Matt LaFleur is making a case for NFL Coach of the Year
Second-year Packers coach Matt LaFleur might have won NFL Coach of the Year in 2019, had John Harbaugh’s groundbreaking offense not overshadowed LaFleur’s NFL head coaching debut.
In 2019, the former offensive coordinator of the Rams and Titans guided Green Bay to a 13-3 regular-season record and an appearance in the NFC Championship Game, all while quarterback Aaron Rodgers worked with a pedestrian pool of talent on offense.
In 2020, LaFleur is making an even better case for Coach of the Year, mostly with the same lineup.
Packers offense shines despite lack of upgrades
In the offseason, LaFleur and the Packers front office received a heap of criticism for drafting quarterback Jordan Love with the No. 26 overall pick, while two-time MVP Rodgers is still in his prime.
Not only did Green Bay pass on a receiver for Rodgers in the first round, but the only receiving weapon the Packers drafted in 2020 was former Cincinnati tight end Josiah Deguara, who has played 31 snaps this season.
Regardless, the Packers entered their Week 5 bye undefeated and have recorded their five victories by an average margin of 13.2 points.
Through six games, Green Bay has piled on 32.8 points per game, the fourth-most in the league and an increase of 9.3 points, compared to the Packers’ scoring average last season.
Rodgers’ passer rating is 113.4, better than his 112.2 rating from his second MVP campaign in 2014. The 36-year-old signal caller has also thrown four touchdown passes in three games and has been intercepted just twice this season — both times in a loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Aaron Rodgers asked if Sunday showed teams are starting to figure the Packers’ offense out:— Matt Schneidman (@mattschneidman) October 21, 2020
Rodgers: “1 out of 5.”
That was his entire answer.
What is more impressive about Rodgers and the Packers’ offensive performance is that top receiver Davante Adams sat out two games with a hamstring injury, which he suffered in the first half of a 42-21 win against Detroit in Week 2.
Lead running back Aaron Jones also missed Sunday’s 35-20 win against the Texans, but Jamaal Williams stepped up for 77 rushing yards and a score.
The Packers defense has also endured its share of injuries but has managed to stay afloat, with an average of 350.3 yards allowed per game, 11th-fewest in the league.
Mike McCarthy helping LaFleur’s case with Dallas debut
If there was any question about LaFleur’s impact on Green Bay, one can look to former Packers coach Mike McCarthy’s situation in Dallas.
In 2018, it became apparent Rodgers was unhappy with McCarthy. Team morale declined, Green Bay went 6-9, and the Packers missed the playoffs for the second straight year.
The next season, Green Bay welcomed a fresh face in LaFleur, who flipped the Packers’ record to 13-3 and won a playoff game in his first year as an NFL coach.
McCarthy, on the other hand, accepted the Cowboys job in 2020 and is dealing with similar culture issues in Dallas and a lack of trust from his players.
#Cowboys players initially bought into keeping things internal. Now as they sit 2-4 the discontent is leaking out. On the coaching staff “totally unprepared. They don’t teach. They don’t have any sense of adjusting on the fly.” Another “they just aren’t good at their jobs”— Jane Slater (@SlaterNFL) October 20, 2020
Some anticipated Rodgers would lose trust in LaFleur and the front office after April’s NFL Draft, as well. It is possible Rodgers did, but maybe that provided the spark he needed.
Either way, Rodgers and Green Bay are executing exceptional football with LaFleur at the helm, and the young coach has proven he was a smart hire, based on his coaching record.
Last year, LaFleur’s 13 regular-season wins matched the most by a rookie coach since Jim Harbaugh won the same number with the 49ers in 2011.
Now, with a 17-3 regular-season record through his first 20 games, LaFleur is tied with Paul Brown for the second-best coaching start in NFL history. Only George Seifert accomplished a better record (18-2) through his first 20 games, when he succeeded Bill Walsh as head coach of the 49ers.
The second half of Green Bay's schedule — with games at San Francisco and Indianapolis, plus matchups against Tennessee and the Bears (twice) — will say a lot more about LaFleur's leadership in Green Bay.
If he can continue winning at this rate, LaFleur's record will say plenty to earn him Coach of the Year.