Matt LaFleur

Packers Not Planning To Shake Up Defensive Coaching Staff

Packers defensive coordinator Joe Barry got a vote of confidence from head coach Matt LaFleur last night, but it sounds like frustration may be mounting among players. LaFleur said the team is “absolutely not” going to make a coaching change following their loss to the Bills last night.

However, sources told ESPN’s Rob Demovsky that members of Green Bay’s defense are frustrated with the defensive scheme and playcalling. Specifically, a source said that there was “a declining confidence in the defensive scheme and what’s being called, and it’s led to overall frustration with the defense.”

“Well, first of all, it’s impossible to please everybody,” LaFleur said when asked about growing frustrations. “Everybody has their own opinions, their own ideas. It’s like anything else in life. You have to get the staff on the same page, first and foremost, in making sure that everybody is confident in the plan and then you teach it to the players.”

Barry joined the Packers in 2021 after having served as a defensive coordinator for only two years. The Packers finished top-10 in yards allowed in 2021 and they’re similarly ranked in 2022, but the team ranks towards the bottom of the NFL in many run-stopping statistics. As Demovsky notes, the latest breakdown came last night when Green Bay allowed Buffalo to score on five straight possessions. Speaking after the contest, LaFleur wouldn’t reveal whether players have expressed frustration with the defense.

“I think we’d be foolish not to listen to our players at certain times,” LaFleur said. “Ultimately, we have to make the best decision for our football team in terms of how do you go about winning the game? You know, there were some great moments and then there were some not-so-great moments. It was great that we were able to get a couple turnovers.

“I think from a consistency standpoint, way too many explosive gains, some poor tackling. I think we need to be more physical. I think you look at the teams that are toughest to deal with in this league, especially from a defensive standpoint and physicality, it jumps out to you. There were moments where we’re not always getting that.”

The defense currently consists of seven former first-round picks and a handful of high-priced acquisitions, as Demovsky points out, and the unit was expected to help keep the team afloat while Aaron Rodgers and the offense figured things out on the other side of the ball. Instead, Green Bay’s defensive struggles have contributed to the team’s 3-5 start, and despite LaFleur’s assertion, a change could be coming if things aren’t turned around.

Minor NFL Transactions: 8/28/22

We will keep track of today’s minor moves right here:

Baltimore Ravens

Chicago Bears

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Green Bay Packers

Las Vegas Raiders:

New Orleans Saints

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Washington Commanders

Summers is a 2019 seventh-round pick who has just one career start but who has established himself as a key contributor on Green Bay’s special teams unit over his first three seasons in the league. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com expects the TCU product to generate interest on the waiver wire (Twitter link). Indeed, Packers HC Matt LaFleur said that the team made the decision to part ways with Summers now in order to give him a chance to hook on with a new club before the wave of impending cuts that will soon flood the market (Twitter link via Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com).

The Seahawks’ decision to move Brown to the PUP list means that he will be sidelined for at least the first four games of the season. That marks a disappointing start to his second NFL campaign; the fourth-rounder had two separate IR stints last year. That limited him to just five games (three starts), during which he registered 10 tackles and one pass deflection. Seattle has seen plenty of roster turnover at the CB position this offseason, leaving Brown in line for at least a rotational role. In his absence, the team will rely even more on starters Sidney Jones and Artie Burns, with rookies Coby Bryant likely to play in the slot.

Packers Extend Matt LaFleur, Brian Gutekunst, Russ Ball?

The Packers are happy with the core of leaders they’ve built over the years and they’re determined to keep key pieces in place for years to come. Head coach Matt LaFleur, general manager Brian Gutekunst, and executive vice president Russ Ball all received extensions this offseason, according to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky.

Interestingly, the team’s president and CEO, Mark Murphy, refused to confirm the extensions, saying only, “I’ll just say I’m confident not only Matt and Brian but (Ball) will continue to be Packers’ employees for years to come.” 

