2-out of-3

There were three key questions coming into the 2023 Packers season.

  1. Can Jordan Love be the quarterback of the future?
  2. Does Matt LaFleur have the offensive creativity to thrive without Aaron Rodgers?
  3. Can Joe Barry lead a winning defense?

Heading into week 16 the answers are yes, yes and NO!

The guy

There are still questions about Jordan Love’s ceiling. In fairness to him, he’s still got a lot of room to grow. But he’s shown enough for most people to think he’s a legit NFL starting QB for years to come. As of week 15, Love looks the part. Based on various statistics and the eye test, he’s somewhere between the 9th and 16th best quarterback in the league.

We’ve seen enough to know he’s “the guy” in 2024. Love must improve his footwork and sharpen his game. It will be on coaches to maximize his growth and GM Brian Gutekunst to put more talent around him.

Offensive juice

The Packers have had significant injuries that eliminated or limited contributions from David Bakhtiari, Aaron Jones and Christian Watson. They have the youngest receiving corps in recent NFL history, with an offensive line and running back stable that’s average at best. With that context, plus a quarterback getting his first season of starting, equals an impressive offensive performance grade for Matt LaFleur. It’s clear that, even without Aaron Rodgers, the man can generate offense.

We knew, MLF didn’t

As for that pesky Joe Barry question—No, he can’t lead a winning defense.  What’s more shocking? That Barry got a third chance to be a defensive coordinator after failing convincingly twice before? Or is it more disturbing that Matt LaFleur stuck with him for 2023 when most fans and experts assumed he’d be replaced? That flawed thinking is Coach LaFleur’s to own.

For an idea how to do it, LaFleur can look at his divisional counterpart to the West. Minnesota had a terrible defense in 2022, dumped their coordinator and hired Brian Flores. The Vikings may finish as a top 10 defense this year with less defensive talent than the Packers. The Minnesota defense is keeping them in games, while the Packers defense makes you think any win is a miracle.

What did Matt LaFleur see in Barry’s ability that no one else seems to see? Does he recognize loyalty to a friend is not fair to the rest of the team? Was it just stubborn pride? Now in his 5th year as Packers coach, LaFleur’s inability to find and hire a talented, creative defensive mind is the biggest bad mark on his coaching resume. If he doesn’t figure it out soon, LaFleur may be a highly sought after offensive coordinator.

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