Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur had a lot to say after the third straight bitter postseason defeat of his tenure, both about his own performance as well as the play and future of QB Aaron Rodgers.
A somber and seemingly contrite LaFleur was the first member of the Packers’ locker room to take the podium following Green Bay’s 13-10 home defeat at the hands of the nemesis San Francisco 49ers Saturday night, January 22. One of the first topics of discussion was Rodgers’ sub-par showing in the snowy cold of Lambeau Field.
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LaFleur employed a familiar and predictable tactic when addressing the performance of his quarterback, offering up a mea culpa.
“I think [Rodgers] did everything he could. He was under a lot of duress,” LaFleur told media members. “It’s more to do with I didn’t put our guys in position to make enough plays. I take that very personally, and I’m going to do everything in my power to improve upon that because scoring 10 points is not going to get it done.”
LaFleur Blamed Strategy, Poor Coaching Choices For Loss to 49ers
The weather was clearly a factor in Saturday’s outcome, as just 23 points were scored and 529 total yards of offense were amassed between the two teams.
Rodgers led Green Bay to a touchdown on the game’s opening drive but never found the end zone again on his way to 225 yards through the air and a total quarterback rating (QBR) of just 19.2. While less than optimal conditions for the offense certainly played a role in what was a pedestrian effort on the part of the reigning NFL Most Valuable Player, LaFleur also said play calling and game management from the sidelines proved significant factors.
“We were probably too pass heavy, and they took advantage of that. They’ve got a great pass rush,” LaFleur explained. “First and 15, second and long, you feel like you wanna give your best player the opportunity to go and win the game.”
The Packers rushed the ball just 20 times for a total of 67 yards. Backup running back A.J. Dillon, who scored the only offensive TD of the entire game for either team, left the field after sustaining a chest injury and did not return.
Poor line play was also a major factor the offense’s lack of ability to move the ball effectively Saturday. The highly talented unit dealt with injury issues all season and chose to sit All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari against the Niners. The cumulative result was a five-sack performance from San Francisco’s defensive front.
“It came to a head this morning and [we] decided it was probably best if [Bakhtiari] didn’t play. We’re always trying to put the best five out there that we think can get the job done to win a football game,” LaFleur said. “When you don’t get the results you want, everything is gonna be second guessed. Should we have played other guys? Maybe. I don’t know.”
The Packers head coach, for his part, never got defensive or dodged questions. He also never put the loss on anyone but himself, despite the Packers special teams unit allowing a blocked field goal at the end of the first half and blocked punt in the fourth quarter, which led to the Niners’ only TD of the night.
“It’s extremely disappointing,” LaFleur continued. “Again, these are things that I’ve gotta do a better job obviously and be more involved to make sure these types of things don’t happen.”
Packers Will Scramble to Try and Convince Rodgers to Return in 2022
Green Bay had a championship roster this year. Rodgers acknowledged it himself during the postgame press conference.
“We truly had a Super Bowl-caliber team,” Rodgers said. “In other years, it feels like you need some things to go your way. It didn’t seem like that this year.”
But the question now becomes whether general manager Brian Gutekunst can do enough to make sure that remains true next season.
The Packers have to contend with the free agency statuses of wide receivers Davante Adams and Allen Lazard, tight end Robert Tonyan and linebacker De’Vondre Campbell, among others. They also have a huge decision to make with two-time All-Pro pass rusher Za’Darius Smith, all while trying to convince Rodgers to stick around and renegotiate his untenable $46.5 million cap hit next season.
The financial realities of running a team in a salary cap sport will make bringing back everyone essentially impossible, which means difficult roster decisions lay ahead for the Packers front office. Too many mistakes, or even one wrong decision, could mean the end of Rodgers’ time in Green Bay.
“I don’t wanna be a part of a rebuild if I’m gonna keep playing, so you know, a lot of decisions in the next couple months,” Rodgers said. “There’s a lot of players whose futures are up in the air. Definitely be itching to see which way some of those decisions go.”
LaFleur made the case in no uncertain terms Saturday night that the entire organization wants Rodgers back in a Packers uniform moving forward. But the two have butted heads before and if Rodgers sees the fourth loss of his postseason career to San Francisco the same way his head coach framed it, as LaFleur’s fault, that could create another obstacle to the QB suiting up in green and gold for an 18th season.
“Certainly we want him back here. I think we’d be crazy not to want him back here,” LaFleur said of Rodgers. “This guy does so much for our football team, not just on Sundays or what you guys see every game day. In the locker room, how he leads. Disappointed that we couldn’t get over the hump, not just for him but for everybody in that locker room.”