme will look significantly different under LaFleur, Rodgers and his teammates will not need to learn a completely different football language. That should ease the transition from the old offense to the new.
And by hiring LaFleur, the Packers have given Rodgers someone who understands football from his perspective. LaFleur played quarterback at Saginaw Valley State before a brief career in the Indoor Football League. He also coached the position directly for seven years in addition to his eight other seasons as an offensive assistant. That experience could help LaFleur relate to Rodgers in a way McCarthy couldn’t.
Additionally, LaFleur reportedly wants to keep defensive coordinator Mike Pettine in Green Bay. Pettine joined the Packers last season and, even though his defense fell apart down the stretch, team brass apparently hoped their next head coach would retain him and possibly other assistants from McCarthy’s staff. LaFleur’s willingness to take on holdovers certainly didn’t win him the job, but it might have given him an edge over his competition.
Ultimately, though, LaFleur’s offense has to validate the Packers’ decision to hire him. The lack of a top-shelf quarterback and surplus offensive talent in Tennessee hamstrung LaFleur all season, but he found ways to keep the offense afloat on the margins. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, the Titans finished the season with an expected completion percentage of 68.7, narrowly beating out the Patriots (67.8 percent) for the league’s top mark. The inability to scheme layups and move the sticks dogged the Packers through 2018. LaFleur should improve that area immediately.
Much about the Packers’ late pivot in their hiring process remains unclear, but in the end that doesn’t matter. LaFleur has the job now, and the next few years will either demonstrate that the team made the right call or lead to an even greater overhaul at 1265 Lombardi Ave.