The season opener was bad for the Green Bay Packers. Not much more needs to be said about that.
As agonizing as it was, though, it did not buck Matt LaFleur’s trend of poor performances in opening weeks. In three of the last four years with LaFleur at the helm, Green Bay has scored three, 10, and seven points. The outlier was a 43-point outburst against the Minnesota Vikings in 2020. That was also at US Bank stadium.
This concerning trend also applies to Green Bay’s performance coming off of bye weeks; the Packers are 1-2 in LaFleur’s time in Wisconsin. The 2021 post-bye performance saw a 45-30 thrashing of the Chicago Bears, but the two years prior included a 38-10 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020 and a 37-8 drubbing at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers in 2019. In that 2019 season, the 10 points the team scored in the opener and eight points post-bye were the two lowest point totals of the season.
So, what gives?
People have been pointing fingers every which way after that embarrassing performance on Sunday, which saw an Aaron Rodgers-led offense only put seven points on the board. The team left 14 out there with the drop of the century and a blown fourth-and-one play. But it was still a complete debacle. Forget about this “young wide receivers” storyline that’s being shoved down our throats. Justin Jefferson annihilated Eric Stokes and the rest of the secondary on his way to a big day. Joe Barry was stubborn and refused to adjust. Rodgers didn’t look at Christian Watson again after his drop, and the team came apart at the seams in this most recent border battle. Rodgers then missed open guys, and not a single player beyond AJ Dillon showed any heart. Not great, dude.
It’s no question that LaFleur is one of the best coaches in the NFL. That makes it all the more concerning that he and his staff continue to have these blunderous performances in games that should be thoroughly planned out, at the very least. Sunday’s loss was not on the players. They didn’t even get a chance to establish a rhythm or find their roles in the game. There were total defensive lapses and staggering offensive play calling, implicating the coaching staff.
Barry might have been most blatantly in the wrong. It remains unclear how he got this job. His coaching track record coming into Green Bay was not good. However, he had a renaissance last season; the Packers’ defense looked terrific. The speculation was that his former teams never gave him the personnel to allow his ideas to flourish. After last week’s performance, it’s fair to wonder whether he got by last season on the talent of his players alone and not the actual schematics he is attempting to implement. Barry’s failures poisoned the well for the rest of the team.
Barry’s ineptitude aside, he’s still second in command to LaFleur. This loss was yet another in the aforementioned pattern of sluggish performances. For all of his accolades and charisma, LaFleur has struggled to put together a string of quality performances following times of rest. That isn’t even to mention the playoff loss to the 49ers last season following a first-round bye. It’s confounding how this team continues to fall flat on its face in what is supposed to be a timely advantage for teams coming off of rest periods.
Is it hubris? Does LaFleur think so highly of his staff and this team that he takes a lackadaisical approach to his prepping? Does the extra time cause him and his staff to overthink and overcorrect game plans that would have worked if they were simpler?
It is hard to tell, but something needs to be done about this lack of preparedness fast. Green Bay’s window is easing shut with every day that Rodgers grows older. The team will look better next week — the Packers are 9-0 following losses in the LaFleur era, with an average margin of victory nearing 14 — but that’s not the concern. This team can’t continue to get by on star power. There has to be some inspiration from the coaching staff to accompany the magic that Rodgers makes on the field.
Without that, Green Bay may be doomed to these one-and-done runs in perpetuity. The staff must realize this and right the ship before it’s too late.