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Inbox: A natural connection already is developing

Younger means a greater degree of new and fresh


Ken from New York, NY

For the first time in many years, I find that I have absolutely no clue what to expect next season. It's refreshing.

This might be my favorite Inbox post of all-time. I couldn't stop smiling after I read it.

Peder from Muskegon, MI

Just an interesting addition to Darrell from Cincinnati regarding the French connection. I was traveling in Europe in 2011. I watched the Super Bowl at a bar in Brussels. The game started in the middle of the night but the bar was jam packed! I was curious why so many people were interested in the game. I asked a guy next to me who spoke some English. He said, "Curly Lambeau, he is from Brussels. We are all Packer fans here." And they were!

Out of curiosity, I did some quick research, and all four of Curly's grandparents were indeed born in Belgium.

Gavin from Omaha, NE

Wes would like to see Breeland back next year, I agree. Do you think he showed enough this year to command a similar offer to what the Panthers were going to give him last offseason before his foot issues "threw a wrench" in that deal?

I'm sure that's what he's aiming for, but it also depends on how the overall market at his position looks.

Adam from Rochester, NY

I think a head coach should get to choose his staff but I'm hoping Campen sticks around. How soon do you think he will announce his staff?

He'll work swiftly, but there's no way to predict a timeline.

Mike from Mount Prospect, IL

Gentlemen, I heard a talking head posit this idea. When Rodgers began, he needed an elder, more of a father figure to acclimate and move him forward. Now older and wiser, Rodgers needs the energy and invigoration of a younger coach to prod him to greatness. At the risk of psycho-babbling, any validity to this?

Maybe. I'm of the belief the best way to maximize on the back third of Rodgers' career is to challenge him with a whole new set of ideas. Push him to apply his Hall of Fame talent to something fresh. I think he'd embrace the challenge and his competitive nature would be channeled effectively. The age of the head coach doesn't necessarily play into that, yet perhaps younger means a greater degree of new and fresh.

Jake from Athens, GA

Mike, is it weird being older than the head coach of the Green Bay Packers?

It was going to happen eventually, right?

Jeff from Goodyear, AZ

Hey guys, there has been much said and much written about LaFleur's ability to placate Rodgers. I, for one, believe these concerns to be real. But, should this be an issue? Simplistically, a coach is brought in to coach, a player to play for the team and the coach. To me AR's job is to play for the coach the organization deems qualified. Has the hierarchy of authority turned upside down? Should it be necessary for us to be talking about this?

I don't think placate is the right word, but for the Packers to be at their best, they have to get Aaron Rodgers back to his best. Simple as that. It's going to require a mixture of collaboration, demands, challenges, and give-n-take for Rodgers to be both the leader and performer he needs to be for this team.

Matt from Nashville, TN

Why are players and coaches barred from working together in the offseason? If they are under contract for the same team why is it an issue?

Another contract called the CBA. This is how the players' union wanted it. Prior to 2011, offseason programs used to start in mid-March and there were fewer restrictions on the number of hours players spent at the team facility.

Nick from Sturtevant, WI

When you two have your double feature, will this be during working hours at Lambeau? I just don't get the sense that you two hang out all that often outside the office. Also, do you eat popcorn during this event? Popcorn is a must.

We'll have to do this right. Give the wives the credit cards to go out on the town, my teenage daughter can watch Baby Hod, and we can intently focus on these enormous cultural gaps in our lives.

Steve from Mount Vernon, WA

During the introduction of Coach LaFleur, Mark Murphy mentioned that the team's leadership council of nine played a role in the very thorough and inclusive selection process. I am curious. Can you share who those players are? I was impressed.

To be clear, the council's input was received before any interviews were conducted. Each position group is represented on the council by a veteran player, but I don't know all the specific choices.

Braden from Aurora, CO

Mike, Mr. Murphy stated the players' leadership council felt things got complacent under McCarthy. Without taking anything away from LaFleur's others traits, how much do you think "complacency" and a desire to be "new" played into this hire?


Randy from Ooltewah, TN

Which of the four NFL playoff games this weekend is most appealing to you, and which home team with the bye is most likely to lose, in your opinion?

