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  • Every team wants an innovative offensive mind, and it could leave defensive-minded candidates without any head coaching offers in 2019.
By Conor Orr
January 08, 2019

The festivities are being prepared at Lambeau Field, and we’ll soon be told that Titans offensive coordinator and Sean McVay-Kyle Shanahan cabal member Matt LaFleur will be the next head coach of the Green Bay Packers.

While this decision is largely being trumpeted as symptomatic of the offensive revolution that has recently taken place in the NFL, LaFleur’s resume is strong by objective measures. He has worked for Gary Kubiak and Mike Shanahan. He has high-level collegiate experience, working as the quarterbacks coach at Notre Dame in 2014. He was Matt Ryan’s quarterbacks coach during one of his best career runs, including his Super Bowl season in 2016. And he had a heavy hand in Jared Goff’s mammoth leap in 2017.

It checks the boxes that Green Bay undoubtedly had at the outset of this coaching search: Experience with a high-level, hands-on franchise quarterback, history with innovative offenses and a strong set of internships under program builders.

But it may also be the opening salvo of a hiring cycle in which no defensive-minded head coaches are hired.

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Check the tea leaves now as teams start to regroup following the LaFleur news. The Buccaneers are clinging to Bruce Arians. The Jets have been linked to Adam Gase and Kliff Kingsbury. The Cardinals are tied to Kingsbury, Zac Taylor and Dan Campbell. The Browns have also been tied to Campbell, Jim Caldwell and a few other nebulous rumblings that all amount to: Whatever is best for Baker Mayfield. The Broncos are apparently closing in on Mike Munchak, though Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has also been mentioned there. 

As much as we may have thought some high-profile defensive coaching performances had restored some collective sanity to the league in recent weeks—including Jim Schwartz’s wild-card game with the Eagles and the fascinating game plan Anthony Lynn and Gus Bradley deployed to slow down Lamar Jackson and the Ravens—this may be a hiring cycle where defensive coaches are simply left out.

Over the last 10 years, there has not been a completely homogeneous hiring cycle in terms of the coaches’ area of expertise, which leads us to believe that eventually, someone like Matt Eberflus, Vance Joseph, Fangio or another strong defensive candidate will land a head coaching job. And one could argue that Munchak and Campbell are not the standard offensive-leaning candidates.

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If there were a year for that to happen, though, wouldn’t it be 2019? 

We talked a lot about the Rams-Chiefs game being a flashpoint for owners looking to create more than just a winning product, but a show. Kingsbury’s rapid rise, and association with quarterbacks like Mayfield and Patrick Mahomes, certainly speaks to that. The accelerated rise of Taylor and LaFleur, while both coaches who would have ascended the ladder under normal standards, speaks to that as well.

Eventually, the league will sort out whether or not the distinction of great schematic offensive coach necessarily translates to great head coach. Until then, there will be a mad scramble to install them at the top of their coaching staff.

• Question or comment? Email us at talkback@themmqb.com.

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