GREEN BAY — The logic seemed sound enough.
On Friday morning, The Associated Press announced its annual All-Pro teams, as selected by a 50-member media panel. It’s the same voting bloc that selects the MVP, offensive and defensive players of the year, rookies of the year, comeback player of the year and coach of the year.
When the All-Pro teams came out, all the Green Bay Packers — despite their 13-3 record — had had to show for themselves were left tackle David Bakhtiari earning a spot on the second team. Edge rusher Za’Darius Smith, despite leading the NFL in quarterback pressures, didn’t make either team, finishing fifth among defensive ends/outside linebackers.
In fact, the Packers were the only team among the NFL’s 12 playoff-bound franchises to not have at least one first-team All-Pro selection.
So, ESPN’s Rob Demovsky suggested to Packers coach Matt LaFleur, he should be a shoo-in for Coach of the Year since he got his team to the postseason and the NFC’s No. 2 seed without a single superstar performance on either side of the ball, right?
“I don’t know about that,” LaFleur replied with an uncomfortable smile. “I think that’s just a credit to the collective unit, everybody playing together, doing their 1/11th. I would have certainly voted for a couple of our guys. But it is what it is.”
LaFleur’s answer was predictable. All season long, LaFleur has spoken far more about what he’s done wrong than what he’s done right as a rookie coach. He’s deflected praise and extolled the virtues of his team’s locker-room leadership instead.
But his players certainly have taken notice of his ability to relate and his ability to scheme.
“Doesn’t matter if you’re in your first year or your hundredth year. If you can coach, you can coach,” running back Aaron Jones said. “He knows ball. He knows what he’s doing. And, he got us all going and we’re in the playoffs with a first-round bye. So whoever (doubted him), they’re eating their words now.
“It’s really easy to go talk to him. He relates to you, listens to the same music as you, uses the same slang as you. Sometimes, he’s your coach. (But) he’s so relatable. I feel like that’s something great to have.”
That’s swell and all, but what matters at this point is whether LaFleur can lead the Packers to the two victories they need — against a yet-to-be-determined opponent in their NFC Divisional game on Jan. 12 at Lambeau Field, and in the NFC Championship Game on Jan. 19 — to get them to South Florida for Super Bowl LIV.
For LaFleur, that means getting the offense up and running after some lackluster performances during the Packers’ five-game winning streak to close the season. LaFleur acknowledged earlier in the week the offense has been “too inconsistent,” (LINK: https://t.co/jmS0dkvveO) and on Thursday quarterback Aaron Rodgers suggested the Packers need to commit to the plays that have proven to work throughout the season. Rodgers pointed to a handful of plays that the Packers have run repeatedly but have failed to bear fruit because of the timing being off.
“I think the timing’s been off a lot of the year. I don’t know if that’s going to get fixed. It’s not going to get fixed the next two days,” Rodgers said. “It’s just a matter of finding those concepts where the timing has been good. Because there’s been a number of concepts where we’ve looked good. The ball’s been coming out on time, I’ve been feeling good about the rhythm and guys are getting open on time.
“But there’s, I think, too many concepts that we’ve really tried to hit and keep hitting and make it work and we just aren’t on the same page timing-wise. And that’s why this has been a good week to just self-scout.”
LaFleur agreed Friday but also held out hope some of those plays that haven’t been successful might become more productive after a bye week spent examining the offense closely.
“I don’t want to ever say it’s too late because that gives you zero hope in anything you’re doing,” LaFleur said. “If we ever feel that way about a specific play, then we’ll scrap it and we’ll shelve it and we’ll work on it in the offseason. But, yeah, there is room for improvement with some of the stuff that we’re going to continue to run. But ultimately, it’s about finding out exactly what we do the best. And trying to showcase that.”
That goes for LaFleur’s play-calling, too. For all the praise others have wanted to heap on him, LaFleur said that he — just like his offense — has been inconsistent this season. Asked where he needs to be better after self-scouting himself during the bye, LaFleur’s answer was immediate.
“Do a better job of putting our guys in position,” LaFleur replied. “There’s been some really good moments, and then there’s been some moments where you always look at yourself and say, ‘Why did I call that?’ Or, ‘I wish I would have done this.’ And I get it, hindsight’s 20/20, and I never want to be one of those guys that’s just all about the results because I do think if your process is right, then you’ve got a much better chance at achieving the desired result.
“We put a lot of time into this thing, and I trust the other guys that are helping make a lot of those decisions. I’m really fortunate to have such a great staff, that we have everybody on the same page. Everybody’s got the same goal in mind and there’s no agendas or egos. And I think that’s rare in this profession. But you always want to look at yourself critically and look at what you can do better. And hopefully we’ve got some nuggets moving forward that we can help put our players in better position.“