Chargers-Patriots is the game of the weekend and my answer to both of your questions, but I think there's intrigue in all four games. This is the ultimate NFL football weekend, with the matchups and the stakes.

Andrew from Ettrick, WI

If the Chargers beat the Patriots, and the Colts knock off the Chiefs, we're talking about an AFC Championship Game with an attendance of 27,000 people. The NFL doesn't have a horse in the race but they sure can't be hoping for this.

Well, the league sets the postseason ticket prices, because it gets all postseason ticket revenue, so theoretically it can charge what it wants to.

Brian from Sussex, WI

When picking winners of games that are 50/50 I often go with team that has better QB. I was looking at AFC teams left and noticed something. Due to what could be signs of Brady's decline, there could be an argument he is the worst QB of AFC teams left, based on current ability.

Now you've done it.

LaFleur will be entering his 11th year coaching in the NFL and his 18th overall in coaching

Tanner from Tulsa, OK

I'd really love to root for the Saints, but a draft spot is a draft spot. Fly Eagles, fly.

I've been bullish on the Saints since last January and won't change my stance now, but I will say it's rare for a team to get a chance in the postseason to avenge a 41-point loss in the regular season. What an opportunity for a Philly team already playing with house money.

Peter from Eagan, MN

Like many other Packer fans, I am very hopeful that Coach LaFleur is going to be our next highly successful NFL coach. Should we have any concerns on his ability to "command the room"? He was visibly nervous and struggled with his words in the press conference and other live interviews. I realize that there are many coaches who are all show without substance. Perhaps LaFleur will be the opposite, full of substance without the glitz.

Personally, I couldn't care less if he can win a press conference. It's about winning games, which he can't do for another eight months. I saw a young, family man realizing a dream, probably sooner than he even imagined. I'll cut him some slack on the nerves and a few stammers. I didn't need to hear a bunch of prepared platitudes. Plus, when he's up in front of the whole team for the first time, he won't have more than two dozen cameras in his face.

Kristin from Sister Bay, WI

Mike, what are the positive things you see in the choice of Matt for our head coach, beyond the fact that it's such a good feeling to have the decision made? I like his quick rise and his youth. You?

In a nutshell, I like that he coached an offensive rookie of the year (RGIII) and an MVP (Matt Ryan) with very different QB styles, and he was able to change Tennessee's offensive identity out of necessity to stay in the hunt.

Geoff from Omaha, NE

How does someone like LaFleur compile a playbook? Is it something he has been working on his entire career? Does he just take Tennessee's playbook and modify it to his liking? Seems like a fine line between having to completely create your own playbook versus using a known commodity.

I'm sure the playbook he built in Tennessee last year included concepts from Atlanta and L.A., and the evolution will continue based on Rodgers and the other personnel he'll have to work with here. OTAs will be used to introduce everything in the 11-on-11, non-contact settings, with some trial-and-error, and then one last round of modifications is made heading into training camp.

Daniel from Gladwin, MI

Apparently James Harden hasn't seen "Dodgeball" either, or if he has, he's not very good at it. That pass from Giannis to his head was sick. I'm all for a charity "Dodgeball" game where it's Aaron Rodgers, Giannis, and Josh Hader against any and all challengers. It would be fun to watch.

My favorite "Dodgeball" reference of the week, since I'm not yet in tune with the rest. Glad Harden's OK, which he proved by still dropping 42 on the Bucks. Hader? Yikes.

Paul from Shoreview, MN

With a new coach, what additional practice opportunities will the Packers have this offseason?

In addition to starting offseason workouts two weeks earlier than usual (April 1), a new coach can hold an additional voluntary veteran minicamp prior to the draft.

Jessi from Sterling, KS

In watching the press conference I was struck by two things: 1. Mark Murphy's emotion and gratitude towards Joe Philbin, which just shows how close everyone gets and how none of these decisions are easy. 2. Matt's awareness and appreciation of how special a place like Green Bay is, the fan base, and the traditions. What struck you being there as a part of the press?

Those two things, plus the sense a natural connection already is developing between Gutekunst and LaFleur. I suspect both growing up as coaches' sons has something to do with it.

