Green Bay Packers
Mandatory minicamp dates: June 11-13
What to follow: Are Aaron Rodgers and Matt LaFleur on the same page?
For the first time since his rookie season in 2005, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will begin a season without Mike McCarthy as his head coach. McCarthy was let go midway through 2018, in the middle of a second consecutive disappointing campaign.
Under McCarthy, Rodgers developed into one of the game’s premier passers, and helped Green Bay reach the playoffs in nine of the last 13 seasons. Throw in one Super Bowl victory in 2011, and it was quite a partnership. But the relationship and the victories went south in recent years, and a change was made.
In steps Matt LaFleur, another branch of the growing coaching tree planted by Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay. LaFleur spent last season as offensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans, leading a group that finished just 25th in total yardage and 27th in scoring. In this case, the Packers’ brass seem to have chosen pedigree over production for their next leader.
LaFleur’s tenure seems to have gotten off to a rather bizarre, inauspicious start as he ruptured an achilles tendon in an offseason basketball game – really? – and it remains unclear how mobile he will be this week when the Packers reconvene in Wisconsin. For arguably the most important relationship in the organization to effectively develop, LaFleur and Rodgers will have to be in lockstep, a difficult task considering LaFleur’s status.
Rodgers has proven that even as he gets older, he can still sling it with the best of them. However, his supporting cast has changed significantly over the years. Aside from Pro Bowl receiver Davante Adams and a declining Jimmy Graham at tight end, the Packers’ group of pass catching options is rather inexperienced. They will be depending on a strong connection between coach and quarterback to get the most out of them.
LaFleur, 39, is just four years Rodgers’ senior, a far cry from the age discrepancy between Rodgers and McCarthy. While that shouldn’t be a huge factor in the two establishing a rapport, a slow start to the 2019 season won’t help matters. Keep tabs on Rodgers’ temperament and comments during the week, as well as LaFleur’s mobility and proximity. It could be the difference between early season success and a shaky start to the new partnership.