Matt LaFleur says there are no plans for major changes on Green Bay Packers offense or defense
GREEN BAY – Sitting with the franchise’s worst record after 12 games since a similar 4-8 start in 2006, it would be logical to expect Green Bay Packers coach Matt LaFleur to consider some dramatic changes.
Hanging onto the slimmest of hopes the Packers could win their final five games and sneak into the playoffs, LaFleur said Monday he has no plans to shake up things on offense or defense.
In the case of Aaron Rodgers, who left with a rib injury in the fourth quarter of the 40-33 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night at Lincoln Financial Field, LaFleur said he plans to give his quarterback every opportunity to show he’s healthy enough to start against the Chicago Bears on Sunday at Soldier Field.
Though tests were still being evaluated, LaFleur said Rodgers reported to the training staff that he was feeling better Monday and that if he shows progress during the week, his plan would be to stick with Rodgers over backup Jordan Love, who was impressive in his first significant action of the season.
“We’ve got faith in both of those guys,” LaFleur said. “But Aaron’s the starting quarterback. He’s battled through a lot throughout the course of his career. I think it’s pretty well-documented and I think he’s been able to play at a pretty high level through a lot of different situations.
“So, we’ll take it one game at a time and make the best decision moving forward.”
Asked why he wouldn’t sit Rodgers for this game, so Rodgers would have this week and the bye week to heal his ribs and the broken right thumb he suffered on the final play of the New York Giants game in Week 5, LaFleur said it was a consideration.
Rodgers looked much sharper against the Eagles after 10 days rest than he did against Tennessee after four days rest, connecting on beautifully thrown touchdown passes to receiver Randall Cobb and running back Aaron Jones before suffering the rib injury. He completed 11 of 16 passes for 140 yards and though he was picked off twice, only one was the result of an inaccurate throw.
“We’ll have those conversations,” LaFleur said of whether resting Rodgers for a game would be considered. “If that’s what we feel is best, then that’s what we’ll do.”
Matt LaFleur indicates Joe Barry's job is safe
What LaFleur won’t do this week is fire defensive coordinator Joe Barry or consider allowing someone else on the staff to call plays.
LaFleur refused to put the blame for the Eagles gaining 363 yards on the ground – the third-highest total allowed in franchise history, including playoffs – and 500 yards total on the scheme or game plan. He was adamant that he was not going to make Barry the scapegoat for the miserable performance, which came on the heels of allowing 408 yards against Tennessee the week before and 421 against Dallas the week before that.
The 1,329 yards they’ve allowed are the fourth-highest three-consecutive-game total in franchise history, according to data from Stathead.com.
“We're not going to go down that road,” LaFleur said of firing Barry or having someone else call plays. “If I thought there was an issue there, then I would certainly, we'd make the change. But we work as a staff. And collectively, we're all in this sucker together.
“And, you know, it is never just one person. It starts with myself. And then it goes to our assistant coaches, and then our players. And we're all in this together. If I felt confident it was one person, then I would pinpoint it and let you guys (reporters) know that.”
LaFleur pointed out the number of missed tackles as a reason the Packers performed so poorly. He said his staff identified more than 20 misses, the most since he’s been head coach.
Asked if that’s a sign that the players aren’t being put in the right position to make tackles, LaFleur said he thought most of the misses came when players were in the proper position. He credited Philadelphia with a great deal of the problems the Packers had on defense.
“This is by no means my excusing the way we played,” he said. “You can’t give up that many rushing yards and that many points. Are there things I think we could do schematically to help put our players in better position? Absolutely.
“Are there things that we have to execute better? Absolutely. When you have that many number of missed tackles, you’re putting yourself in a bad situation, regardless of what the call is.”
LaFleur identified a number of plays where he thought the defense could have gotten off the field if it had tackled quarterback Jalen Hurts when he scrambled. He said even when Barry had a spy in the game to account for Hurts running, there were missed tackles.
Hurts rushed 17 times for 157 yards, including gains of 42, 28 and 24 yards.
“There was a lot of situational ball where we had the opportunity (to make the stop),” LaFleur said. “All you can look at, in my opinion, is are people in position to make plays? If they are, we have to make those plays, bottom line.”
Jordan Love, Christian Watson are bright spots
If there was something positive to come out of the game, LaFleur indicated, it was that Love played well and rookie receiver Christian Watson continued to have a big impact. Love hit Watson for a 63-yard catch-and-run touchdown on his fourth play of the game, but LaFleur said he made some other throws that showed how far he has come in three years.
Love finished 6-of-9 for 113 yards and a touchdown for a passer rating of 146.8.
“When you watch the tape, you’re always looking at the fundamentals,” LaFleur said. “I thought it was really good. He did an excellent job – shoot, I thought the hole shot he threw to Aaron Jones, that’s not necessarily something that we’re coaching, it’s just, he saw it.
“He threw it and it had a lot of heat on it and I’m sure Aaron would definitely like to have that back (after dropping it). I thought just the decisiveness to see the hole right there (was impressive).”
On the final series in which Love missed scramble throws to Watson and Cobb in the end zone, he said he would have been fine with Love taking off and running in those situations. He said he might have gotten the first down to keep the driving going with a little over a minute to go.
But he said Love threw the ball thinking he could connect with his receiver.
“I think he’s just trying to push the ball down the field,” LaFleur said. “If he were to have taken off and run, I would not have been upset. I think there was potential for him to maybe get a first down. We’ll never know. But I just wanted him to go out there and be decisive and trust what you see.”