Despite a small fight in the second half, the Green Bay Packers fell to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday night footballextending their losing streak to four straight games.
The offense showed promise and took a step forward. However, the defense couldn’t resist the sheer genius of Josh Allen and his team. It was good to see the team fight to the end for once, and the attack finally showed some identity. Yet the Packers are simply
until further notice.
ANY/A Value in the NFL through Week 8. The Packers continue to be the most average team in the league pic.twitter.com/eZoi4eGgRe— Justis Mosqueda (@JuMosq) October 31, 2022
This is still a team with an exceptional head coach, a future Hall of Fame quarterback and talented plays across the roster. But they may have too many flaws to contend with in January. I’m not going to throw in the towel just yet. Stranger things have happened and a team can get hot at the right time. But this is a flawed group, and those flaws start at the top. While a great head coach overall, Matt LaFleur has shown weakness in hiring his coordinators, and we’re seeing the results of a flawed process in action this season.
When he first arrived in Green Bay, LaFleur opted to retain defensive coordinator Mike Pettine from the Mike McCarthy era and brought in former Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and coach of the special teams Shawn Mennenga.
Pettine had head coaching experience from his time with the Cleveland Browns. Therefore, he was useful in assisting the rookie head coach while maintaining defensive continuity. Still, it was clear that the game had overtaken him. Pettine’s defense has cost the Packers big games. Like most special teams coordinators in Green Bay, Mennenga was uninspiring. The Packers replaced both coaches after the 2020 season.
On the special teams side, LaFleur oddly opted to promote some Mennenga personnel internally and gave the job to Maurice Drayton. LaFleur seemed to think the talent was there and the only change needed was at the top. Despite some good speeches and pleasant philosophies, Drayton was not the answer. His unit cost the Packers a long playoff run.
Drayton’s historically poor performance led to a dramatic change in philosophy regarding special teams, which led to LaFleur hiring respected guru Rich Bisaccia. So far, the Bisaccia unit has had its ups and downs. But the former Las Vegas Raiders interim head coach is the team’s best coordinator.
LaFleur hired Los Angeles Rams linebackers coach Joe Barry to take over for Pettine after University of Wisconsin defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard turned down the job. While Barry’s track record as a defensive coordinator was less than stellar, LaFleur knew him from his time in Los Angeles and his relationship with Sean McVay. Barry also kept most of the Packers’ defensive coaching intact. Once again, LaFleur thought he had the talent he needed and just needed a capable leader.
Even though Barry seems like a great person with good energy and you’d like to encourage a guy to learn from the past and grow, his unit has been a huge disappointment this season. The Packers have invested far too much money and free agent capital in defense to be this inconsistent.
Barry showed some willingness to adapt, playing more men’s cover, blitzing more, and being slightly more aggressive. And it certainly doesn’t help that the attack can’t stay on the pitch, which leads to burnt-out defenders. But the players also have to execute, which they didn’t.
The defense is playing sloppy football. He can’t tackle, he doesn’t stop the run and he doesn’t finish plays. It’s baffling why Jaire Alexander, the league’s highest-paid corner, doesn’t follow No. 1 receivers every week. The Packers can never get a full group performance, despite having enough talent to be considered nationally as one of the top five defenses entering the season.
LaFleur had plenty of time to search for coordinators, and the Packers were one of the last teams to have an opening to fill that spot. Instead of branching out, he hired a retread he knew personally. Someone who wasn’t offered the promotion with their own team. Meanwhile, his third-choice option, Ejiro Evero, is excelling in Denver.
Offensively, Hackett was a perfect rookie for the Packers. He brought energy and creativity to LaFleur’s system, and working in a different offensive scheme helped him add different elements to LaFleur’s playbook. Hackett was a driving force behind the team’s offensive success, and it’s no surprise that he got a head coaching opportunity.
With the Chicago Bears set to hire quarterbacks coach Luke Getsy as offensive coordinator and Hackett wanting to bring offensive line coach Adam Stenavich with him to Denver, it made sense for LaFleur to promote Stenavich to OC. in place. Stenavich had done an admirable job of keeping the offensive line intact despite constant injuries in 2021, and that would maintain continuity in a strong offense. It seemed like a great idea at the time!
But, in hindsight, perhaps LaFleur should have looked outside the organization to find his new right-hand man. The Packers were always going to have to adapt after losing Davante Adams. But even with the lack of weapons at wide receiver, the offense shouldn’t stink so much. And the offensive line, Stenavich’s specialty, hasn’t been spectacular. It’s too early to give up on Steno, but it’s fair to wonder if LaFleur shouldn’t have stepped out of his comfort zone and found an underdog with a different perspective who could push LaFleur and Rodgers to try new things.
While his friends Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan have hired outside of their organizations to grow, LaFleur has mostly stuck to who he knows. This nepotism cost the Packers several games and a chance to evolve. Massive reshuffles aren’t guaranteed to fix things, and the continuity is good, but LaFleur’s poor hiring decisions are costing Green Bay winning football. By addressing the symptoms rather than the causes, the team has become a stagnant, mediocre mess.
It’s not too late for the Packers to make an effort, but LaFleur’s hiring tendencies have cost the team big chances in his short career as head coach. It’s fair to wonder if the 2023 Packers have new offensive and defensive coordinators. If so, LaFleur needs to learn from the past and change its process.