LaFleur was hired as head coach in 2019 after two starkly different seasons as an offensive coordinator with the Rams and with the Titans. As offensive coordinator in Los Angeles, LaFleur didn’t call plays, but still gets credit for coordinating the league’s top scoring offense that year. The next year he took over play-calling duties in Tennessee and, after an onslaught of injuries, the team finished with the 27th ranked scoring offense. Still, the Packers saw enough coaching potential to hire him to replace Mike McCarthy.

Since LaFleur took over in 2019, the Packers have been a league best 39-10. Unfortunately, though, LaFleur has struggled to take the league’s best regular season team to the Super Bowl, losing two straight NFC Championship games in his first two seasons and exiting in the Divisional Round of last year’s playoffs. LaFleur’s contract was set to expire at the end of the season, so an extension was expected.

Gutekunst was promoted to his current role one year before the hire of LaFleur. After entering the league as a Chiefs scouting assistant in 1998, Gutekunst quickly made his way to Wisconsin where he rose through the ranks over the following 20 years from area scout to director of college scouting to director of player personnel to his eventual general manager position in 2018. Gutekunst was granted the promotion when former general manager Ted Thompson took a reduced role with the organization after being diagnosed with neurodegenerative disorder. In Gutekunst’s five years of heading the personnel departments, the team has drafted starters like cornerback Jaire Alexander and defensive lineman Rashan Gary while bringing in impact players like Preston Smith, Za’Darius Smith, Christian Kirksey, Jaylon Smith, and Whitney Mercilus. Gutekunst’s contract was also set to expire at the end of the season, so his extension, while not guaranteed, was also expected.

Ball has been with the franchise since 2008, spending ten years as vice president of football administration/player finance and getting promoted to executive vice president/director of football operations in 2018. Ball has held the unenviable responsibility of managing the team’s salary cap, a task that hasn’t been made any easier with the demands of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. His masterful management during the pandemic was something that drew praise from Murphy, according to Matt Schneidman of The Athletic. Ball was promoted the same year Gutekunst was, so his deal was likely also nearing an end.

This isn’t the first time Murphy and the Packers have kept silent about contract moves with the staff. The past scenario was a bit more tense as McCarthy was quietly given a one-year extension for what would eventually be his last season. Regarding the lack of an announcement or confirmation, Murphy said, “I’d prefer to keep (contract extensions) internal, but, obviously, you can see from my comments that I feel like they’re doing an outstanding job.”

With the extension of key pieces to the team’s core leadership, the Packers brass is putting forth a vote of confidence. They are likely also posing two daunting tests: 1) take the next step and win a Super Bowl and 2) keep the boat afloat when Rodgers is finally gone. The three men will apparently have another few years to complete those assignments.

The NFL’s Longest-Tenured Head Coaches

The NFL experienced a busy offseason on the coaching front. A whopping 10 teams changed coaches during the 2022 offseason, with the Buccaneers’ late-March switch pushing the number into double digits.

Fourteen of the league’s 32 head coaches were hired in the past two offseasons, illustrating the increased pressure the NFL’s sideline leaders face in today’s game. Two of the coaches replaced this year left on their own. Sean Payton vacated his spot in second on the longest-tenured HCs list by stepping down from his 16-year Saints post in February, while Bruce Arians has repeatedly insisted his Bucs exit was about giving his defensive coordinator a chance with a strong roster and not a Tom Brady post-retirement power play.

While Bill Belichick has been the league’s longest-tenured HC for many years, Payton’s exit moved Mike Tomlin up to No. 2. Mike Zimmer‘s firing after nine seasons moved Frank Reich into the top 10. Reich’s HC opportunity only came about because Josh McDaniels spurned the Colts in 2018, but Indianapolis’ backup plan has led the team to two playoff brackets and has signed an extension. Reich’s seat is hotter in 2022, however, after a January collapse. Linked to numerous HC jobs over the past several offseasons, McDaniels finally took another swing after his Broncos tenure ended quickly.

