An hour after Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst concluded his media session at the NFL scouting combine, it was coach Matt LaFleur’s turn to take the podium in Indianapolis.
It was LaFleur’s second time representing the Packers at the combine, and what a difference one year makes. Now, he’s coming off the best rookie coaching season in franchise history, a 13-3 record and trip to the NFC championship game.
Here are some highlights from Tuesday morning’s media session:
On whether there was ever a doubt Mike Pettine would be back as defensive coordinator after the Packers' blowout loss to the 49ers in the NFC title game:
“There was never a doubt. I mean, I’m not going to make a rash decision on one game. I think our defense did a lot of great things, and we’re looking forward to — certainly, there’s areas we have to improve upon, but it’s not just defensively. It’s on offense and on special teams as well. So, again, it’s an exciting time for us, because we’re just going through that process right now. I’ve been able to spend a lot of time in the defensive room and kind of get a different perspective than I’ve had in comparison to last year.”
On the need to add depth to the running back rotation:
“I think anytime you look at the running back position, it’s such a long season. And those guys take on a ton of punishment. I think that’s one of the more tougher positions to play in terms of physicality, and I think you always need multiple guys to get to that finish line. And certainly we’d like to play one more game than we did last season. We’re going to need not only those two guys, but I do think we’re going to need a third guy to kind of put into that mix moving forward.”
On what Allen Lazard gave the offense last season:
“Yeah, Allen did a great job, and I’m really excited about him. He earned it. He earned it, every rep he got. He’s a guy that we initially cut to start the season and brought him back on the practice squad, and he was obviously activated, I think, Week 1. But just the effort, the intensity, he’s a very intelligent player. But he earned it on special teams first, and I think that’s kind of a good blueprint for young players coming in. You produce on special teams, you can kind of — you just earn that trust with the coaching staff. And he did that not only with the coaching staff, but from our players as well, specifically our quarterback."
On what he thinks tight end Jace Sternberger can provide for the offense:
“Yeah, I’m excited for Jace. I think certainly it didn’t start off the greatest. He was injured quite a bit and was on IR, we brought him back, and it was a process. But I thought he started to get a good handle on things toward the end of the season. I think Justin Outten did an incredible job with him, just putting in the extra time needed for him to get up to speed. And I thought he was playing some good ball at the end of the season in the limited reps he got.”
On new defensive backs coach Jerry Gray:
“I’ve been in the defensive room quite a bit. Just a calming, veteran, confident — I think our players are going to be really receptive to him. He’s been a coordinator in this league, he’s just been around this league for such a long time. I think he’s going to bring a lot of value to not only our defensive staff, but I think our whole staff and to our team.”
On whether he’s looking more for experience in a new wide receivers coach:
“I think it’s more about fit. We’ve got a lot of guys who have a lot of experience, and it’s just trying to find the right fit — not only for our staff, but for our players and for them to go out and perform at their best.”
On if he’s looking for specific skill sets in talent receiver draft class to fit his system:
“I wouldn’t say so. I think we’re all trying to find the guys that can separate, make plays. So I think there’s, to me it’s more or less how you use guys. You have to find out what they do well, and then how to implement them in your system.”
On what a true slot receiver would give the offense:
“It just depends what he’s good at. That’s hard to answer that question. I’ve got confidence that we have a lot of guys that we can put inside. Like, there’s nowhere you can’t put Davante (Adams). Davante can go anywhere on the field. I thought Allen did a nice job when we put him inside last year. G-mo (Geronimo Allison) made some big catches for us. So you’ve just got to find the skill set of whatever that receiver possesses, and then you put him in the appropriate spot to help you go up and make some plays.”
On whether he’d like pending free-agent Tyler Ervin to return:
“Yeah, Tyler did a great job. Not only, again, from the return aspect. I felt like that’s where our special teams kind of started to take a turn for the better, is when we picked him up. And then he is a versatile guy, and we were able to play him a little bit more and more as the season progressed. Yeah, it would be — if I had my way, yeah, I’d love to have him back."