Green Bay Packers

What Are the Long-Term Expectations For Matt LaFleur?

Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch (USA TODAY Sports)

Late last month, the owners of the Green Bay Packers told President Mark Murphy to extend the contracts of general manager Brian Gutekunst and head coach Matt LaFleur. These two have ushered in a new age of Packers success and divisional dominance. There were some bumps along the road, but many of these issues have been smoothed out over the last few seasons. It has been a while since things were looking up this much for Green Bay, and these two leaders have been a large part of that revitalization.

LaFleur, in particular, has brought an innovative approach to the team. His offensive schematics have been a breath of fresh air after the Mike McCarthy era. His work hiring supplemental coaching staff has also been exemplary (last year’s special teams notwithstanding). It was seen as a major risk to hire a then-38-year-old head coach, but Gutekunst got the right guy for the job.

The specific details and length of LaFleur’s extension are yet unknown, at least at the time of this writing. In the words of Murphy, he is “confident” that LaFleur and Gutekunst will be members of the Packers for years to come. The lack of clarity is a bit concerning, as is the veil of secrecy that LaFleur has had regarding the situation. Still, it is comforting that the franchise is looking to lock down one of the most successful coaches of the last decade.

There have been far more highs than lows entering LaFleur’s fourth season. He’s guided the team to the NFC Championship game twice, helped Aaron Rodgers rediscover his love for football, and ascend as a back-to-back MVP. LaFleur has also quelled any doubts about the personal relationships between him, Rodgers, and other personnel. Green Bay is 39-10 since LaFleur took over, which is no small feat. The bar has been set high.

The question then becomes: What will it take for LaFleur to keep his job and sign more extensions?

Success is not a universally defined metric, especially in the world of professional sports. To be successful means entirely different things depending on which team you ask. The “championship or bust” rhetoric that is so pervasive in American sports culture is toxic at best. Don’t think for a second that Jacksonville Jaguars fans wouldn’t call a playoff appearance this season a success. It is a relative concept.

That being said, success for the Green Bay Packers absolutely means winning another title. Specifically, the Packers need to win another one with Rodgers at the helm. The team still employs arguably the best statistical QB of all time and has only one ring to show for it. After consecutive losses in the NFC Championship game and the massive failure of last year’s playoff exit, you could argue that the team is on a downward trajectory.

A current-season bar for success would probably mean that Green Bay makes a return to the NFC Championship game and wins, earning its first Super Bowl appearance since 2010. A failure to do so could raise speculation that LaFleur, much like his quarterback, shrinks when the spotlight is the brightest. That may be unfounded, but it would become the narrative if the Packers fail to win it all again.

Would LaFleur ever be in danger if the team maintains its current level of success without a Super Bowl victory? The answer to that may not be known until his extension’s specific details and length surface. At his age, he would seem to be the ideal candidate to lead the team through the looming youth movement at quarterback. That could be a ways off, but it all depends on how long Rodgers plans to play. He and LaFleur will be inextricably linked until one or the other decides to hang it up — that, in all likelihood, being Rodgers — at which point Gutekunst and those in charge will reassess the situation.

As for this season, the expectation truly is a Super Bowl appearance or bust. The stakes are high but not high enough to jeopardize LaFleur’s tenure. He has the team and front office’s backing. They placed him here specifically to help restore the Green Bay franchise to its former glory. Everything is in place — except for another ring.

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