As 2022’s training camps approach, here are the NFL’s longest-tenured HCs:

  1. Bill Belichick (New England Patriots): January 27, 2000
  2. Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh Steelers): January 27, 2007; extended through 2024
  3. John Harbaugh (Baltimore Ravens): January 19, 2008; extended through 2025
  4. Pete Carroll (Seattle Seahawks): January 9, 2010; extended through 2025
  5. Andy Reid (Kansas City Chiefs): January 4, 2013; extended through 2025
  6. Sean McDermott (Buffalo Bills): January 11, 2017; extended through 2025
  7. Sean McVay (Los Angeles Rams): January 12, 2017; extended through 2023
  8. Kyle Shanahan (San Francisco 49ers): February 6, 2017; extended through 2025
  9. Mike Vrabel (Tennessee Titans): January 20, 2018; signed extension in February 2022
  10. Frank Reich (Indianapolis Colts): February 11, 2018; extended through 2026
  11. Kliff Kingsbury (Arizona Cardinals): January 8, 2019; extended through 2027
  12. Matt LaFleur (Green Bay Packers): January 8, 2019
  13. Zac Taylor (Cincinnati Bengals): February 4, 2019; extended through 2026
  14. Ron Rivera (Washington Football Team): January 1, 2020
  15. Matt Rhule (Carolina Panthers): January 7, 2020
  16. Mike McCarthy (Dallas Cowboys): January 7, 2020
  17. Kevin Stefanski (Cleveland Browns): January 13, 2020
  18. Robert Saleh (New York Jets): January 15, 2021
  19. Arthur Smith (Atlanta Falcons): January 15, 2021
  20. Brandon Staley (Los Angeles Chargers): January 17, 2021
  21. Dan Campbell (Detroit Lions): January 20, 2021
  22. Nick Sirianni (Philadelphia Eagles): January 21, 2021
  23. Nathaniel Hackett (Denver Broncos): January 27, 2022
  24. Matt Eberflus (Chicago Bears): January 27, 2022
  25. Brian Daboll (New York Giants): January 28, 2022
  26. Josh McDaniels (Las Vegas Raiders): January 30, 2022
  27. Kevin O’Connell (Minnesota Vikings): February 2, 2022
  28. Doug Pederson (Jacksonville Jaguars): February 3, 2022
  29. Mike McDaniel (Miami Dolphins): February 6, 2022
  30. Dennis Allen (New Orleans Saints): February 7, 2022
  31. Lovie Smith (Houston Texans): February 7, 2022
  32. Todd Bowles (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): March 30, 2022

Packers Want QB Rodgers Back

In one of the more obvious nuggets of sports news, Packers’ president and CEO Mark Murphy expressed a team interest in quarterback Aaron Rodgers returning for another season in the monthly column Murphy uses to answer fan questions. 

“(Head coach) Matt (LaFleur), (general manager) Brian (Gutekunst), executive vice president/director of football operations Russ Ball and I are all in agreement that we want Aaron to come back,” Murphy wrote.

Despite some internal disputes and Rodgers’ misleading statements about his vaccination status, the 38-year-old is in line to potentially win his 4th MVP award, his second consecutively. He helped lead Green Bay to their second-straight first-round bye in the playoffs, though they did fall short of the Super Bowl for the second-straight year as a one-seed. So while the Packers can easily express their interest in his return, there are quite a few hurdles between that and re-signing him.

It started about 9 months ago when things gradually bubbled over during a long-term contract negotiation between the Packers and Rodgers. Rodgers had reportedly been unhappy during the proceedings and became so disgruntled that he told members of the organization that he didn’t want to return to the team. This frustration continued throughout an offseason that saw loads of trade speculation, including a report that Rodgers was under the impression that the Packers had promised to trade him before reneging on their deal. The offseason also contained a Rodgers hold-out that ended with a deal that some saw as a “Last Dance” contract that would help set up his departure after the season ended.

After a tumultuous offseason, came Rodgers’ issues with COVID-19. While the team, and reportedly the league, knew about Rodgers’ vaccination status, his positive COVID-19 test led to an investigation of the Packers’ mishandling of protocols.

Immediately after the season ended, Rodgers made it clear that he has no interest in staying in Green Bay if he doesn’t think the team can win in 2022. The veteran-QB told ESPN, “I don’t want to be part of a rebuild if I’m going to keep playing.” A big part of that will rely on the return of two-time All-Pro receiver Davante Adams. Adams is set for quite the payday following a contract year that saw him rank second in the NFL in catches (123), third in receiving yards (1,553), and fifth in receiving touchdowns (11).

