PHOENIX, AZ. (WBAY) - Green Bay Packers first year Head Coach Matt LaFleur is spending this week at the NFL Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona.
WBAY Sports Director Chris Roth sat down to chat with LaFleur. The conversation spanned his work so far as head coach, player acquisition, living in Green Bay and cheese curds.
The full interview is below (due to NFL Video restrictions WBAY is unable to put the video online.)
Full interview with Packers Head Coach Matt LaFleur
CHRIS ROTH: “We are closing in on when you finally get to address your guys together at one time. April 8th you are going to open up the program. How much thought have you given to that moment? How important is that moment, addressing your team for the first time?
MATT LAFLEUR: “I think it’s something I’ve thought about since the day I got hired and I think it is a big moment because that’s your first impression that you are going to have with your football team.”
CR: Have rehearsed what you are going to say?
MF: “No. As we lead up to that moment I’m sure I’ll give it a dry run.”
CR: Earning trust and respect is really important. First impressions go a long way. How do you sell your vision right away so they not only respect you right away but trust you?
MF: “Yeah I think that’s built over time and the one thing I’ll tell you that I’ve learned more from everybody else I’ve worked with is you got to be genuine. You got to be true to yourself and I think the players will see that.”
CR: Do you think they’ve done a lot of online searching of your resume or talking to their guys that have played for you in the past?
MF: “Yeah I’m sure some of the guys have. I don’t really know the answer to all that.”
CR: You know the outside narrative, one of the reasons you were brought in was to get Aaron [Rodgers] back on track and your ability with quarterbacks. Your track record with quarterbacks but do you have to make sure that that message resonates with each 62 guys or in the case of Training Camp, 89 guys that you are also there for them?
MF: “Yeah this is about the team and nobody is above the team and that’s why I love football. It’s the ultimate team sport. We know it’s going to take everybody from the players to the coaches to the support staff. Everybody moving in the same direction.”
CR: You mentioned at the Combine your experience with Matt Ryan. You challenged him on the practice field early in your tenure together and it really established, I have a joke: you have an alpha, how do you beat the alpha? You have to attack the alpha so to speak. What did that experience tell you about dealing with alphas for lack of a better phrase and how can that experience help you dealing with Aaron and then the second part to that is Matt [Ryan] knows Aaron a little bit, other guys do. Have you reached out to them or has anyone given you advice on how to build that relationship with Aaron Rodgers?
MF: “No I think honestly it’s something that establishes over time. It’s just going to organically develop and the only way that happens is to make sure your communication is on point. It’s clear, open and honest and I’m looking forward for that process to begin.”
CR: The process of your staff and educating your staff and building your playbook, where are you now in that and has that really been what you’ve worked on here in the past eight weeks teaching not only your staff but building that playbook?
MF: “Yeah. We are getting there. I think it’s going to be a work in progress. Anytime … you’ve got to figure out first of all as a coach what exactly is what we do well as a football team and really it’s about putting our players in the best position to be successful so I think that’s going to be an ongoing process throughout phase 1, phase 2 and then ultimately in OTAs to really get that final playbook completed.”
CR: When you introduced your staff a couple of weeks ago you said these guys are young but they bring a lot of energy. A lot of passion. A lot of energy. When they talked the overwhelming theme was we’re here for Matt. We are here to make Matt’s job easier. You have a young staff, is there at all a concern that there will be a lot of deference to you and how you want things done which will then put more things on your plate and you’ve got a lot on your plate already.
MF: “No. You know what. I think we have a good mix and one guy in particular, having Mike Pettine there who sat in this seat, he’s certainly somebody that I’ll always lean on in times of … if you just want to bounce an idea off somebody. So I feel really good about the people that we brought in. At the end of the day this is about people and I love the character. I love the passion for the game and I think our players will see that on day one. ”
CR: At the combine you were asked a little bit about the offense and the freedom that Aaron might have because we know he had a lot of freedom in the past and to do things at the line of scrimmage. Can you explain for us what your offense has built in? Will he have the same types of freedoms? What are “cans” if you could explain that a little bit?
