In the ongoing circus act between Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers that added another layer on Thursday with Adam Schefter’s comments, there has been one forgotten piece in all of this: Matt LaFleur. Green Bay’s head coach has seldom been brought up and perhaps rightfully so since the dispute seems to be specific to Rodgers and Brian Gutekunst — and maybe Mark Murphy, too.
However, the scenario in which LaFleur finds himself leaves one to wonder how uncomfortable things must truly be for him at present.
Gutekunst was elevated to general manager of the Packers in 2018, and the regime moved on from Mike McCarthy and hired LaFleur a year later. They are responsible for handing the keys to the car, so to speak, to LaFleur by giving him his first head coaching gig. The marriage has been a wildly successful one. The Packers have gone 13-3 in each of the first two seasons with LaFleur leading the charge, including back-to-back NFC Championship appearances.
It doesn’t feel too early to say the Packers found themselves a gem of a coach and that the relationship between LaFleur and the front office is golden. Heading into LaFleur’s first year, the overriding narrative was how the relationship between him and Rodgers would play out. Many had believed that Rodgers’ relationship with McCarthy soured during the last few seasons McCarthy was in Green Bay and that it may have had to do more so with the stubbornness of No. 12.
Regardless, the duo of LaFleur-Rodgers has been a match made in heaven through two seasons. The two have brought all the good vibes to Green Bay and seem to more than coexist with one another but enjoy each other’s company.
LOOK HOW HAPPY THEY ARE!
Yet, after two weeks filled with chaos and every report possibly imaginable, it’s LaFleur who’s stuck in the middle looking from side to side. The head coach has said all the right things in his two offseason press conferences and most recently sounded as genuine as one could when saying he can’t even imagine Rodgers not being in Green Bay.
“Yeah, I know. I can’t even take my brain to that spot right now,” said LaFleur. “I just want to do everything in my power that that doesn’t happen…We’re in this thing together. Everybody in this organization is on board. We all want him back as our quarterback. I believe he’s the greatest of all time. Anytime you have a guy of that caliber of course, not only as the player but the person and the leader in that locker room, of course you want him leading your team.”
The man is trying to play peacemaker, and it’s been an admirable effort so far. It’s not as though he’s being asked to pick a side, but there’s no doubt a battle between the front office and star-studded MVP quarterback, the head coach is caught in the middle of the logjam.
LaFleur can’t come out and blast Gutekunst and Murphy for their ineptitude of how they have handled this from the start, nor would he. Drafting Jordan Love is fine; Rodgers needs to accept that. Not telling him they were going that route is puzzling. The Vikings called Kirk Cousins when they drafted Kellen freaking Mond in Round 3 of the 2021 NFL Draft. Couldn’t the Packers do that with Rodgers?
Alas, it’s still not LaFleur’s spot to speak up about it. And he certainly isn’t going to go after last year’s MVP for acting a bit on the diva side within all of this. Rodgers and his camp may not have leaked this, may not have wanted it to go public. Yet, some of the details paint No. 12 as a prima donna.
LaFleur knows the method is to coddle the quarterback, and he has done that. He’s also sounded like he’s meant those words at the same time. LaFleur is trying to pat both sides on the back, and it’s exhausting to watch. Gutekunst and Murphy aren’t showing the coy behavior anymore. They have done a decent job in the damage control department since the story leaked, reiterating that Rodgers is the guy for the long haul while noting the offseason fiasco has some legs and validity to it.
What LaFleur would prefer seems pretty straightforward: Rodgers comes back, Gutekunst bows at the feet of No. 12 to make amends, and the Packers make another run at getting over the NFC Championship hurdle. Of course, there’s some sarcasm in the Gutekunst bowing part. Maybe.
The added dimension recently has come with the reporting of this story. Some of it seems so far-fetched, the idea of Rodgers texting teammates and referring to Gutekunst as Jerry Krause. It’s hilarious but hard to imagine. Again, it’s impossible all of this has been made up, but Schefter’s most recent interview raised some eyebrows.
On Thursday, he told Dan Patrick Show that there wasn’t even a specific report he received on the day of the NFL Draft that led him to drop the bombshell the morning of. Instead, he noted it was “an accumulation of information” gathered throughout the offseason that led him to deliver the nuke when he did. It has led many to speculate even further how much of all these reports are factual and what is being embellished.
Regardless, there’s little to no chance this is all being plucked from the sky, leaving LaFleur right in the middle of the stage. He is entrenched in a brutal spot right now, with his best bet being to cross his fingers and hope that Rodgers flips the script and has a reset with the front office.
So far, the head coach has said and done all the right things.