Green Bay Packers: Impact Matt LaFleur will have on Aaron Rodgers

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 09: Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers reacts after throwing a touchdown pass to Randall Cobb #18 during the fourth quarter of a game against the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field on September 9, 2018 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 09: Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers reacts after throwing a touchdown pass to Randall Cobb #18 during the fourth quarter of a game against the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field on September 9, 2018 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

Two days ago the Green Bay Packers hired Matt LaFleur. Now it’s time to analyze key data. By doing so, we can get a clear picture of what to expect in 2019.

The Green Bay Packers offense is obviously broken. A team led by a quarterback as physically gifted as Aaron Rodgers should never rank12th in yards and 14th in points as the Packers did this past season. These numbers were even buoyed by a large volume of garbage time minutes. The Packers trailed by 10 points or more in nine games this year, 14 points or more in six games, and 20 points or more in three games. The 31-0 debacle in the season finale to an awful Lions team punctuated the unofficial end to the Ted Thompson-Mike McCarthy era.

More concerning is the fact Rodgers’ woes are not limited to the 2018 season. It actually began four years ago. In 2015, he ranked 26th in completion percentage and 30th in yards per pass attempt. Over the last four seasons, he has completed only 63.1 percent of his passes. This is his worst four-year stretch and nearly three percentage points lower than the 65.8 percent he has posted during the rest of his career.

His yards per pass attempt has dropped dramatically during this time frame as well. In fact, the last four years have been his worst in this category, ranking 14th, 17th, 18th and 30th. In every prior season, he ranked in the top 10.  From 2009-2014, he ranked inside the top five every single season, finishing either first or second on four occasions.

Raw numbers, by themselves, usually offer little insight. However, comparing Rodgers’ numbers the last four years against what he achieved early in his career allows us to gain a clear understanding of what is really happening.

The same is achieved when comparing a quarterback’s numbers from the year prior to a coach’s arrival to their first year in the new system. And while data is limited in LaFleur’s young career, we can still glean some valuable insights.

What we do know is LaFleur worked with Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay. Both of these coaches utilize run heavy schemes. LaFleur also relies on play-action passes and rolling out his quarterback. These are concepts that will maximize Rodgers’ talents.

But let’s dive deeper. In 2017, when McVay became the head coach for the Los Angeles Rams, he hired LaFleur as his offensive coordinator. McVay called the plays so LaFleur’s influence was indirect. However, the impact of this offense on Jared Goff was immense. Below are Goff’s numbers from 2016 (the year prior to their arrival) and 2017 (his first year in this system)

                           Completion %             Yards/Attempt          TD%                 Int%

2016:                        54.6                                5.3                        2.4                  3.4

2017:                        62.1                                8.0                        5.9                  1.5

All four of these keys categories improved. When LaFleur became the offensive coordinator in Tennessee this year he had full control of the offense and called the plays. His impact on Marcus Mariota was similar.

                           Completion %             Yards/Attempt          TD%                 Int%

2017:                        62.0                                7.1                        2.9                  3.3

2018:                        68.9                                7.6                        3.3                  2.4

Like Goff, Mariota enjoyed a noteworthy improvement in each category. This is even more impressive when considering Mariota did this despite dealing with nerve damage in his throwing hand all year combined with the loss of his Pro Bowl tight end in the opening week of the season.

Additionally, under LaFleur’s tutelage, Mariota improved in late game situations. He increased his 4th quarter passer rating from 76.3 to 104.2 and, more importantly, his 4th quarter passer rating (when the game was within seven points) from 85.0 to 109.8.

Given this scheme has proven to amplify the production of players like Goff and Mariota, imagine what LaFleur can do next season with the most athletically gifted quarterback in the history of the game.

Furthermore, when McVay arrived in Los Angeles, he made an emphasis on the running game. The year prior, the Rams ran the ball only 375 times (28th in the league). The also passed the ball 61 percent of the time.  With McVay and LaFleur, they ran the ball 454 times (8th in the league) while decreasing the frequency of their passing plays to 55 percent.

LaFleur brought this same mentality with him to Tennessee. The Titans jumped from the 14th most rushing attempts to ninth this year. They also passed on 52 percent of their plays under LaFleur compared to 55 percent the year prior.

As a point of reference, under McCarthy, the Packers passed 57 percent of the time or more in every single season.  And in the last three seasons, they have thrown the ball a staggering 68 percent, 61 percent, and 64 percent of their plays.

Many coaches talk about achieving balance as the best way to create a great offense. Few, like LaFleur and McVay, truly commit to it.

Finally, this scheme has made an immediate positive effect in another critical area, third down. In 2016, the Rams ranked dead last on third down conversions (31.5 percent).  McVay’s system boosted them up to ninth in 2017 (41.1 percent).  LaFleur made a similar impact this year with the Titans. They ranked 25th (35.1 percent) prior to his arrival but improved to 15th (40 percent) this season. This was yet another area where 2018 Packers offense struggled, finishing 23rd (36.8 percent).

Next. Packers roundtable: Relationships with Rodgers. dark

The Packers just hired a coach with a proven scheme that makes an instant impact, maximizes the talents of the most important position on the field, and is also committed to running the ball which should lengthen Rodgers’ career.  Choosing from the candidates they interviewed, it’s difficult to imagine they could have done better.