Things are going to be different in Green Bay now that Aaron Rodgers has announced that he intends to play for the New York Jets in 2023. The change in quarterbacks will ripple across the entire roster and will result in changes in the way the franchise approaches a lot of things.
Next season will also be different for head coach Matt LaFleur. LaFleur came to the Packers as an offensive-minded coach. Since his arrival in Green Bay in 2019, he’s been calling the offensive plays for the Packers. His offensive philosophy and the fact that he came from the Shanahan tree of coaches is part of what made him appealing to the Packers organization in the first place.
LaFleur has had his challenges from the day he took over as head coach of the Packers. One of the biggest early challenges he faced was how to work effectively with and gain the respect of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. There wasn’t a significant age difference between LaFleur (who was 39 when he was hired) and Rodgers (who was 35). The rumors were that there were issues between Rodgers and LaFleur’s predecessor Mike McCarthy about play calling, offensive philosophy and the direction of the team.
LaFleur proved equal to the task and established a solid working relationship with Rodgers. But part of the arrangement was that LaFleur didn’t get to entirely install the offense he wanted to run. A compromise was reached between LaFleur and Rodgers to create a plan of attack that incorporated some of the concepts the coach wanted to run while keeping some of the plays and concepts that Rodgers had success with under McCarthy.
The results were very good initially with the Packers winning 13 games in each of LaFleur’s first three seasons and Rodgers winning the NFL MVP in 2020 and 2021. The Packers also led the NFL in points scored in 2020 and finished in the top 10 in 2021.
But with Rodgers and the Packers now parting ways, LaFleur with be able to put his offense in place with former first round pick Jordan Love now ready to take over as the starter.
Love has a very short NFL resume. He has been with the Packers for three seasons and started one game which came in 2021. Love has thrown 83 passes, completing 50 and thrown three touchdowns and three interceptions.
The Packers have been pleased with the progress Love made in 2022. He didn’t start a game that year, but in preseason and practice, management said they saw a lot of progress in Love. He looked more confident, had improved his mechanics and footwork and had mastered the playbook.
During the preseason, LaFleur said that Love was “light years ahead” of where he was last year. “I think the game has slowed down for him,” LaFleur explained. “I see a much more decisive player. I think that’s going to lead to a much more effective player.”
During the regular season, Love played in four games including a strong performance in Philadelphia against the Eagles where he led the Packers 10 points on two fourth-quarter scoring drives. He finished 2022 by completing 14-of-21 passes for 195 yards and a touchdown which gave him a quarterback rating of 112.2 in what was obviously limited action.
Veteran players like De’Vondre Campbell and Aaron Jones have also indicated that they feel Love is ready to be a quality starter in the NFL after seeing him in practice every day last season. The Packers had a similar feeling about Rodgers in 2007, the year before he took over as the starter from Brett Favre.
Now, LaFleur has a chance to install his entire offense he wants to run without worrying too much about Love pushing back against him. We will likely see more pre-snap motion and more plays where the receivers are schemed open by the patterns being run rather than relying solely on the receiver to win a one-on-one matchup downfield. The Packers are also likely to run the football more frequently than they did in recent years and they will also throw the ball in the middle of the field more, something Rodgers was often reluctant to do in recent years.
The challenge for LaFleur has changed. Instead of having to learn how to cooperate with an established, future Hall of Fame quarterback, he now must finish developing a first-year starter with obvious talent but precious little experience. LaFleur has more authority than he did previously and we will likely see the offense he wants to run.
This will all be a process. We’ve seen that LaFleur can succeed with Rodgers under center. Now we’ll see what he can do without him. The challenge lies ahead and LaFleur’s legacy in Green Bay will be largely determined by how he handles this next challenge.
Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers
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