Watching the Packers this season has been anything but joyful… words like disappointing, aggravating, revolting, and appalling come to mind. How can a team that we thought would run away with the NFC Central and compete for a Super Bowl lose to teams like the Giants and Jets in back-to-back games? What the hell is going on out there?!
While I could give you my take on what’s wrong with the Packers, I imagine you’ve already read it on social media, heard it from your friends, and listened to it on sports radio. In fact, can you imagine being Matt LaFleur right now? Every “expert” knows that Royce Neumann should be riding the bench and Elgton Jenkins moved to guard. We all know that the defense has been too soft and that Aaron Jones isn’t getting the ball enough. We’re all starting to wonder what the hell LaFleur is thinking?!
Well, here’s my guess…As a coach, I can tell you that probably the #1 thing he is thinking about is embarrassment. You just lost to a team by 17 points at home that you were favored to beat by 7.5. But, it doesn’t stop there. Leading up to the Jets game, LaFleur said “you hate beating up on your buddy”. Hmm, is that how his best friend, Robert Saleh, and his brother and Jets offensive coordinator, Mike LaFleur, felt? After the game, Saleh shared with reporters what he told his players at halftime: “… just keep giving them body blow after body blow after body blow. And just keep hitting them, keep hitting them in the mouth. O-line just keep pushing and just keep leaning on them and we felt like if we could just keep taking them down to deep water, they’ll find out they can’t swim.” Saleh’s sentiment and the fact he shared it with the media brings into question whether he hated to “beat up on his buddy”. I guarantee you that LaFleur is well aware of Saleh’s comments and that he feels it deep down in his core.
The second thing he’s thinking and feeling is defiance. The age of social media means that everyone has a platform and a take. I imagine every question he hears, he has to be thinking “if you only knew what I know!” Why hasn’t he changed up the offensive line? Why isn’t Aaron Jones getting the ball more? Why has the defense been playing so soft? Why have the Packers failed to adjust in the second half against inferior teams? The Packers are either underperforming because their talent is less than we thought, the coaching is inadequate, or a combination of both. Regardless, he knows that he can’t be completely transparent with the media knowing that his answers will impact future success.
The final thing he has to be thinking about is fear. Based on DVOA, the Packers are 11th on offense, 24th on defense, and 30th on special teams. These are not only not good rankings, they are woefully below expectations. As a coach, you fear losing your team and that fear has to be immense when you’re dealing with elite adult athletes who have been coached by elite coaches for most of their lives. You fear losing the confidence of the fans. You fear losing the confidence of your assistant coaches. You fear losing the confidence of the front office. And most of all, you fear diminishing respect in the eyes of your peers, friends, and family.