Matt LaFleur isn’t the one making the decisions regarding personnel for the Green Bay Packers. That job falls to general manager Brian Gutekunst, not the head coach. But after a tremendous two-year run with quarterback Aaron Rodgers, LaFleur isn’t about to move on just because of reported tensions between the reigning MVP and the team.
On the first day of the Packers’ rookie minicamp, LaFleur spoke to the media and, predictably, fielded a few questions about the situation with Rodgers. “I’ve got nothing new to update,” LaFleur told reporters. “We still obviously feel the same way; we want him back in the worst way and I know he knows that.”
That reaction should come as no surprise from a coach whose working relationship with Rodgers has yielded a pair of 13-3 seasons, two NFC Championship Game appearances, and Rodgers’ third MVP award. Frankly, Rodgers makes LaFleur look good, and the reverse has been true as well, particularly in 2020.
For now, however, the Packers need to move ahead with their schedule regardless of Rodgers’ status. With Rodgers likely a no-show for the offseason program — LaFleur said “I’m not going to make any assumptions at this point” about whether #12 would participate — and only Jordan Love joining him on the roster, the Packers had to make some additions to the quarterback room before OTAs began. To that end, the Packers signed veteran Blake Bortles this week while trying out a pair of quarterbacks, Kurt Benkert and Chad Kelly, during this week’s rookie camp.
LaFleur effectively confirmed that the lack of quarterbacks on the 90-man roster was the primary driver for Bortles’ contract. “That had a big part in us signing him. Any time you come into an offseason with only two QBs on your roster, typically you’ll have 3 or 4 guys (to run practice).”
Bortles’ relationship with one key member of the coaching staff, Nathaniel Hackett, is among the primary reasons why he is now under contract with the green and gold. LaFleur said that Hackett was able to provide significant insight into Bortles the player and Bortles the person: “He said what a great person, what a great teammate he is. Especially in that room, it’s so imperative how close everybody is. That’s the #1 most compelling thing about him.” Still, LaFleur was complimentary of Bortles’ play, noting that he has “played at a high level and has a lot of experience in this league.”
It sounds like the Packers may also add one of the two tryout quarterbacks after rookie camp concludes this weekend as well. LaFleur complimented both Benkert and Kelly, saying “I thought both those guys did a great job.” On Friday, Kelly earned a bit more praise for his natural ability, however, with LaFleur saying “he’s a talented thrower; he’s effortless.”
Bortles’ signing put the Packers’ roster at 89 members with three quarterbacks among them. Look for either Benkert or Kelly to increase those numbers to 90 and four in a few days.