Another point that could factor into Rodgers’ decision is the shuffled offensive staff. Former-offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett is now the head coach of the Broncos and quarterbacks coach/passing-game coordinator Luke Getsy is the new offensive coordinator in Chicago. While Green Bay did promote a familiar face in offensive line coach/running-game coordinator Adam Stenavich, Rodgers is still without his QB coach and offensive coordinator of the last three seasons.

Lastly, and potentially most important in the list of things that undermine Murphy’s claim, is the Packers’ cap situation. Even if they can convince Rodgers to return to Wisconsin, the Packers are currently expected to be about $45MM over the cap, not including the hits from a tagged or re-signed Adams. In order to bring back both Adams and Rodgers, the team would likely have to part ways with a number of cap-heavy players.

Regardless, the Packers can cross the declaration off their list. It was the first thing they needed to do on a laundry list of tasks to bring Rodgers back. They can now move on in their pursuit and get to work on building a team that Aaron Rodgers thinks can win a Super Bowl, convincing him to return, and somehow paying for it all.

David Bakhtiari Not Playing Vs. Niners

Nine-year veteran tackle David Bakhtiari missed nearly the entire 2021 NFL season after tearing his ACL on New Year’s Eve during the 2020 season. Unfortunately, he will have to continue waiting to play in his first playoff game since January of 2019, as the team announced, via Twitter, that he will be inactive for tonight’s game against the 49ers. 

Bakhtiari had made a return for the Packers’ regular season finale, making the start in Detroit, but only playing 40% of the team’s offensive snaps. Head Coach Matt LaFleur shook off the early exit in a postgame press conference stating, “I wouldn’t say it’s anything we’re concerned about,” but it appears some continual discomfort throughout the week will keep the two-time All Pro from making a postseason return, just yet.

In the absence of Bakhtiari this year, the Packers have employed Elgton Jenkins at the blindside tackle position. Despite the reshuffled offensive line and several other injuries to key players, Green Bay still secured a first-round bye and homefield advantage. They will work tonight to extend their season another week and give Bakhtiari at least one more chance for a postseason return.

Other inactives for the Packers listed for the game tonight were safeties Shawn Davis & Vernon Scott, linebacker Jonathan Garvin, and wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling. The 49ers will be without cornerbacks Ambry Thomas & Deommodore Lenoir, safety Jarrod Wilson, running back Trey Sermon, linebacker Marcell Harris, offensive lineman Jaylon Moore, and defensive lineman Maurice Hurst. Packers’ cornerback Jaire Alexander is expected to play tonight after being listed as questionable.

Za’Darius Smith Working Towards Return

Packers’ head coach Matt LaFleur announced today that Za’Darius Smith has returned to practice after 17 weeks on IR. He’s been designated to return so this practice begins the window of return before Smith must be placed back on IR. 

The Packers have been working without their Pro Bowl pass rusher for all but 18 snaps of football this year. Smith exited the team’s Week 1 matchup with a back injury that had been nagging him for most of the offseason. Smith underwent back surgery in hopes that he could make a late-season return, and he’s hoping to stand by that expectation.

Smith had seen two straight seasons of double-digit sacks since signing with the Packers as a free agent. Green Bay has been eager to see their top pass rusher paired up again with Preston Smith and an improved Rashan Gary. In his absence, Preston Smith and Gary have combined for 18.5 sacks this season.

This return is timely as the Packers have a first-round bye in the playoffs before they face off against the lowest remaining seed from Super Wild Card Weekend. This means Smith will have two weeks of practice to get back up to game speed and be ready to contribute. Green Bay will be excited to get a boost to their pass rush as they strive for their first Super Bowl appearance since winning Super Bowl XLV as a Wild Card team in the 2010-11 NFL season.

Packers’ David Bakhtiari To Practice This Week

All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari will practice this week, according to Packers head coach Matt LaFleur (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport). This will trigger a three-week return window for the lineman now that his ACL is mostly good to go.

