Is Lafleur an Improvement on McCarthy: A Retrospective

The Packers did something this last week that only everyone that knows football could see happening, they underperformed against an improved opponent. In Week 6, the Green Bay Packers lost at home against the New York Jets 27-10, and there was not really any side of the ball that I could pinpoint to be a highlight. The offense, as always, failed to gain or keep any momentum. The defense followed the trend of an outstanding first half, gassing themselves out, then disappearing in the second half. The special teams was in 2021 postseason form, letting a blocked field goal and blocked punt returned for a touchdown cost the Packers a total of 10 points on the differential for the game. All of these problems can be traced back to poor coaching, and more specifically the head coach, Matt Lafluer. I plan to take an analytical and unbiased look at this Packers team through two very different eras of coaching in order to decide whether or not Lafleur was indeed the right guy to take over Mike McCarthy’s mantle as head coach of the Packers.

The McCarthy Era
Now head coach for the Dallas Cowboys, Mike McCarthy is seeing a lot of success for his current team and is proving why he held the job with the Green Bay Packers for so long. His approach to coaching is and always has been about aggression and encouraging explosive plays to get the offense momentum to keep throughout the game. Defense was a second thought, but he does know how to scheme given the right set of personnel. In his 13 seasons with Green Bay, McCarthy boasted a record of 125-77-2, also securing a lone Superbowl Championship under his belt. The fact that he had Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers at quarterback for these accolades is irrelevant considering Lafleur has Rodgers at his disposal as well. That being said, McCarthy was definitely much more reliant on Rodgers in his offensive scheme, running a lot more 5-wide concepts and other empty-sets, and who wouldn’t with a young Rodgers at quarterback? McCarthy took full advantage of the arm talent he was given and ended up leading his team, alongside the skill of Rodgers of course, to ranking 7th in the league in passing touchdowns on average. McCarthy had weapons for sure, but he knew how to use them, and led his team to great regular season success and decent enough playoff success to yield a ring.

The Lafleur Era
Matt Lafleur is now in his 4th season as head coach of the Green Bay Packers, and the reason most people have seen him in the media recently is due to his lackluster performances backed by underwhelming statements and declarations about how the team simply “has to be better.” Let us take a moment, however, to recognize that up to this point Lafleur has done nothing but win with this team, at least in the regular season. So far in his coaching tenure with the Packers, Lafleur holds an impressive 42-13-0 record, recording 13 wins in each of his seasons as head coach, as well as making several deep playoff runs, whether through the fortune of the 1st seed, or through wins in the divisional rounds. Lafleur is a very cookie cutter coach, believing in a good balance of offense and defense, with a huge focus on team coherency and working as a singular unit. His offensive scheme involves a lot more use of play action and a sure fire increase in running plays, taking the load off of Rodgers for probably the first time in his career. It is a version of the Shanahan offense, with lots of motion behind the offensive line to confuse coverages and assignments on defense. There were growing pains in this scheme for Rodgers, simply because Rodgers was used to playing hero his whole career, but it seemed to work out in the end. Rodgers would go on to win back to back MVPs in this system, but now in the 2022 season seems to be struggling. For comparison, a Lafleur led Rodgers ranks 6th in the league in passing TDs on average, compared to McCarthy’s 7th rank. The problem is Lafleur is deviating from the normal scheme as of late, and not using the very talented backfield he has to the team’s advantage nearly as much as he used to. He also seems to have problems with adjusting game plans on the fly, and even some issues motivating his team to overcome adverse situations in-game and between games.

Who’s Better?
There are a slew of statistics I could spit at you in order to very objectively analyze the efficiency that both coaches bring to the Packers and Aaron Rodgers, but I think there are really three metrics to consider. Those points are regular season success, post season success, and ability to get the best out of their players. In terms of regular season success, it is a difficult decision to make, however I believe the point goes to Lafleur on this one. With a regular season win percentage of .764 compared to McCarthy’s .618, it is clear Lafleur knows how to coach a team in relatively low-stakes games with no pressure but to win for a better seed. Although McCarthy’s sample size is much larger than Lafleur’s, McCarthy often struggled to get the Packers over the 10 or 11 win mark, which is honestly on the fringe of good and average when it comes to team success. Next is post season success, and this point easily goes to McCarthy. With a higher playoff win rate of .556 with the Packers compared to Lafleur’s .400, even with a larger sample size McCarthy comes out on top. Lafleur never seemed to be able to rally the troops for a deep playoff run, while McCarthy was able to light enough of a fire under the Packers to give them a shot at the Championship title, taking it in 2010. Finally, the ability to utilize their personnel’s potential. This point is the toughest to decide in all honesty, since both coaches had systems that happened to work perfectly for the given personals, with McCarthy taking full advantage of a great WR room and insane arm talent, while Lafleur has consistently utilized the stacked RB room to run create long and brutal drives for opposing defenses. In the end however, the point goes to Lafleur. The production he was able to get out of not only Aaron Rodgers, but Aaron Jones, Davante Adams, and even for a time Robert Tonyan, was nothing short of brilliant. He has been given a roster that has seen many changes since his start as HC for Green Bay, and these odd decisions and frustrating losses can be chalked up to nothing but growing pains. We as Packers fans should definitely be confused simply because we haven’t seen poor performance like this for such a long time, but we should be far from worried with Lafleur at the helm going forward.
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Liam Papp
Liam Papp
11 months ago


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