GREEN BAY - In his first season as head coach of the Green Bay Packers, Matt LaFleur oversaw a seven-win turnaround and was the most successful first-year coach in franchise history after a 13-3 regular season. The Packers also returned to the NFC championship game, but a 37-20 loss to San Francisco in that game left a bitter taste.
On Wednesday, LaFleur met with the media and was asked about his evaluation process regarding his coaching staff and, specifically, defensive coordinator Mike Pettine and the defensive staff after getting steamrolled by the 49ers' running game.
“Yeah, we’re still working through everything right now,” LaFleur said. “Just trying to evaluate everything. I think our defense did a lot of great things; obviously, the last game was very disappointing in terms of our performance, it just wasn’t good enough. Especially when you get to a championship game like that and you know what’s at stake. Just all across the board. It wasn't just the defense. Our offense and special teams weren’t up to par as well.
“I was just disappointed with ... it didn’t seem like we had the same energy and effort that we had displayed throughout the course of the season.”
LaFleur met with Pettine after the news conference and the Packers have decided to retain their defensive coordinator for a third season, PackersNews.com confirmed. ESPN was first to report the news of Pettine being retained.
Once LaFleur has gone through his coaching evaluation, he will meet with Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy to further review the season. At the start of last year, Murphy restructured the flow chart of the organization, so that LaFleur and general manager Brian Gutekunst report to him.
“Mark and I will have a conversation here shortly,” LaFleur said. “Then we’ll start making some decisions.”
In his 30-minute news conference, LaFleur hit on several topics. Here are the highlights as the Packers move onto the 2020 season:
On what happened defensively in the NFC championship game:
“I think it was a combination of a lot of things. I think you have to give San Francisco credit. They definitely outcoached us. I just didn’t feel like we played with the same urgency, the same tenacity, the same toughness. We didn’t set the edge the same as we had been earlier this season. It’s disappointing because it’s not like we didn’t know what they were gonna try to do. We knew exactly what they were gonna try to do. We knew they were gonna run the football and for them to be able to do that was extremely disappointing, and I just didn’t think we played with the same effort as what I had seen earlier in the season.”
How does that happen with a Super Bowl on the line?
“Yeah, that’s a great question. That’s something that I’m still trying to figure out right now as we speak. I mean, I don’t understand that because you’re there. You have an opportunity to go to play in a Super Bowl and for that to happen, it’s extremely ... it’s bothersome. We have to look at ourselves, everybody. I’m gonna look inside of myself and see why weren’t our players playing with their hair on fire. I think everybody in our organization has to do that.”
On Aaron Rodgers and where he can grow in 2020:
“I think just with anything, being comfortable with some of the uncomfortable things we’ve asked him to do. I do think he was open-minded and I appreciate that because we certainly asked him to play under center more than he has, especially in more recent years, and I thought he executed for the most part at a pretty high level. I know the numbers weren’t what you guys say were up to the standard, or whatever, but I do think there was some really good play in there. I’m excited about moving forward into the future, really getting another offseason with him, and not only him with all our players. Because too many times especially with that position, the quarterback gets too much credit when it’s going really well and too much blame when it’s not going as well. It’s the nature of the position. It’ll be fun to get everybody on the same page again, and I think everybody has a much better understanding of what we’re trying to do and why we’re trying to do it.”
On roster evaluation moving into free agency and the draft:
“I think for the guys you’ll have back, you know what they can do and then you know areas of where they need to improve or where you might need to go add some pieces. I think you never truly know until you’re in the trenches with these guys and on the field and put them through certain situations really what they can and cannot do. But I do think we have a really talented roster, I do. I think Gutey’s done an incredible job with providing us not only great players but great people. I’m excited about our future here moving forward.”
A short look at Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur's rookie season. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel