Matt LaFleur hasn’t quite been the head coach of the Green Bay Packers for six months. He’s taken the team through a couple of minicamps, said some nice things about some draft picks, and given us a vague outline of what he hopes to accomplish this year. In short, he hasn’t done a lot as head coach. At least, not a lot that we can see from the outside.
But sooner or later, the real football will begin. And when it does, it’s only fair that we have some expectations by which we can measure his success. Here’s what we’re expecting from LaFleur in 2019.
Paul Noonan - Run too much, but good deception
I’m conflicted on LaFleur, or at least what I think LaFleur will be. On the one hand, I expect the percentage of Packer runs to increase a fair amount. Some of that is based on LaFleur’s tendencies, part of that is based on a possibly wrong idea that Rodgers will stay in structure more leading to fewer audibles, and part of it is just based on the idea that you can’t pass much more than they did last year.
On the other hand, LaFleur does seem to make decent use of that run commitment in terms of willingness to pass out of run-heavy sets. I am a fan of deception, and using run-heavy looks in passing can lead to big plays, and easy passes. I like LaFleur’s potential as a tactician, and given the youth of their receivers, his brand of offensive may be just what they need. I’m don’t expect them to be on par with the 2010-11 glory days, but if the defense improves and Aaron’s Y/A jumps up a yard, that’ll play.
Shawn Wagner - Back to the basics
Running the football is not as popular in today’s NFL as it once was but I, like Paul, expect the Packers to run plenty in LaFleur’s offense. In describing concepts he is seen in video so far, Aaron Rodgers appears pleasantly excited about getting to work and putting players in positions that best utilize their skill sets.
Sounds simple, but it was something Green Bay has really struggled to do on both sides of the ball in recent seasons. While I remain cautious and well aware that the grass is not always greener on the other side, I expect the Packers offense to return to some of the basic concepts (quick inside slants, screen passes, and others) that once made it so highly successful in the early Rodgers years. With Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, and Dexter Williams in the fold, the Packers should have plenty of ground weapons at LaFleur’s disposal to use the running game to set up the pass and create big-play opportunities. Returning to the basics also means helping Rodgers get back to a comfort zone in getting the ball out sooner and trusting his early progressions. That might be easier said than done, but doing so would go a long way in fixing some of the mid-game stalls the unit has gone through over the past two seasons.
Whether it is college football or professional football, it can be difficult and sometimes unrealistic to have very high expectations in year one of a coaching change. However, the Packers under LaFleur could do well, especially with an influx of talent in the offseason, in focusing on a more simplistic style of offense and being adaptable to the tools of that talent.
Evan “Tex” Western - A more creative and visually interesting offense
Though I’m usually more of a numbers guy, I’m going qualitative rather than quantitative with this question. For years, we have seen Mike McCarthy roll out the slant/flat concept as practically the only route concept to scheme players open in the passing game. Beyond that, it has been “beat your coverage one-on-one.”
Matt LaFleur’s history suggests that his offense will be the antithesis of that. Instead of the static formations that McCarthy tended to use, I expect to see the Packers using motion, play-action, leak routes, and stacked receivers, among other ideas, as ways to get players open. That hopefully will be more effective, and for fans it should make for a more interesting-looking offense on the field when the Packers have the football.
Jon Meerdink - Playoffs
If football is a results-oriented business, I think the only way I can fairly set my expectations for Matt LaFleur is by setting the bar for where I think the team needs to end up. The Packers need to be in the playoffs. The last time we saw a Packers playoff game, Matt Ryan was slicing and dicing the secondary (RIP Ladarius Gunter and friends). It’s not a good memory, but it was still the playoffs. And had things gone differently, who knows? The Packers may have been in the Super Bowl. Sure, there may have been just a five percent chance, but that’s five percent higher than their chances have been of making a run in the playoffs the last two years.
LaFleur needs to get the Packers back to the level where they at least have a theoretical shot at making the Super Bowl. To get to the Super Bowl, you need to be in the playoffs. That’s what LaFleur needs to do. That’s what I think the expectation should be.