Packers coach Matt LaFleur assures he and Aaron Rodgers are on the same page despite comments that seem disconnected
GREEN BAY – When they start the week, Matt LaFleur and Aaron Rodgers discuss their opponent in detail. There are meetings. Conversations. More meetings. A constant cycle on repeat.
Any play-caller worth their job knows nothing is more important than connecting with the quarterback. An offense operates as its quarterback plays. In this relationship, happy quarterback means a happy life.
Aaron Rodgers was not happy Sunday afternoon. Some of that might have stemmed from his own, shoddy play in the Green Bay Packers 27-10 loss to the New York Jets. Rodgers said his injured throwing thumb affected his accuracy on “maybe a couple” of passes, “but not too many.” The four-time MVP acknowledged he’ll have to elevate his play “a little tick” for this team to end the first official losing streak since LaFleur was hired as coach in 2019.
Then the quarterback started talking about the offense. Matt LaFleur’s offense.
“Simpler,” Rodgers said when asked what the offense is missing. “Simpler. Simplify some things.”
Given their constant communication, Rodgers’ opinion likely was no surprise to LaFleur. If the quarterback is willing to voice his opinion from a podium, it’s safe to assume such sentiments have been shared in meetings.
LaFleur directed any questions seeking explanation back to Rodgers.
“I don’t know what that means,” LaFleur said.
Their disconnect provided one reason the Packers offense is languishing six games into the season. After fielding top-10 offenses the past two seasons, and a pair of MVP awards for Rodgers along with it, the Packers have plummeted to unprecedented depths. They rank 15th in the NFL with 348.2 yards per game and 24th in scoring with 17.8 points per game, their fewest points in LaFleur’s four seasons.
The bedrock of LaFleur’s offense is conveying complexity. It’s designed to yield many plays from similar formations, keeping defenses off balance. Whether LaFleur simplifies his scheme or not, the coach emphasized execution one day after his offense looked lifeless against the Jets.
“Any time that there’s a lack of execution,” LaFleur said, “and certainly we’ve got to coach better, no doubt about it, we’ve got to put our guys in better positions. Just communication from top down, and then out on the field, has got to be better. We’ve got to get everybody on the same page, and then to me it’s more about digging at the detail of what we’re doing. Because I think you can see that, and it falls on everybody.
"Certainly, again, it always starts with us as coaches trying to do a better job of getting guys to understand all the little intricacies, because I think that’s really what separates a lot of plays in this league. It really doesn’t matter what we do schematically. If we don’t block better, it’s hard to do anything. I think that was the No. 1 issue yesterday.”
There’s a topic on which Rodgers and LaFleur appear to agree.
Rodgers said Sunday the Jets’ nine hits on him, including four sacks, were too many. On Monday, LaFleur said the offensive line’s performance against the Jets was its worst in his tenure as coach.
LaFleur said he believes the Packers have the players to run his offense as it’s designed. It’s the coaching staff’s job, he said, to put those players in better position than they have been. LaFleur pointed to a corner blitz that resulted in a pressure during Sunday’s first half. Right tackle Elgton Jenkins saw the blitzing corner, communicated to right guard Royce Newman, but the exchange never happened and the corner came free.
“We need Royce to come with him,” LaFleur said, “and he didn’t come with him. That was just one example. There were many examples of where we just did not, all 11 guys were not on the same page with some mental errors. That’s what’s so discouraging, but I think it’s also encouraging at the same time, because these are all correctable mistakes.
“Now we’ve got to be diligent about how we go about it, and have a sense of urgency in getting this stuff corrected, otherwise I’ll be singing the same song next week to you guys.”
There was no sense of panic in the Packers locker room Monday. Left guard Jon Runyan joked about a fine handed down one week earlier for leg whipping an opponent against the New York Giants. The fine was levied by the NFL’s vice president of football operations, who happens to be Runyan’s father. Running back Aaron Jones suggested the Packers’ issues are correctable – to an extreme.
“We’ve lost three games every year,” Jones said. “So from here on out, as long as we don’t lose anymore, we’re looking good.”
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When it was suggested winning the season’s final 11 games might not be realistic, Jones did not budge.
“Who says that?” Jones said. “Who says that? Just take it one game at a time. This is unfamiliar territory, but I believe we can win out. We’ve just got to figure it out. It starts up front on both sides of the ball, and controlling the line of scrimmage, and taking care of A-Rod, and us making plays catching the ball, winning our one-on-ones when we get those opportunities. We have all the weapons in this locker room, and I feel like we can get it done.”
It might start with the play-caller and quarterback agreeing on the direction for this offense. LaFleur will need to determine how much he can simplify his playbook without sacrificing the schematic advantages he believes it presents.
He made one thing clear: Rodgers will continue having his say in how the Packers operate their offense. The meetings will continue. There will be ongoing conversations.
“Every week when we go through a plan,” LaFleur said, “we are 100% going into the game on the same page. There’s nothing that we put in, when we put in the game plan, without having some communication with him. Because I don’t want to put it in if he doesn’t feel good about it, or uneasy about it.
“Obviously, you always want your quarterback to feel comfortable and confident in the plan. I think that’s where it starts. So, yeah, we talk about everything that we put in.”