Alex from Bartlett, IL

The new hot thing in the NFL is young, up-and-coming QB and offensive coaching gurus who can create new amazing offensive schemes. Why isn't anybody trying to find the next young, up-and-coming defensive coach that can stop all of these new and creative offenses? I feel like there are only 2-3 truly good innovative offensive head coaches in the league right now, shouldn't there be 1-2 young good defensive coaches? No one is looking for those.

Who are they? Who has consistently found ways to stop teams like the Chiefs, Rams, Saints and Patriots? I'm not saying no one can, but I'm not sure those defensive candidates exist yet. Kris Richard will be the hot name in that regard, depending on how the Cowboys do in L.A. on Saturday, and two teams are still looking for head coaches. So we'll see. But the game and league cycle is the offenses try to stay ahead while defenses work to catch up, so offensive coaches will generally get the first looks.

Tim from Port Washington, WI

While you want the best person for the job, is there any additional benefit in the Pack looking for an older offensive coordinator who is less likely to be "snapped up" as the next great thing?

There's not as great a risk if the offensive coordinator is not calling plays. It's the very real risk of going with a defensive head coach, because you can start cycling through offensive coordinators if they're successful.

Matt from San Diego, CA

What determines the home and away in the schedule for the two conference opponents that finish in the same place in their division as your team, that are not in the division you are scheduled to play?

It's a two-year rotation, by division. In 2016-17, the NFC North hosted the same place-winners in the NFC West (Seattle both times for Green Bay) and traveled to the South (Atlanta in '16) and East (Dallas in '17) matchups those years. In 2018-19, the North hosts the South both years (Atlanta in '18, Carolina in '19 for GB) and travels to the East (Washington in '18) and West (San Francisco in '19). In 2020-21, the North will host the East both years, etc.

Tyler from Fargo, ND

How do analysists/sports writers like Ian Rapoport get league information before anybody else and before it's official? Does the NFL allow them to know this information so their social media pages can be the first to report it?

No. They generally get it from agents who represent the players and/or coaches in the news.

Greg from Hillman, MN

Why do you think McCarthy didn't get offered a new head coaching job? I thought with his accomplishments he would have been first in line to get a job offer.

From what I've read, it sounds like he was being very selective with what he pursued, and he zeroed in on the Jets job. Not getting it, he's comfortable taking a year off and looking at opportunities for 2020. Stay tuned.

Matthew from Las Vegas, NV

Insiders, I am not at all sad to see Coach Fangio leaving the division and conference. As best I can tell, all he does is build great defenses. Best of luck to him in Denver, as long as the Packers aren't playing them.

In case you weren't aware, the Broncos come to Lambeau Field in 2019.

David from San Francisco, CA

Mike, in Wednesday's column, you mentioned you've been wishing for an eight-team playoff in college football with the benefit each of the Power 5 conference champions get to play, and every team has a chance to win it all. But immediately afterwards, you endorsed the NFL wild-card system for rewarding the conference's top teams a bye. What do you think about a six-team playoff which plays like an NFL conference championship? I think teams would stack non-conference schedules for a first-round bye.

Interesting thought, if by "stack" you mean schedule legitimate opponents for a body of work that stands out in the final evaluation for bye selections. Anything to increase compelling non-conference matchups in college football, I'm all for. One or two warm-up games, fine, but everyone plays too many yawners (I know it's about the money). Part of my thought behind all the major conference winners getting in is to diminish the damage a non-conference loss could inflict, thereby incentivizing teams to prepare as best they can, against strong competition, to win their conference and get in the dance, not just pad the record. With your idea, if you win those tough non-league games, a potential playoff bye is out there, too. My hesitation is a lone sixth spot for a Group of 5, independent or at-large entry isn't enough.

Robert from Saginaw, MI

With four Lombardi trophies in the Packers' player entrance, are those reproductions or are the four in the Packers Hall of Fame reproductions?

The originals are in the Packers Hall of Fame. But good luck telling the difference.

Stephen from Menomonee Falls, WI

"He'd've" – the oft-spoken, seldom-seen double contraction!

In the immortal words of BTO, y'ain't seen nothin' yet.

Jeff from Chandler, AZ

Wes's sign-off statement yesterday was pretty funny. I would like to know if there is a support group for II addicts like me. I read every one and submit questions often only to have my hopes crushed and yet I come back for more. I think I need help. I can't stop.

Happy Friday, everyone.