MF: “With our system what we try to do is we try to get premiere plays versus specific looks so a lot of times we’ll call a playcall that has two options to it and then it’s up to the quarterback to make sure that we get the right play called.”
CR: What if he goes to a third option?
MF: “Well that has never been a part of the offensive system yet but I’m sure that when you are dealing with a guy that has the experience in the success that he’s had I’m sure our offense is going to evolve and maybe that element will come into play.”
CR: You’re an offensive guy. We know that. The offense needed a reboot. It hasn’t played well of late. But right now as it stands before the draft there’s only one new piece on offense outside of the coaching staff. That’s Billy Turner who you just signed last week so what is your wishlist then for the draft for your side of the ball?
MF: “I can’t divulge all the secrets. Certainly I think what [Brian Gutekunst] was able to get done in free agency really opens up the menu for us if you will in terms of trying to get the best people available. We have 10 picks. We are really excited about that. It’s just about adding new pieces. Not only to the offense but continuing to add to the defense as well.”
CR: Do you like the pieces now? Because when we talked to you earlier when you were hired and like a month ago you hadn’t had a lot of time to do a lot of tape review. Have you done a lot of that now?
MF: “Yeah we’ve done quite a bit of that. I feel really good about the offense and now the defense as a whole to be honest with you and certainly there’s going to be some positions that we are going to address throughout the draft and … I don’t want to give away too many of the secrets right now.”
CR: I’m sure you are aware of the history of first year head coaches but if you’re not let me enlighten you a little bit. In the last 10 years, 30 percent of first-year head coaches have been able to get into the playoffs so now it’s a tougher road to get to the Super Bowl so why in your mind do you believe one of those guys to do it in your first year? What gives you the confidence to say we are going to be a playoff team in our first year?
MF: “I’m never going to make predictions. I’m confident in our process. I’ve been fortunate to be around a couple of other programs, organizations, where in year one we were able to have some success, again it really boils down to that daily process of just trying to get better every day and be the best version of ourselves.”
CR: I understand that but the fan base has gone two years now without a playoff berth. You are preaching patience. Is it hard to practice and preach patience to a group that is going to be a little impatient.
MF: “It’s more about our football team and what our players believe. I’m confident that we are going to get the most out of our guys and I think if we are focused on that process we will get to where we want to get to and that ultimately leads to getting into the playoffs.”
CR: Were you able to come up with a reason, one of the overriding themes last year for Aaron was the amount of throwaways. A significantly amount increased over his past and had to throw the ball away a lot. When you looked at the film where you able to break down the ‘why’ and do you think your offense will eliminate some of that stuff?
MF: “Well certainly as a playcaller you never want to have a throwaway. As a matter of fact if there are those situations, they are going to occur at times but as a playcaller if that ever does happen I feel like I’ve failed as a coach to not give him and answer to whatever the defense is doing. I think that’s one thing we are very intentional with what we put in and how we gameplan and I t:hink that’s one thing that made this system successful over time because we have answers for most things that a defense is going to present to us.”
CR: Life in Green Bay has become what for you?
MF: “It’s like Groundhog Day. I wake up. I go to Lambeau and I go back to Lodge Kohler so it’s been the same thing every day. It’s been great. People in Green Bay have been fantastic. Everybody’s been very warm and I’m just excited to get our guys back in the building and get to work and make everybody happy. ”
CR: I know you haven’t had a lot of free time but if you do or when you do what do you look forward to doing?
MF: “I would just say spending some time with my family. This is the third year one for me in a row. We haven’t done much vacation time so that’s something I’m sure this summer we take a week or two and go to Hawaii or somewhere like that.”
CR: Is there a culinary delight that you have discovered in GB?
MF: "The cheese curds are phenomenal. Everywhere. Everywhere I go I swear there’s going to be some form of cheese on the menu."
CR: Not to exclude any establishment but is there a go-to place for you right now?
MF: “I’ve been trying to get out to every restaurant and so we are trying to experience a new restaurant every time we go out to eat."
CR: How recognizable have you become? Have you lost your anonymity?
MF: “Not all the time. But I can see where it’s trending.”