Matt LaFleur excited to grow with Aaron Rodgers, Packers' offense

Head coach plans to put his first offseason in Green Bay to good use

QB Aaron Rodgers, Head Coach Matt LaFleur
QB Aaron Rodgers, Head Coach Matt LaFleur

GREEN BAY – For the first time since 2016, Matt LaFleur enters the offseason knowing where he'll be coaching next year, the players he's tailoring his schemes to, and perhaps most importantly, who his quarterback will be.

The lone detractor of LaFleur's meteoric rise up the NFL's coaching ranks in recent years was it required him to relocate his office from Atlanta to Los Angeles to Tennessee and finally Green Bay in three back-to-back-to-back offseasons.

To be sure, each stop came with a massive promotion – from the Falcons' quarterbacks coach to the Rams' offensive coordinator to the Titans' offensive play-caller to the Packers' head coach.

However, it's also forced LaFleur to start over in each city to a certain extent. With an historic season in the books and a majority of a tight-knit locker room set to return, LaFleur is eager to reflect, analyze and research in the months ahead instead of having to teach from the beginning of the textbook.

"It will be a busy offseason," LaFleur said. "What I'm excited for is this is going to be the first time I've been in Year 2 since after the 2015 season in Atlanta. To really, not only study yourself, that gives you an opportunity to see what else is going on around the league. You can get so many good ideas from watching other people's film."

At the time of his hiring, much was made about the importance of LaFleur forging trust with two-time MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers. By all accounts, the two got off on solid footing in their first season together.

Following Green Bay's 37-20 loss to San Francisco in the NFC Championship Game, Rodgers praised LaFleur for his scheme, the coaching staff he'd built, and how the first-time head coach promoted leadership from within the locker room.

With General Manager Brian Gutekunst and the personnel department infusing the roster with new talent, LaFleur stood at the controls of the biggest one-year turnaround in franchise history – improving from six regular-season wins to 13.

"I think Matt deserves a lot of credit for the way that we performed week in and week out," Rodgers said. "He would set the vision every week – very simple messaging. With his leadership and empowering guys the way that he did, and with Brian adding pieces … I said it last week, the window is open for us."

LaFleur appreciates how "open-minded" Rodgers was with the new offense. The Packers shifted from a spread-oriented shotgun style to more traditional concepts that moved the 15-year veteran back under center on a more frequent basis.

The offense experienced ups and downs over the course of a long year but there also were some remarkable achievements along the way. Rodgers, for the first time in his career, fashioned a perfect 158.3 passer rating in a 42-24 win over Oakland in Week 7 (25-of-31 for 429 yards and five touchdowns).

Rodgers also was in peak form in the NFC Divisional playoff game against Seattle, throwing for 243 yards and two touchdowns during the 28-23 victory. In LaFleur's eyes, the 36-year-old Rodgers continues to stand among the league's elite.

"I think he's still one of the most talented players out there," LaFleur said. "I know he seemed energized all season long, his mind is as sharp as they come. … He's a true professional. He knows his body and he does a great job of taking care of his body."

One area both LaFleur and Rodgers emphasized in the aftermath of the season is getting more up-tempo with the offense next season. Rodgers feels "the scheme is there." Their shared belief is another offseason should help the offensive implementation.

The Packers don't intend to live in no-huddle concepts every snap of the game as much as they did in the past, but the idea is to keep defenses wary. A danger of running down the play clock is it allows defenders to jump the snap and "kind of tee off."

"We want to keep the defense off-balance," LaFleur said. "Certainly, integrating a little bit more up-tempo – and I'm not saying necessarily it has to be warp speed – but I think being able to have the flexibility, the versatility, to jump in and out of different tempos, I think it just adds to the element of keeping a defense off-balance."

The biggest challenge LaFleur encountered in his first season as a head coach was managing his time throughout the week and balancing his offensive game-planning with his involvement in the defensive and special teams meeting rooms.

With Year 1 behind him, it's LaFleur's hope the 2020 Packers will make comparable strides to what LaFleur witnessed during his second year with the Falcons, who advanced to Super Bowl LI behind an MVP performance from Matt Ryan in 2016.

All things considered, LaFleur feels he and his staff have a lot to work with to propel to the offense to the next level in 2020. Based on how receptive Rodgers and the rest of the team's veterans were to "newness" of the offense this past year, LaFleur anticipates more growth and execution in Year 2.

"This game is about players," LaFleur said. "It doesn't really matter what I know or what our coaches know when they go out on the grass, it's about what those guys know. And not only what they know but how they can go out there and execute. I thought it was a pretty collaborative effort throughout the course of the season."

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