Nashville, Tenn. — The Green Bay Packers are turning to fast-rising offensive whiz Matt LaFleur to aid Aaron Rodgers and end a two-year absence from the postseason.
LaFleur accepted Green Bay’s offer Monday to become the next head coach of the Packers, according to a person familiar with the decision.
The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because neither the Packers nor the Titans had announced the decision.
LaFleur takes over after Mike McCarthy was fired during the season following a stunning home loss to Arizona. Offensive coordinator Joe Philbin went 2-2 to close out the season as the Packers failed to reach the playoffs for the second straight year. The 6-9-1 record was the second straight under .500 for the storied franchise.
LaFleur was born in Mount Pleasant and played for Saginaw Valley State. He began his coaching career as an offensive assistant at that school, and later coached at Central Michigan and Northern Michigan.
The 39-year-old LaFleur spent this past regular season as offensive coordinator for the Titans, his first season calling plays in the NFL. He was offensive coordinator with the Los Angeles Rams in 2017, leading a group that paced the NFL in scoring and was 10th in total offense. Rams coach Sean McVay called the plays on offense.
LaFleur was the quarterbacks coach in Atlanta for two seasons, including when Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was the NFL MVP in 2016. LaFleur also has coached with Washington and Houston, and was the quarterbacks coach for Notre Dame in 2014.
He will be charged with returning the Packers to the playoffs on a regular basis. McCarthy’s tenure of 12-plus seasons was by and large successful, highlighted by the 2010 Super Bowl season and nine playoff appearances.
A once potent offense that could make up for other deficiencies slowed in 2018, a tumultuous year that began with Rodgers leading a stirring comeback victory in the opener over the Bears.
The two-time NFL MVP returned after halftime from a left knee injury that nagged him the rest of the season. Rodgers’ 62.3 percent completion rate was his lowest since 2015 (60.7) and his 25 touchdown passes were a low for a season in which he played at least 15 games, though so were his two interceptions.
Injuries to Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison forced the Packers to turn to rookies perhaps earlier than expected, though Davante Adams emerged as an elite receiver.
The relationship between LaFleur and Rodgers will be important and closely watched after the sometimes tenuous moments between the star QB and McCarthy. They characterized their relationship as close, but with ups and downs that come with two headstrong competitors who had worked together for more than a dozen years.
An offseason of change is ahead in Green Bay.
Mike Pettine’s defense showed flashes in his first year on the job. First-round draft pick Jaire Alexander displayed the potential of playing like the top cornerback the Packers desperately need. Injuries struck the defensive line, which was one of the team’s strengths coming into the season, and the Packers lacked a consistent rush at outside linebacker outside of surprise sack leader Kyler Fackrell (10½).
Clay Matthews, one of the last remaining links to Green Bay’s Super Bowl-winning season, is a free agent after finishing with a career-low 3½ sacks in his 10th season with the Packers but the first under the tweaked 3-4 scheme installed by Pettine.
Cobb is also a prominent free agent for Green Bay, and a steady, experienced target for Rodgers – if he returns.
The running game could be a strength next season behind Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones, who led the NFL in yards per carry before suffering a knee injury in mid-December.