Aaron Rodgers has not been quite as effective the last two seasons, but Matt LaFleur and his new offensive philosophy will have Rodgers back to MVP form.
The 2018 campaign was an ugly one for the Green Bay packers. A season that should have been filled with endless possibilities with Aaron Rodgers quickly turned into the team’s worst season in a decade.
While the fallout between the organization and former head coach Mike McCarthy dominated headlines, Packers’ fans should take the optimistic approach going into the 2019 season.
On Jan. 7, Green Bay made the move to hire former Titans’ offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur as new head coach. The goal? Alter the Packers’ offense.
While the Titans were far from amazing in 2018 , LaFleur helped Marcus Mariota improve his completion percentage from 62% in 2017 to 68.9%, ranking sixth in the league for quarterbacks with at least 200 passing attempts. Additionally, Mariota’s touchdown percentage (3.3%) went up and his interception percentage went down (2.4%).
Mariota threw only eight interceptions in 2018 compared to 15 in 2017. So while the results were not as obvious as LaFleur no doubt would have liked, Mariota did show great improvement, indicated by over a 10-point jump in QBR, in his first year under the young head coach.
LaFleur has a track record for developing quarterbacks. He was the quarterback coach for the Atlanta Falcons in 2016 when Matt Ryan won NFL MVP. That season, Ryan set career-best marks in touchdowns, yards, completion percentage, interceptions, as well as other categories. After the 2016 season, LaFleur joined Sean McVay’s staff as offensive coordinator.
After LaFleur’s arrival, Rams’ QB Jared Goff saw his rookie year QBR of 63.6 drastically improve to 100.5 in his second year. While it may not be fair to compare stats from those two seasons as Goff only started seven games his rookie year, it is undeniable that the Rams’ offense took off in 2017.
LaFleur brings more than just quarterback development to the Packers, however. After all, how much development will a 35-year-old former MVP in Aaron Rodgers accept? Instead, The 39-year-old can give Rodgers the gift of a run game. Even though Green Bay averaged the second most yards-per-attempt in the league, the Packers ranked dead last in the entire NFL in rushing attempts in 2018.
In contrast to the Packers anemic run game, the Titans and Rams have ranked ninth and eighth respectively in rushing attempts while LaFleur was offensive coordinator. Both teams also ranked in the top three in the league in rushing touchdowns while Green Bay’s new head man held the position. LaFleur has been on many staffs where establishing a reliable run game was important including the Redskins in 2012-13, the ’16 Falcons, and the ’17 Rams. He will look to create an effective scheme around Rodgers that allows for leaning on a run game, setting up play-action passes, and not have to be superhuman.
While it may seem counter-intuitive that Rodgers could have an MVP-type season if his running backs are busier, the opposite is actually true. If LaFleur is able to continue the trend of establishing a ground game, increasing his quarterback’s completion percentage, and putting his players into good positions to execute consistently, Rodgers talent will take over and the extraordinary plays will still happen.