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Inbox: A new era is upon us

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Jacob from Muskegon, MI

What do you think of our new head coach?

My wife seems to like him. Good morning!

Michael from London, UK

Not so much a question, but wow. You could see in that interview how much it meant to Matt LaFleur to be the head coach of the Green Bay Packers.

I thought the story Mark Murphy retold about LaFleur’s reaction to being told he received the job was telling. We get caught up in wins and losses, but it’s important to remember there’s a human side to this game. LaFleur grew up the son of a football coach and has had 10 different stops as a coach himself. His 6-year-old already has moved like six times. So it’s understandable how it can be emotional when all of those experiences and sacrifices culminate in a dream job.

Mark from Carmel, IN

It’s nice to have something to be excited about again in Packerland! After watching Matt LaFleur’s first Packers press conference, it’s official, the 101st season has begun. What’s the buzz like at Lambeau?

Excitement. You could feel that energy throughout the day. A new era is upon us.

Daniel from South Chesterfield, VA

Well, I can't say I wasn't surprised by the LaFleur hire. What unique attribute does he bring to the table that will drive the Packers to succeed?

Two of the most critical for an NFL head coach – creativity and attention to detail. LaFleur has an impressive resume, but his background was well-suited to make him the 15th head coach of the Packers. He rose from humble football beginnings through hard work and time spent with some of the most innovative offensive minds in the league.

Luke from Inglewood, CA

After reading Wes's article on LaFleur and doing a little Google Fu, I think I found a common link between LaFleur and Rodgers: they've both thrown passes to Ruvell Martin.

Six degrees of Ruvell Martin.

The Green Bay Packers introduced Matt LaFleur as the team's 15th head coach at a press conference on Jan. 9, 2019.

Travis from Bruce, SD

New coach, he play-calling most likely? I’m already excited for this year!

LaFleur said he plans to call plays, which has been a hallmark of sorts for the Packers’ head coaches for much of the past 25 years.

Chun from San Gabriel, CA

What is the role of the offensive coordinator for teams with head coaches that call the offensive plays like LaFleur, McVay, McCarthy, etc.? How much input does the offensive coordinator have on drawing up plays and what is being called during the game?

The easiest way to describe it is like a crew chief in NASCAR. The play-caller is the driver on gamedays, but the offensive coordinator plays a big role in getting the car ready and making sure everyone is on the same page. If you’d rather a different analogy, they’re the assistant to the regional manager.

Darrell from San Antonio, TX

Now that the new head coach is in place, I would think one of the first orders of business after he completes the coaching staff is to evaluate this roster to make decisions on who goes and stays. Won’t this be based on how he wants to run his offense and defense? With free agency and the draft a few months away, isn't now the time to start looking at shaping the roster? How will that evaluation process work with a new head coach not familiar with the players?

These guys know their stuff. LaFleur might not know players as intimately as the previous staff, but it’s not like me walking into the Minnesota Twins’ clubhouse and trying to figure out who’s who. I’m sure LaFleur has a good idea of the type of players he’s looking for and how current players potentially fit into his scheme.

Alex from Kentwood, MI

Wow. Can't help but feel super impressed and excited after that press conference! What are your first impressions of Coach LaFleur? Also, please tell me Wes that you have seen “Dodgeball.”

Oh, thank you. Yeah, that’s uh, that’s me taking the bull by the horns. That’s how I handle my business. It’s a metaphor.

Davey from Panama City, FL

I found if you can catch a wrench, you can catch a ball.

I could see this drill replacing the JUGS machine next season.

Benny from Aurora, CO

And with their head coach pick, the Green Bay Packers choose: Youth. Interesting choice. Definitely something to look forward to and see how this develops.

Everyone fixates on age, but this is a production-based business. The facts are the facts. The Shanahan/McVay coaching tree has enjoyed a lot of success in recent years. LaFleur had checked the last box he needed to last year when he called plays in Tennessee. He’s ready for this opportunity.

Darrell from Cincinnati, OH

So why did they pick Matt LaFleur? The Packers started off the first 100 years with a young coach with a French name, and that worked out pretty well. So why not start the second 100 years with a young coach with a French name? Sounds like as good a reason as any!

