GREEN BAY – The next chapter in the Packers’ illustrious 100-year history is set to be written with the hiring of Matt LaFleur as the franchise’s 15th head coach.
Matt LaFleur, 39, has spent the past 12 years learning under some of the NFL’s brightest offensive minds, honing his skills on the staff of Gary Kubiak in Houston, Mike Shanahan in Washington, Kyle Shanahan in Atlanta and Sean McVay with the Los Angeles Rams.
His most recent stop took LaFleur to Tennessee, where he served as the Titans’ offensive coordinator and play-caller on Mike Vrabel’s inaugural coaching staff this past season.
After coaching in Super Bowl LI with the Falcons and helping lead a revival with the Rams, LaFleur has now been tabbed to propel the Packers back to prominence. Here are five things to know about the Packers’ new head coach:
1. LaFleur helped lead an offensive overhaul in LA.
One of Sean McVay’s initial moves after being hired as the Rams’ new head coach in January 2017 was bringing in LaFleur as his offensive coordinator.
The two close friends worked together on Mike Shanahan’s coaching staff in Washington, with McVay overseeing tight ends and LaFleur coaching quarterbacks from 2010-13.
Reunited in Los Angeles, McVay and LaFleur needed only one year to overhaul the Rams’ offense and help the franchise improve its win total by seven games, going from 4-12 in 2016 to 11-5 in 2017.
The 2017 Rams went from averaging 14.0 points per game in 2016 to leading the entire NFL with 29.8 per game, becoming the first team in the Super Bowl era to go from last to first in the NFL in scoring in one season.
Playing under McVay and LaFleur, former No. 1 pick Jared Goff saw his passer rating spike nearly 40 points, going from 63.6 during his rookie season in 2016 to 100.5. No offense in 2017 threw fewer interceptions than the Rams (seven) or at a lower rate (1.4 percent).
2. He gained play-calling experience last year in Tennessee.
After their year together, McVay allowed LaFleur to pursue the offensive play-calling role with the Titans. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Tennessee had the highest expected completion percentage in the league last season at 68.7 percent.
The statistic gives an indication of the level of difficulty of a quarterback's throws. A high number indicates a quarterback's propensity to throw higher-probability passes, while a low measurement tells us a quarterback has a tendency to take more chances.
While fourth-year quarterback Marcus Mariota dealt with injuries throughout the year, the Titans mounted a playoff push behind their seventh-ranked run offense and third-year running back Derrick Henry, who rushed for 1,059 yards and 12 touchdowns on 215 carries (4.9 yards per attempt).
LaFleur will be entering his 11th year coaching in the NFL and his 18th overall in coaching
3. He’s coached an MVP quarterback before.
Aaron Rodgers won’t be the first MVP quarterback LaFleur has coached.
As quarterbacks coach on offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s staff in Atlanta for two seasons, LaFleur worked closely with Matt Ryan during his own MVP campaign in 2016.
Ryan, who also was named Associated Press Offensive Player of the Year, passed for 4,944 yards, 38 touchdowns and led the entire NFL with a 117.1 quarterback rating, which is still the fifth-highest mark in league history.
Atlanta defeated Green Bay 44-21 in the NFC Championship Game that year, marking only the second time the Falcons have advanced to the Super Bowl in the franchise’s 54-year history.
LaFleur’s brother, Mike, currently serves as receivers coach/passing game coordinator on Kyle Shanahan’s coaching staff with the San Francisco 49ers.
4. LaFleur is highly regarded in NFL circles.
Several former players, coaches and confidants of LaFleur turned to Twitter to voice their approval of the Packers’ newest coaching hire.
Baltimore quarterback Robert Griffin III touted LaFleur as a “great coach, better guy.” The two previously worked together in Washington when LaFleur was tasked with developing Griffin III and current Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins during their first two NFL seasons (2012-13).
Under LaFleur’s watch, Griffin III helped Washington win its first NFC East title in 13 years en route to becoming the first rookie quarterback in franchise history to be selected to the Pro Bowl.
Former NFL quarterback Dan Orlovsky, who played for LaFleur with the Texans and Rams, praised LaFleur for his intelligence, creativity and teaching techniques in a Twitter post Monday evening.
5. Everything started at Saginaw Valley State.
A native of Mount Pleasant, Mich., LaFleur played receiver for two seasons at Western Michigan before transferring to play quarterback at Saginaw Valley State in 2000.
LaFleur led the Cardinals to three consecutive NCAA Division II playoff appearances and was twice named the team’s MVP (2001-02). He currently ranks third in school history in both completions (491) and pass attempts (852), and fourth in both career passing yards (6,801) and touchdown passes (60).
His 7,682 total offensive yards stood as a second record for a decade until Jonathan Jennings reset the mark at 12,055 yards from 2010-13.
LaFleur briefly played indoor football for the Omaha Beef and Billings Outlaws before breaking into the coaching ranks as an offensive assistant at Saginaw Valley State in 2003.
From there, LaFleur gained further experience as a graduate assistant at Central Michigan (2004-05), quarterbacks/receivers coach at Northern Michigan and offensive coordinator at Ashland (Ohio) University before joining Kubiak’s staff with the Houston Texans as an offensive assistant in 2007.
After his four seasons in Washington, LaFleur spent a year coaching quarterbacks at the University of Notre Dame in 2014. It just so happens his one season in South Bend coincided with current Packers quarterback DeShone Kizer’s redshirt freshman season.