In two seasons as head coach of the Green Bay Packers, Matt LaFleur has shown he’s a good coach. He’s also proving he’s a stubborn one. Eight days after the Packers were eliminated by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC title game, the discussion of LaFleur’s questionable decision popped up. The Packers kicked a field goal down by eight with a little more than two minutes left, puzzling most football fans. On Monday, LaFleur defended the call.
Matt LaFleur’s been very successful in the NFL
Matt LaFleur was named head coach of the Green Bay Packers in January of 2019. He had spent just one season as the offensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans prior to being named in charge of the Pack. LaFleur had bounced around as an assistant with four other NFL teams in the early part of his coaching career.
LaFleur’s first season in Green Bay was filled with milestones. He won his debut, defeating the rival Chicago Bears. He became the first rookie coach in Packers history since Vince Lombardi to win his first game against the Bears. LaFleur also finished the season with a 13-3 record. The 13 victories were most by a rookie head coach since Jim Harbaugh did it with the San Francisco 49ers in 2011.
LaFleur followed up his impressive rookie season with another 13-win season in his second year. For the second straight season, he guided the Packers to the NFC title game. Although they lost both conference championship games, LaFleur had compiled a pretty good NFL resume after two years. Including the postseason, his record is 28-8.
LaFleur’s call for a field goal raised many eyebrows
To be fair, Matt LaFleur’s decision to kick a field goal down by eight with nearly two minutes left in the game didn’t ultimately cost the Packers the game. They still needed a two-point conversion and that would’ve just gotten them even with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. There’s no guarantee the Packers come back to win that game even if LaFleur decided to go for it and then scored a touchdown.
But LaFleur’s call to kick a field goal with 2:05 remaining and his team trailing 31-23 was puzzling. The Packers faced fourth-and-goal from the 8 and LaFleur called on Mason Crosby to come in a boot a field goal to make it 31-26. The Packers did have all three timeouts remaining, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had Tom Brady.
LaFleur was relying on a defense that had already surrendered 31 points to hold Brady and the Bucs without a first down. Instead, Kevin King, who had been beaten for a touchdown on a back-breaking play right before halftime, was called for pass interference and the Packers never got the ball back.
LaFleur doubles down on his decision
Eight days after the Green Bay Packers lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the field-goal topic was still being discussed. On a Monday conference call with LaFleur and Packers GM Brian Gutekunst, LaFleur said if the situation was the same – fourth-and-goal from the 8 – he’s still kicking the field goal.
“If I had to do it again, if it’s fourth-and-goal from the 8-yard line, we’re kicking a field goal,” LaFleur said, according to ESPN. “If it’s fourth-and-goal from the 5, I think we have a different discussion.
LaFleur said it comes down to percentages. “You’ve got to play the percentages,” he said. “We had three shots at it, gained no yards. That’s how it is. Some people will agree. Some people will disagree. In my heart, that’s what I felt like was the best decision for us. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out.”