That didn’t come up in the press conference, but who am I to argue with history?

Kevin from Fond du Lac, WI

How much of a learning curve does the new coach have when never having been a HC at any level?

Everyone has to start somewhere. I’d never been a lead NFL beat reporter until the Press-Gazette promoted me to that role in 2014, but I paid attention to those who handled that job before me. You can be sure LaFleur kept his eyes and ears open while working for Mike Shanahan, Gary Kubiak, Brian Kelly, Dan Quinn and Sean McVay.

Markus from Aurora, CO

So, the Packers go with youth for their head coach pick. Like Holmgren and McCarthy, LaFleur does not bring head coaching experience but is offense-minded. Can we fast-forward to training camp and preseason and see how this all works out? (Hint: I'm not good with patience.)

There were a lot of worthy candidates, including several with past head coaching experience, but this type of hire is what made the most sense to me. Success takes different forms as I’ve written before, but going with a new guy with fresh ideas has behooved the Packers in the case of Lambeau, Lombardi, Holmgren and McCarthy.

David from Oak Hills, CA

Crazy just how quickly the landscape can change in the NFL. Seems like not too long ago coaches were "seasoned veterans" and quarterbacks took some time to develop their skills and adapt. Now coaches are barely older than the players and rookie quarterbacks are making an impact immediately. Our grandfathers would not even recognize today's NFL.

To quote the grand philosopher Lemmy Kilmister, “Evolution is a mystery full of change that no one sees.” Nothing ever stays the same, David.

Sue from Rochester, NY

A comment – listened to Matt’s introduction as our HC. I was little emotional listening to that. First, sad that Mike M. is gone from our team. Second that Matt said two things that made me real excited for the coming year. I like “ball-hawking defense” and “penalty-free aggression.” After the past two seasons, I can’t wait for what’s coming!

He hit both targets on defense and special teams. Generating more takeaways is a primary goal for 2019 regardless of who’s coordinating the defense. I also dug the line about penalty-free aggression. It perfectly summarizes the job of special teams and the importance of winning the battle for field position.

Randy from Mukwonago, WI

With a new head coach comes a new playbook. When does that get put together and with whose input?

The work begins right after LaFleur finalizes his coaching staff. LaFleur will put his people in place and begin assembling his program in the lead-up to the start of the offseason program on April 1.

Bret from Hertel, WI

Will Coach LaFleur interview previous staff members or would it be more informal because it seems he has barely had time to visit Green Bay?

Everyone does things differently, but I’m sure LaFleur plans to sit down with every coach. Most new head coaches want to be thorough when building their first coaching staff.

Peter from Oshkosh, WI

What are the main goals of our new head coach?

LaFleur was asked this question directly during his presser. His answer: “I want to build a championship culture with high-character people. My philosophy is to lead, teach and inspire.” That’s the starting point, but LaFleur also realizes there are four Lombardi trophies in the Packers’ player entrance and room for a fifth.

Roman from Crivitz, WI

Does Matt LaFleur have any coaching connections with OC Joe Philbin?

Tangentially. Zac Taylor, the son-in-law of former Packers head coach Mike Sherman, was a quarterbacks coach on Philbin’s Dolphins teams from 2012-15 and was a receivers coach with the Rams during LaFleur’s season as offensive coordinator.

Spencer from Brookfield, WI

Hello Insiders. As we move to a new chapter in Packers history, what is your favorite story about or interaction you had with Mike McCarthy?

From a funny aspect, it’s definitely the time McCarthy got on me back in 2014 for asking, “Did the quad affect Brad Jones?” I was asking about his injury, but little did I know that was the name of the Packers’ 4-3 defensive look they’d been practicing all offseason. We told Dom Capers about it later in the day. I’ve never seen him laugh harder. All jokes aside, it was my first interaction with McCarthy after I was hired in April 2016. I sat in his office for an hour. I got a lot out of that, both personally and professionally.

Dean from Sandusky, OH

Of all the Packers' pending free agents, who do you believe is the most important to retain?

