With truncated offseason, major reduction in Matt LaFleur-ese of Packers offense appears unlikely

With truncated offseason, major reduction in Matt LaFleur-ese of Packers offense appears unlikely

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Aaron Rodgers, Matt LaFleur, AP photo

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ numbers in his first year in coach Matt LaFleur’s offense were decidedly un-Rodgers-like, save for another year of minimal interceptions. Rodgers finished the regular season having completed 353 of 569 passes (62.0%) for 4,002 yards with 26 touchdowns, four interceptions and 36 sacks.

GREEN BAY — Late last season, as the Green Bay Packers offense continued to snap the ball in the waning seconds of the play clock, both coach Matt LaFleur and quarterback Aaron Rodgers acknowledged it was an issue — and one they would work to rectify during the offseason.

The two explained that altering the verbiage of LaFleur’s system, which is even wordier than that of predecessor Mike McCarthy’s not-exactly-a-playbook-of-few-words system, wasn’t a realistic in-season endeavor. Rather, both said in late November that they looked forward to retooling the word count after their first year together was complete.

But for as pleased as Rodgers and LaFleur have been with the team’s virtual offseason program, conducted on iPads and via Zoom calls rather than on grass and in meeting rooms, among the drawbacks has been that making those adjustments to the offensive language hasn’t gone as they’d hoped.

“There hasn’t been a ton of shortening of the verbiage,” Rodgers admitted during a conference call with Wisconsin reporters late last week, when he addressed a variety of topics beyond the team’s decision to draft his heir apparent, Utah State quarterback Jordan Love, in the first round of the April NFL draft.

“There’s been some changes that are good that make things a little clearer — as far as certain plays falling better into certain concepts or families of plays that’s going to help. But this offense is a very wordy offense and I don’t feel like that’s going to change anytime soon.”

In an effort to streamline the play-calling process, Rodgers began wearing a wristband a few weeks into last season. But that wasn’t foolproof, either. The idea behind it was the wristband would allow LaFleur to simply tell Rodgers a play by its number, which would prevent the entire call from having to be said — once by the coach, and then at least once by the quarterback in the huddle. But the wristband only holds so many plays, and other variables (such as LaFleur’s preference for changing personnel groupings frequently) still bogged the play-calling process down.

“I don’t foresee a future where I won’t need to wear a wristband,” Rodgers said. “Obviously that’s something you’d love to take off at some point, but it really does help. I think it helps both sides.

“It helps Matt and it helps myself. Just him being able to tell me a number and me read off a card is easier than 12 words from him to me and then 12 words at least once if not twice from me to the guys in the huddle. It allows us to get out of the huddle a little bit quicker and get to the line of scrimmage.”

LaFleur wants the Packers to be quicker out of the huddle because, Rodgers said, “This offense is a lot about checks at the line of scrimmage. It’s run-to-run, pass-to-run, run-to-pass, and I think whatever can help us streamline that tempo is what works best for us.”

According to NFLPenalties.com, no team in the NFL committed more offensive delay-of-game-penalties than the Packers, who finished with 10 — including at least one in eight of their 16 regular-season games.

That’s not solely because of the wordy offensive verbiage, though, as Rodgers has long used the play-clock to survey the opposing defense and attempt to coax defenders into revealing their intentions by getting jumpy and shifting or showing blitzes before they want to do so.

Nevertheless, Rodgers’ penchant for doing that was never a major issue under McCarthy, as the Packers were flagged for only seven delay-of-game penalties in 2018, McCarthy’s final season, and rarely were flagged during Rodgers’ heyday from 2011 through 2014, when he won his two MVP awards.

LaFleur said in the wake of the Packers’ season-ending Jan. 19 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game that reducing the language of the offense was a priority.

“We’ve just got to sit down in the room and think creatively in terms of, how do we explain and articulate within a play call everybody’s job but not make it a paragraph long?” LaFleur said during that late-January Q&A session with reporters. “From the time I started coaching until now, that’s always the magic question. How do you do that and still have the versatility to have moving parts within a play?

“It’s simple when you just line up and run the play one way, but you don’t always want to do that. You want to be able to create that illusion of complexity, whether it’s motioning somebody or just disguising what you’re trying to get done. (The goal is) so it’s easy for our guys conceptually, because they’ve repped that play a countless number of times, but it looks new to the defense. That’s the trick.”

Unfortunately, the disjointed offseason has prevented the coaches from making as much progress with the players in that area. Instead, LaFleur said, he, offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and quarterbacks coach Luke Getsy have focused on other ways to accelerate the process.

“For the most part, I would say the majority of our terminology has been pretty much the same. There are some tweaks that we’ve made here and there,” LaFleur said. “I think it’s more about our process, how we want to go about installing the no-huddle offense, the tempos. And we’ll probably simplify that quite a bit.

“It’s been great having these Zoom meetings. It’s allowed myself, Hackett, Getsy and Aaron to have a lot of one-on-ones, which we definitely value their input into what we’re doing because we definitely want him to feel comfortable with whatever it is we’re asking him to do.”


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