Matt LaFleur's Year 2 task the same: Get Aaron Rodgers back to form

Aaron Rodgers' numbers were down in several categories, but coach Matt LaFleur says his QB "knows exactly what to expect going into Year 2." Quinn Harris/Getty Images

INDIANAPOLIS -- Whatever you do, don’t use Aaron Rodgers' passer rating -- the third-lowest mark of his starting career -- as a segue to ask Green Bay Packers coach Matt LaFleur if he needs his quarterback to play better than he did in 2019.

"I’ll be honest, the passer rating, I don’t even look at that anymore," LaFleur said before the question could go any further on Tuesday during a session with reporters at the NFL scouting combine. "I don’t think it’s a true indication of evaluating whether a quarterback played well or not."

LaFleur’s hiring almost 14 months ago brought an expectation that Rodgers would return to an MVP level after his production declined sharply in coach Mike McCarthy’s final seasons.

What happened instead was the Packers found other ways to win more because of LaFleur’s leadership than his offensive mastery.

And they won big, all the way to the NFC Championship Game, and then their defense broke down against the San Francisco 49ers’ potent running game.

Oh, Rodgers had spectacular moments, led by his dominance of the Raiders in Week 7 when he finished with the highest possible passer rating in a game, 158.3.

"I thought he played pretty damn good last year," LaFleur said emphatically. "He led us to 13 wins and a playoff win."

Yet from the moments after the 37-20 loss to the 49ers, LaFleur and general manager Brian Gutekunst have spoken expectantly about what Rodgers -- whose rating was just 95.4 with a completion percentage (62.0) that was his second lowest as a starter and only 25 touchdown passes (his fewest in a season with 16 starts) -- can do a year into LaFleur’s system.

"I just think it’s just making it more instinctual for him so that each week, each game, it’s not something that they’re going through," Gutekunst said Tuesday. "Where it’s just something that our team as a whole starts to understand exactly the nuances that Matt wants."

Gutekunst pointed to LaFleur’s second season as the Falcons' quarterbacks coach in 2016 when Matt Ryan won his first -- and to date only -- NFL MVP award.

"I think it’s just Matt and his staff having another year with our guys to develop them, kind of get them further than where they were last year," Gutekunst said Tuesday. "I think it’s probably true of any new staff. Obviously, Matt had an excellent first year, but I’m really excited to just kind of see how our players react kind of when they know what’s coming already."

Perhaps it was unrealistic to expect Rodgers to return to MVP form in 2019 when the lack of weapons outside of Davante Adams and Aaron Jones are factored in.

While Gutekunst has gone to work on that here this week, evaluating a deep receiving class, and in his staff’s free-agent meetings, LaFleur already has ideas on what he wants to change and add to his offense to help Rodgers. One solution is to cut down the wording of some of his playcalls. Rodgers wore a playcalling wristband for the first time in his NFL career because the calls were so lengthy.

"The more we can shrink that verbiage, I think that’ll allow our players to go out there and play [faster]," LaFleur said. "First of all, it’ll get us in and out of the huddle a little bit faster and then go out there and play a little bit faster."

Tempo could be the word of the offseason around Green Bay. While LaFleur devoted plenty of training camp time to it last summer, it rarely found its way into the game plans, something Rodgers noted immediately after the season.

"We really haven’t gotten into the tempo stuff at all, just very little with that," Rodgers said after the 49ers game. "I think that’s a product of personnel and the way that installation went. The scheme is there. The scheme and what Matt and his staff put together every week was fantastic. The execution and the moving pieces will continue to improve."

To LaFleur, that will start by refining -- his word -- the way they implement the offense.

"The foundation has been laid for us," LaFleur said. "[Rodgers] knows exactly what to expect going into Year 2. Certainly we’re going to refine some of the things we do offensively, but just really excited to get him back in the building and work through that process."