Well that was fast. Just over a week since the 2018 regular season concluded the Packers have offered the head coaching job to Matt LeFleur, formerly the offensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans. The offer makes the Packers the first of the eight teams currently without a head coach to fill the vacancy, coming after a week of rapidfire interviews that included Chuck Pagano, Jim Caldwell, Josh McDaniels, Joe Philbin, and others. While the suddeness of the offer is surprising, LeFleur was given the second-best odds at the position, behind the Patriots’ offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. With out further ado, here’s an introduction to the 15th (16th if you count Philbin) head coach in Packers’ history.
LeFleur was a division I wide receiver and quarterback from 1998 to 2002, though he never quite made it to the NFL as a player. Following a brief stint in the National Indoor Football League, LeFleur joined Saginaw Valley State as a graduate assistant coach in 2003. He moved on from there to become an offensive assistant at Western Michigan University from 2004 – 2005. He was promoted to quarterbacks coach in 2006 before leaving Western Michigan to take the offensive coordinator position at Ashland University (a division II school in Ohio) in 2007. After just one season at Ashland, LeFleur was hired offensive assistant for Kyle Shanahan (now head coach of the 49ers) and the Texans in 2008. In 2010, LeFleur moved with Shanahan to the Redskins and mentored Robert Griffin III to a rookie of the year award and then groomed Kirk Cousins to the quarterback he is today. After a few years in Washington, LeFleur became offensive coordinator for Notre Dame in 2014, a position he held for just one year. He returned to the NFL to become the Falcons quarterbacks coach in 2015, guiding Matt Ryan to an MVP season in 2016. After two seasons in Atlanta, LeFleur left to become the Rams’ offensive coordinator in 2017. He left the Rams after just one season in order to take over play calling responsibilities with the Titans as offensive coordinator in 2018. Now? At 39 years old, he’s the Packers coach. So, what should you make of this rapid fire biography?
First things first, LeFleur has flown through the coaching ranks, and has been respected at every stop. His track record of success in the NFL is impressive, with offenses, and quarterbacks in particular, experiencing career defining success under his tutelage. Helping guide Robert Griffin III to rookie of the year, turning Kirk Cousins into an $84 million quarterback (when in reality 2018 has shown he doesn’t have the natural talent to garner that kind of money), helping Matt Ryan turn into an MVP en route to a Super Bowl appearance, assisting in a complete turnaround of the Rams, and nearly guiding the Titans offense to a playoff birth this past offseason. The Titans offense wasn’t particularly impressive last season but he was working with a banged up quarterback and little receiving talent.
Across the NFL, teams have favored young offensive minds as head coach, and that’s exactly what the Packers found themselves in Matt LeFleur. He’ll unquestionably bring a fresh mindset to the team that Green Bay has not had in recent years and challenge Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the offense, who’ve seemed complacent in recent years. It should be noted that part of the hire was the defensive adjustments. Mike Pettine will remain the defensive coordinator after a decent first year in Green Bay, along with the rest of the defensive staff. The offensive and special teams staffs are likely not nearly as secure.
There’s little reason to dislike the hire, unless you were hoping for a former head coach or an older candidate. There was no sure fire former coach on the market, as every candidate who’d formerly been a head coach had been fired after lackluster team performances. LeFleur’s had a track record of success and of challenging his players and staff on a daily basis. As Dan Orlovsky, former quarterback, noted here.
Congrats to LaFleur. I’ve known the dude for 10+ years now, played for em twice. I love the hiring. Dudes very bright, very creative, knows how to attack defenses, has had great teaching and the biggest thing-he’s gonna coach the HECK out of 12 and challenge him DAILY! @packers
— Dan Orlovsky (@danorlovsky7) January 7, 2019
It should also be noted that the early hire lets LeFleur get an early shot to fill out his offensive staff and lets the team approach offseason scouting without missing as much of a beat as they would have if they waited another week or more to make the hire. While the Packers have more than a few more steps remaining as they look to bounce back from a disappointing 2018, they’ve taken at least one seemingly positive step in the right direction.