Sport Packers confident Aaron Rodgers can take Matt Ryan-like jump in Year 2 of new offense
How Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers changed their culture under coach Matt LaFleur
Green Bay Packers coach Matt LaFleur's goal was to create a shared mission for the team's return to prominence. His players took it to another level.The result was a franchise-record seven-win turnaround and trip to the NFC championship game despite the raw numbers defining an average team.
The Green Bay Packers will be prime regression candidates in 2020. Matt LaFleur’s team overachieved in 2019, using a combination of success in turnover differential and the red zone, incredibly good injury luck and a league-best win percentage in one-score games to win 13 games, secure a first-round bye and eventually advance to the conference title game.
Statistically and analytically, the Packers had the look of a 10-6 team. No matter. That’s in the past now.
The easiest way for the Packers to avoid a significant regression in the win column in 2020 is for 36-year-old quarterback Aaron Rodgers to enjoy a similar second-year bump in the LaFleur offense that other quarterbacks, including Matt Ryan, have previously enjoyed.
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To his credit, Rodgers expertly managed a team that greatly exceeded expectations in the first year under a new coach, and he avoided costly turnovers and often created big plays late in close games. In many ways, his season was a triumph. By the numbers, Rodgers had one of his worst seasons as a starter.
It’s possible Rodgers could better blend together wins and stats in 2020.
At his season-ending press conference in late January, GM Brian Gutekunst mentioned conversations with LaFleur about their collective confidence level in Rodgers receiving the same shot in the arm during his second season in the offense that Ryan used to power his greatest season. There’s genuine excitement inside Lambeau Field about what the two-time NFL MVP can do in the scheme in 2020.
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Jerry Rice, at the age of 57, is still faster than most of us. He ran the 40 on Sunday as part of Rich Eisen’s “Run Rich Run” project, and looked pretty smooth doing it. © Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Jerry Rice had some fun at the combine Sunday. Check out the Hall of Famer, who showed up wearing a “GOAT” track outfit, showing Eisen how to take off properly (around the 2:10 mark). The 2020 edition of #RunRichRun is HERE! @RichEisenFeaturing @jerryrice, @gkittle46, and Von from @StJude! pic.twitter.com/YNePBdrwsw— NFL (@NFL) March 1, 2020 Here’s the result of Rice’s 40 at the combine.
LaFleur and Kyle Shanahan arrived in Atlanta from Washington in 2015. By 2016, Ryan was the NFL’s MVP and a first-team All-Pro after throwing 38 touchdown passes and leading the league in touchdown percentage, yards per attempt, yards per completion, passer rating and QBR.
Ryan and the Falcons led the NFL in scoring, won 11 games, steamrolled the Packers in the NFC title game and were one epic second-half collapse away from winning it all.
In many ways, the 2019 Packers were much further ahead than the 2015 Falcons, who needed four comeback wins just to finish 8-8. But the quarterback play from the two teams was comparable, at least statistically.
Interestingly enough, the 2015 Falcons lacked a secondary weapon in the passing game behind Julio Jones. That offseason, they added veteran receivers Mohamad Sanu and Taylor Gabriel in free agency, injecting a mix of reliability, slot production and deep speed into the offense, and with the quarterback and playcaller more comfortable in the scheme, everything took off in a big way.
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The Packers are excited about the possibility of accomplishing something similar in 2020. Gutekunst has already mentioned the desire to add an “explosive offensive player” this offseason, and he’ll have plenty of options in both free agency and the draft. Finding a more productive No. 2 target behind Davante Adams while also acquiring a more reliable deep threat should be top objectives for the Packers, regardless of whether they’re following the Falcons blueprint or not. This team needs more playmakers in the passing game. Gutekunst knows it, and when he senses a clear weakness in his roster, he’s historically attacked it with the full weight of his available resources.
New weapons won’t do it all. Rodgers should be far more comfortable in the LaFleur offense, with both quarterback and playcaller more experienced in the operation and better versed on what works and what doesn’t. LaFleur, for the first time since 2016, will be entering a second season in the same NFL city. Rodgers will be another year removed from the McCarthy offense and terminology and a year deeper into the way LaFleur runs the show. More consistency should be expected, and it could make all the difference.
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Who knows if Rodgers will explode in the same way Ryan did in 2016, but it’s perfectly reasonable to predict the offense operating at a higher level in 2020, especially if the foundation laid in 2019 is supported by offseason additions at receiver.
Tom Brady was named NFL MVP at age 40. Rodgers, who turns 37 in December, has won it twice and has a lot of factors working in his favor in 2020. Crazier things have happened.MORE:
Mahomes returns to working out after post-Super Bowl revelry .
The reigning Super Bowl MVP shared footage of himself in an Instagram story pumping some iron. Back to work QB1 is already getting set for 2020 (via @PatrickMahomes) pic.twitter.com/DwMCIk7Kp0— Sports Radio 810 WHB (@SportsRadio810) February 7, 2020Mahomes tweeted out a great line on Thursday in response to a fan’s concern that he was suffering from a Super Bowl-sized hangover in the wake of Wednesday’s parade, relaying that no concern was needed.Parties of course cannot last forever, even ones 50 years in the making for the Chiefs organization.
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