Silverstein: 20 burning questions about Packers' hiring of new coach Matt LaFleur
GREEN BAY – So many questions exist with the Green Bay Packers’ hiring of Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur to be the franchise’s 15th head coach.
President and CEO Mark Murphy made the final decision Monday to hire LaFleur and the new coach agreed Tuesday to a four-year deal that includes a fifth-year option.
LaFleur comes to the Packers with a solid coaching background that includes jobs on the same staffs as San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan and Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay. He also has been a coordinator for just two seasons, only one of which included play-calling duties.
Almost all the opinions here solicited from or randomly offered by NFL scouts, former Packers staffers and agents of coaches leaned in the same direction: “Why did they choose him?”
Around league circles, it was not a heavily embraced decision, and many wondered what role Murphy’s influence played in picking a 39-year-old with no head-coaching experience and only one year of play-calling experience.
Time will tell whether it was a good decision, but here are 20 burning questions as the LaFleur era is set to begin:
1. Was this hire made to satisfy quarterback Aaron Rodgers? It smacks of that given the bent toward the McVay offense, so what message does that send to Rodgers? That it’s all about him? Do the other players feel LaFleur is their head coach?
2. Did general manager Brian Gutekunst truly approve of this hire or did Murphy pick the candidate he wanted to coach the team? Who led the search and who was the front man in the interviews?
3. Why did Murphy and Gutekunst move so quickly on LaFleur? Did they get so blown away by his interview Sunday night that they had to hire him Monday, even though no other team sought to interview him? Ted Thompson’s last interview in 2006 was with Jim Bates and it went great, but what did Thompson do? He slept on it and asked himself, ‘Who’s the best candidate?’, instead of who’s the best interview?
4. Along those same lines, why wasn’t LaFleur brought in for a second interview? Shouldn’t he have toured the facility and met with others in the organization so the brass could see how he relates to people? Didn’t they have any follow-up questions that needed to be answered in person?
5. Was the desire to tap into the McVay/Shanahan offensive revolution the primary goal in selecting the next head coach? Do they see that as the future in the NFL and what makes them think it’s not just a fad that defenses will figure out next season?
6. Did the Packers pass over Josh McDaniels and Adam Gase because they thought their personalities were too abrasive? Did they think they might rub Rodgers the wrong way? If they said no to them for that reason, didn’t they just play into Rodgers’ need for control? Wouldn’t hiring either of them send the message that the coach would be in charge?
7. How strongly was consideration given to McDaniels? How much did they weigh his success with Tom Brady and more importantly, did they consider how capable he had been in putting together a coaching staff? Or did they feel he burned all his bridges with his last-second pullout in Indianapolis last year?
8. Was this a Trace Armstrong manipulation? Did Armstrong, who is Mike McCarthy’s agent, orchestrate it all so that LaFleur and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, two other clients, were brought together to replace his first client?
9. And did Armstrong make it seem like there was a mystery team involved with LaFleur, thereby making Murphy panic and pay more than he probably needed to? Why else did Murphy move that quickly to sign a guy who had no other head-coaching options?
10. How much is LaFleur getting paid? Is it anywhere close to the $8 million-to-$9 million McCarthy made last year?
11. Did Murphy require that LaFleur hire Pettine? Or did LaFleur single him out as his favored defensive coordinator?
12. In the month before the season ended, did Murphy put a full-court press on Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald and make him feel this was an opportunity he couldn’t pass by? Did he think Fitzgerald was the perfect guy for the job and, if so, why couldn’t he get him to at least interview?
13. And while dealing with Fitzgerald’s agent, Bryan Harlan, the son of former Packers president Bob Harlan and also the agent of Baltimore coach John Harbaugh, did Murphy and Gutekunst try to find out if Harbaugh was a possibility? Did they ever consider offering the Ravens a draft choice for Harbaugh just to see if there might be interest?
14. Why wasn’t Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio interviewed? Was it because he has a reputation as a bit of a curmudgeon or was it because Murphy and Gutekunst were locked in on bringing Pettine back? Wouldn’t you want to talk to one of the best defensive coordinator’s in the game?
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15. Did McVay vouch for LaFleur and was it sincere or was he just helping one of his best friends get a job? Has LaFleur been riding the coattails of McVay and Shanahan or is that just the opinion of those who don’t know him well enough?
16. What separated LaFleur from former Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Todd Monken? At age 52, doesn't Monken has far more experience, including a head-coaching stint at Southern Mississippi?
17. Who will be the voice of experience on the offensive side of the ball? Does LaFleur have plans to hire a veteran quarterbacks coach or offensive coordinator to help him learn the head-coaching ropes?
18. Will LaFleur’s easy-going manner be an asset as he becomes the face of the organization and can he maintain it with the criticism that will come if the team struggles? How well is he prepared to deal with the daily media obligations a head coach bears?
19. Should LaFleur be expected to turn things around offensively right away? Or will he need a year to get the system in place, the same way Pettine needed time to get his defense running smoothly?
20. If this works out, will it solidify Murphy’s legacy with the Packers? If it doesn’t work out, will the executive committee clean house? Will McCarthy’s record be the standard by which LaFleur will be judged? And will LaFleur have a street named after him?