Green Bay Packers President & CEO Mark Murphy said several weeks ago that the teams search for a new head coach wouldn’t center around quarterback Aaron Rodgers approval, but they would welcome the quarterback’s input.
But who was Murphy kidding. The number one job for new 39-year-old head coach Matt LaFleur is to get the Packers back into the playoffs with a chance to win championships. To do that, LaFleur needs to figure out how to get Rodgers to return to the elite form that he possessed not to long ago.
Murphy and his management team know that as well. Even before he offered the job to LaFleur on Monday, general manager Brian Gutekunst was told to call LaFleur to have a discussion. That phone call was the start of the relationship building process between the two and it will need to grow leaps and bounds in the coming months as the Packers push towards the 2019 season.
At his introductory press conference on Wednesday, LaFleur acknowledged that it’ll be important to build a relationship with every player on the team. But he also knows it starts with Rodgers.
“I cannot wait to get to work with him,” LaFleur said of Rodgers. “I think he’s equally excited. There’s a lot of work to be done in front of us, but I’m just looking forward to that opportunity.
“I think we’re both on the same page. We are committed to winning, there’s no doubt about it, and he’s a competitor.”
LaFleur left his job as offensive coordinator of the Los Angeles Rams to take the same job in Tennessee. But the Titans job brought with it play calling duties, which was the next step for LaFleur to make. After several key injuries early, LaFleur turned the Titans into a power running team in the latter portion of the season. That move allowed the Titans to stay in the AFC Wildcard Playoff hunt until the final week of the season.
The Rams meanwhile, finished the regular season with a 13-3 record and Murphy said LaFleur would have been “the hot candidate” across the league had he stayed in L.A.
“I needed to challenge myself,” LaFleur said. “It would have been easy to stay in L.A. You look at the roster, you look at the success they’re having this year.
II took the risk because I knew I had to get out of my comfort zone and grow as a coach. The lessons I learned this year, I learned football is not easy. You’d better navigate through some adversity, and I was proud of that.”
LaFleur has proved he can work with high-profile quarterbacks and get them to perform at a high level. He did so as Matt Ryan’s quarterback coach in Atlanta when Ryan captured league MVP honors. Now, it’s LaFleur’s job to get Aaron Rodgers back into position to help the Packers shoot pro football’s ultimate prize.
LaFleur will spend the next several days assembling his coaching staff. It’ll start with meeting with the 2018 coaching staff to see what coaches would be retained. He made no commitments to anybody on Wednesday, even though its been widely reported that Mike Pettine would retain his position as defensive coordinator and at least a handful of his defensive assistants would be back.
LaFleur said he was honored to be following in the footsteps of Curly Lambeau, Vince Lombardi, Mike Holmgren and Mike McCarthy. He hopes to be able to add his name to that list down the road.