Matt LaFleur’s time with McVay, Shanahan will help Aaron Rodgers

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Look at Matt Ryan in 2016. Or Jared Goff in 2017.

That’s what the Green Bay Packers think they’ll see from Aaron Rodgers in 2019.

That’s why they’re hiring Matt LaFleur as their next head coach.

The 39-year-old LaFleur won over Packers president Mark Murphy and general manager Brian Gutekunst with his expertise on offense and the idea that he will be able to get Rodgers back to an MVP level for one more run at a Super Bowl.

As one source said, getting Rodgers to buy in with the next head coach was the most important thing for Murphy and Gutekunst to accomplish with this hire.

In that regard, what LaFleur has done in his previous NFL jobs impressed the Packers’ brass. In the case of Ryan, they saw it firsthand, for it was the Falcons quarterback who dashed their last best chance at a Super Bowl when he rolled over the Packers in the NFC Championship Game 44-21 in January 2017. Ryan won the MVP for the 2016 season with LaFleur as his position coach.

It was in Atlanta that LaFleur learned under then-Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.

When Shanahan left to become the San Francisco 49ers’ head coach the following season, LaFleur jumped to the Rams as a non-playcalling offensive coordinator under new coach Sean McVay, the former Redskins OC. That meant LaFleur worked closely with Goff, who was entering his second NFL season. The season before, the Rams were 4-12 with Goff as a winless seven-game starter. The next season, the Rams went 11-5 with Goff as a 16-game starter, and he threw 28 touchdowns and seven interceptions and finished with a 110.5 passer rating. The Rams were 10th overall in yards and first in points.

Ask anyone around the NFL, and most will say Shanahan and McVay are the two brightest offensive minds in the game. The Packers now have someone connected to both.

This past season in Tennessee, where LaFleur served as first-year head coach Mike Vrabel’s playcalling offensive coordinator, there were things to like, even though the Titans’ offense ranked 25th in yards, 29th in passing yards and 27th in scoring. According to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, the Titans had the highest expected completion percentage in the NFL last season, at 68.7 percent, and the Packers ranked 27th, at 62.6 percent.

That brings everything back to Rodgers, whose 13-year relationship with former coach Mike McCarthy deteriorated. The beginning of the end came following the Packers’ Week 4 win over the Bills. Even after a 22-0 victory, Rodgers trashed McCarthy’s offensive game plan. It was an eye-opener for Murphy and Gutekunst that Rodgers and McCarthy had gone different ways.

As former Packers coach Mike Holmgren said in an interview shortly after the Buffalo game, coaching elite quarterbacks isn’t easy, but “everyone has to understand what the role is — what the role of the player is, the role of the coach is.”

Rodgers finished with his lowest completion percentage (62.3) and fewest touchdown passes (25) in a season in which he started at least 15 games and his second-lowest passer rating (97.6) in such seasons.

LaFleur is barely four years older than Rodgers, who turned 35 on the December day when McCarthy was fired. Their ages could make it harder for them to stick to those defined roles Holmgren described as musts. LaFleur also will be only the second Packers head coach to be younger than 40 in his debut, according to Elias. The other was Curly Lambeau, who was 23 when he coached his first game in 1921.

Some thought Patriots assistant coach Josh McDaniels would be the perfect person to get Rodgers back on track. But several people who know LaFleur believe that his personality and, more importantly, his views on offense will mesh with Rodgers’.

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