[RELATED: Panthers, WFT Wanted Jaylon Smith]

Bakhtiari, 30, opened the year on the PUP list. He’s served as Green Bay’s starting left tackle ever since his 2013 rookie season and has blossomed into one of the league’s best. Bakhtiari earned first-team All-Pro acclaim twice between 2018-2020 and his absence was clearly felt in the NFC championship game. Bucs edge rushers Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaquil Barrett had a field day with Green Bay’s healthy tackles, underscoring his importance to the offense.

Even though Bakhtiari will practice, LaFleur isn’t sure if he’ll be ready to face the Washington Football Team this week. “There is a ramp up period,” LaFleur cautioned (Twitter link via Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com).

Panthers, Washington Pursued Jaylon Smith

The Packers ended up winning the quickly developing recruiting battle for Jaylon Smith, but they fended off multiple NFC suitors to do so. Both Carolina and Washington were in the mix for the longtime starter last week, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com notes.

With the Cowboys still on the hook for Smith’s $7.2MM base salary this season, the Packers landed the sixth-year defender for the league minimum. This amount to a recruiting competition instead of a bidding war, but Schefter adds Smith was interested in joining both the Panthers and Washington.

Smith’s relationship with Packers HC Matt LaFleur mattered here. Despite LaFleur coaching Notre Dame’s quarterbacks for just one season (2014, when Smith was a sophomore), Schefter notes he and Smith have kept in touch throughout Smith’s career and the relationship moved the needle. Smith did not suit up for Green Bay’s Week 5 game in Cincinnati, marking his first absence since Week 17 of his injury-redshirt rookie season, but will obviously be on track to contribute soon.

The Panthers have been busy on the trade front already, acquiring corners Stephon Gilmore and C.J. Henderson. They are looking for offensive linemen as well. Carolina moved Jermaine Carter into a three-down role alongside Shaq Thompson at this season’s outset. Washington used a first-round pick on Jamin Davis this year. He has played a part-time role thus far, with Cole Holcomb serving as a three-down ‘backer for the struggling WFT defense. The Cowboys had used Smith as a three-down player for years, but they reduced his snaps this season after making key offseason additions at the position.

Aaron Rodgers Believes Packers Promised To Trade Him?

A number of factors have contributed to Aaron Rodgers‘ frustration with the Packers: the selection of Jordan Love in the first round of the 2020 draft, the team’s overall approach to the wide receiver position, and Rodgers’ own contract situation are just a few of those factors. And, as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk writes, Rodgers apparently believes Green Bay promised him he would be traded, only to renege on that pledge.

Hours before this year’s draft, veteran NFL broadcaster Trey Wingo reported (via Twitter) on the Packers’ alleged reversal, and now Florio is also hearing that Rodgers is under the impression the team has gone back on its word. If that really happened, his anger would be understandable, but as Florio observes, no one from Rodgers’ camp has communicated Rodgers’ belief to the Packers.

For their part, the Packers are adamant that they made no such promise to their star signal-caller, and they say that any reports to the contrary are “unequivocally false.” And in a press conference today, Green Bay head coach Matt LaFleur said nothing has changed with respect to the team’s view of the matter. “We still obviously feel the same way,” LaFleur said (Twitter link via Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network). “We want him back in the worst way. I know he knows that. And we’ll continue to work at it each and every day.”

We recently heard that the team is “deflated” about where things stand at the moment, which makes it sound as if the Packers are bracing themselves for a Rodgers departure. But Green Bay still has plenty of leverage here. If the club refuses to deal Rodgers, the 37-year-old passer would miss out on his $14.7MM salary for 2021 and the $6.8MM roster bonus that was earned earlier this offseason — but that hasn’t been paid out yet — and he would also have to pay back $23MM of unearned signing bonus money. Rodgers has earned $240MM from his Packers contracts alone, to say nothing of his endorsement deals, so it’s unclear if the financial ramifications of a holdout would be enough to make him change his mind.

In the meantime, the club has added Blake Bortles to the quarterback room. Bortles could theoretically open the season as Green Bay’s starting QB if Rodgers is traded or refuses to play and if the team does not believe Love is ready to take the reins.