By Chris Havel
Special to Event USA
NFL.com article paints realistic picture that some “experts” spin into drama
GREEN BAY, Wis. – It is interesting to follow the burgeoning relationship between the Packers’ new head coach and longtime quarterback.
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Head coach Matt LaFleur and quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the former in his first season, the latter entering his 15th, have plenty to work through going into the upcoming season and beyond.
Longtime NFL writer Michael Silver, whom I’ve known for parts of three decades, shed light on the Packers’ coach-QB duo while creating the latest palace intrigue at 1265 Lombardi Ave.
Silver’s well-written 2,000-word essay for NFL.com drew reaction from all corners of the NFL world.
Sadly, but not surprisingly, some of that was uninformed.
That’s because many so-called “journalists” today are merely provocateurs. They read snippets of Silver’s article, form their own unconsidered opinion, and run with it.
For them, it’s a living – and may the facts be damned.
So where does the truth lie?
First, read the article. I know it’s asking a lot of some readers to navigate more than a one-minute read. It’ll be worth it. If not, I’ll summarize it for you. Better yet, I’ll paraphrase Silver in a follow-up interview he did on statewide radio.
Silver said he didn’t detect any looming problems in paradise.
What he did confront in LaFleur and Rodgers were two pros being open and honest about where they’re at and where they hope to be when the regular season rolls around.
LaFleur confirmed as much in the article.
“Aaron and I have had some good talks, and we’re going to have a lot more – and one thing we have to work through is the audible thing,” LaFleur told Silver. “We’re running a system I first picked up while working with Kyle (Shanahan) in Houston a decade ago, and we’ve never really had a quarterback who’s had complete freedom to change plays at the line, because that’s not really the way the offense is set up. But, I mean, this is Aaron Rodgers. He’s had a lot of freedom to make those calls, and deservedly so. Now, how do we reconcile that, and get to a place where we put him in the best position to succeed?”
Putting Rodgers in the best place to succeed is LaFleur’s task.
It’s the very definition of coaching in the NFL.
It’s Rodgers’ job to embrace it, understand it, work through the details and lead his teammates where he and LaFleur want to go.
“It’s a conversation in progress,” Rodgers said in the article. “I don’t think you want to ask me to turn off 11 years (of recognizing defenses). We have a number of “check with mes” and line-of-scrimmage stuff. It’s just the other stuff that really not many people in this league can do.
“That’s not like a humblebrag or anything; that’s just a fact. There aren’t many people that can do at the line of scrimmage what I’ve done over the years. I mean, obviously, Tommy (Brady) can do it, no doubt. Peyton (Manning) could do it. Drew (Brees) can do it. (Patrick) Mahomes will be able to do it. Ben (Roethlisberger) has called the two-minute for years. There are a few of us who’ve just done it; it’s kind of second nature. And that’s just the icing on the cake for what I can do in this offense.”
The above quote, in particular, seems to have caused readers to mistake it for arrogance at best and insubordination at worst.
Rodgers is one of the NFL’s top quarterbacks. Of course, he’s going to be brimming with confidence, especially with everything he has done throughout his career.
However, Rodgers understands this simple fact: It’s LaFleur’s job to put him in the best position to succeed AND it’s his job to execute his coach’s wishes to his best ability. If that means working with LaFleur to “massage” parts of the offense, so be it.
LaFleur would be foolish NOT to maximize Rodgers’ talents.
His experience is a good thing.
Consider the Patriots’ 13-3 victory over the Rams in Super Bowl LIII. That was Sean McVay coaching a Rams’ offense which shares the same concepts as LaFleur’s attack. The difference is Jared Goff was at quarterback, rather than Rodgers.
Do you think McVay and the Rams would’ve had a better shot at defeating the Patriots with Goff or Rodgers at quarterback? If it’s all about running the offense as it’s drawn up and the quarterback merely executes without any freedom, where did the Rams go wrong in Super Bowl LIII?
Clearly, Rodgers’ experience can meld with LaFleur’s attack to create the best of both worlds.
It’s similar to the Milwaukee Bucks’ offense in that head coach Mike Budenholzer trusts his players to have great freedom within the structure of the offense.
The key words there are “trust” and “structure.”
Without it, it’s the Bucks in a glorified pick-up game.
It’s the same here.
Rodgers and the Packers’ offense lacked structure under the previous regime. Whatever there was had slowly eroded through the years. The result was confusion, frustration and 6-9-1.
This is a new era.
I’ll put my money on LaFleur and Rodgers figuring it out. Then we’ll see how quickly the rest of the NFL can catch up.