Importance is a relative term, but I’d like to see what a healthy Bashaud Breeland could do with a full offseason.

Jeremy from Newnan, GA

"Whether you’re talking the big-picture plan or the weekly game plan, you tell them what it will take to succeed, and why you believe it will work. Explain what you’re demanding of them, but always include the why." THIS! This answer is the answer to any leadership position. In regular work, it's huge as well. The greatest managers I've had have been able to explain the why. You cannot get people who don't know you to trust you just “because.” I love this response.

Spoff hit it out of the park on this one. You hear all the time coaches talk about the many parallels between sports and life. The greatest bosses, teachers and mentors I’ve had passed this down to me. Successful coaches don’t command, they communicate. 

Tom from Cork, Ireland

Hi Wes, many thanks for posting my comment and answering my query, it made my day! Looking forward to the return of “Unscripted” now that LaFleur looks to be the new HC. The offseason always seemed too long but packers.com makes it manageable. My best to you and Mike.

The current plan calls for us to crank out a few episodes in the coming days.

Chris from Golden Valley, MN

I'd be curious to get your take on Dak Prescott, given he is in a contract year. Do you think the Cowboys can pay him and still stay competitive?

I’d take care of him this offseason, especially since the Cowboys finally seem to have an offense that complements his strengths. He’s not just a compelling story anymore. He made some critical plays to get them to this point.

Jeff from Post Falls, ID

Hello Wes, with A-Rod passing on this year’s Pro Bowl citing injury, can he still be credited with a Pro Bowl selection? In contrast to this, Russell Wilson is now completing his sixth selection.

Rodgers is still credited with a Pro Bowl season because he was selected on the initial ballot. The only way you don’t get credit is if you’re an alternate who declines the invitation.

Morgan from Fort Collins, CO

Excited for the new era in Green Bay. Can't help but feel a little bad for Mariota. The guy has had almost as many OCs as seasons in the league. How does turnover like that change the development of a young player?

It’s not preferable. Just ask Alex Smith. But that’s the NFL.

Eddie from La Crosse, WI

Wes, after watching the press conference, my respect for Mark Murphy has increased exponentially. The man smartly utilizes bad words just like the rest of us do! He is a Man of the People! He's one of US!

It’s good to know Presidents and CEOs of professional football teams occasionally let one slip, too. I plan to use that one the next time Ma Hod lays into me for swearing at the kitchen table.

Simon from Santa Clara, CA

I know why David Bakhtiari can't get selected to the Pro Bowl. His name is too hard to pronounce! I bet if his name was David Backtree he'd've been three times already.

The players filling out the “Top 100” questionnaires don’t seem to have any issues spelling his name.

Steven from Silver Spring, MD

Interesting to see that Bruce Arians is coming out of retirement after just one year to coach TB. When a coach retires, does the team not retain his rights like it would a player?

If they’re still under contract. In the Cardinals’ case, I believe the Buccaneers are sending a couple late-round picks to Arizona as compensation.

Sara from Des Moines, IA

What is the easiest/cheapest way to get tickets to a game?

Ask Spoff. I don’t get to many games other than the ones I cover. When I do get out to a Bucks or Brewers game, it’s usually my buddies taking care of the arrangements. I just provide the cash.

John from Onalaska, WI

To Cindy from Los Angeles, you don't "have" to watch “Dodgeball.” You "GET" to watch “Dodgeball.” And not to mention it will add so much additional context to your II experience!

Spoff and I are going to have a sit-down this offseason and watch a double feature of “Dodgeball” for Spoff and “Fletch” for me.

John from Oxford, UK

"...familiarizing himself with the in-house personnel is a much higher priority..." So has Matt popped in for a bowl of Campbell's Chunky Soup yet?

We’ve arranged to have a can of Classic Chicken Noodle waiting on his desk Tuesday night.

Ben from Plover, WI

You guys know more than you let on. Spoff with the Nashville reference two days before and Wes with the “Dodgeball” quote to wrap up the last II before the hire. Real slick fellas, but now I know you know more than you act like you know.

Wes Hodkiewicz, knowing more than I act like I do since 1987.

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