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By Mark Daniels
Welcome to Green Bay Matt LaFleur.
The Mt. Pleasant, Michigan native has become the 15th Head Coach in the storied franchise history of the Green Bay Packers, formally introduced Wednesday afternoon in the standing room only Lambeau Field media auditorium.
There’s no denying I’m getting older but for much of the National Football League, the leaders of teams are getting much younger. LaFleur, at 39, is the youngest Head Coach in Packers history unless you count the 20-something Curly Lambeau who organized the whole show 100 seasons ago
Aside from representation from nearly every media outlet in the state, the auditorium was filled with LaFleur family members and several team employees.
At promptly 3:00 PM, President
Murphy opened the press conference by explaining the search, interview and hiring process. A search committee was established not long after Murphy relieved Mike McCarthy of his duties in early December. Committee members included Gutekunst, Russ Ball, Ed Policy, Nicole Ledvina
Then, when the season closed under interim Head Coach Joe Philbin, the president gathered his leadership council of players. Philbin was the only interviewed candidate mentioned by Murphy who emotionally expressed his gratitude over the way the popular veteran coach guided the team over the final month.
“There’s not a finer man you’ll ever meet than Joe Philbin,” Murphy said.
That group consists of nine members of the team considered leaders at each of their respective position groups. The only player Murphy mentioned as being among the group was Aaron Rodgers. He said they didn’t discuss candidates per se, but covered topics that needed addressing to get the on-field fortunes turned around. Murphy said holding players more accountable and ridding the locker room of complacency were two major topics.
The list of candidates to succeed McCarthy
During the approximately 25 minute question and answer session from the media, LaFleur explained his journey from the son of a football coach father to becoming a Division 2 quarterback at Saginaw Valley State, to rapidly rising up the coaching ranks.
LaFleur said he took a risk by leaving the Los Angeles Rams after one season by taking the offensive coordinator job with Tennessee. He felt in order to grow as a coach he had to take on NFL play-calling duties.
Syncing With Aaron Rodgers
The most critical relationship he’ll have with the job is with his quarterback. LaFleur admitted he had a conversation with Rodgers between his interview Sunday and before the actual offer was made on Monday. The Packers almost interrupted LaFleur at that point saying they informed Rodgers that Matt was their choice and he should reach out to him.
LaFleur’s first priority is building a staff and from all indications, much of the existing defensive staff, including coordinator Mike Pettine, will be retained.
Judging from the way a giddy team president opened the press conference, it’s pretty obvious a breath of fresh, enthusiastic air has found its way into the most recognizable building in Titletown.