Packers’ Matt LaFleur one of most aggressive coaches on fourth downs in 2022
The Green Bay Packers offense under Matt LaFleur in 2022 was one of the most aggressive when it came to going for it on fourth downs.
According to Football Outsiders Aggressive Index, LaFleur ranked as the fifth-most aggressive head coach on applicable fourth-down situations last season. How this Aggressive Index works is 1.0 is considered average, and it measures how much more likely, or less likely, a coach is willing to go for it compared to his peers when in a specific situation. This metric also excludes certain obvious go-for-it situations, such as when a team is trailing late in a game, in the final five minutes of a game, or just seconds before halftime.
LaFleur finished with an Aggressive Index of 1.40, meaning he was 40% more likely to go for it on fourth downs compared to an average coach facing the same situations. Out of 85 eligible fourth-down scenarios, LaFleur went for it 19 times, or at a rate of 22.4%, which was the third-highest in 2022. He also went for 11 of the 12 eligible fourth-and-one opportunities, tied for the most in the NFL.
By this metric, Philadelphia’s Nick Sirianni was the most aggressive, registering a 1.57 on the aggressive index scale, followed by Mike McDaniel, Arthur Smith, Kliff Kingsbury, then LaFleur, rounding out the top five.
LaFleur was fifth at 1.46 in 2021, fifth at 2.08 in 2020 and 19th at 1.29 in 2019.
While LaFleur’s propensity to go for it on fourth downs made sense a majority of the time, the Packers were very poor at converting those fourth-down opportunities. Their success rate of 38.7% ranked 28th in the NFL last season, ahead of only New England, New Orleans, Chicago, and Cincinnati.
As always, there is never any one answer behind a team’s successes or struggles, so when it came to Green Bay’s fourth down woes, it was a combination of both play calling and a lack of execution. Not only on fourth downs but in general last season, in those must-have-it situations, including in the red zone, defenses did a good job of taking away the Packers’ run game and forcing them to throw the ball. Even when the passing game was building some momentum in the second half of the season, it simply wasn’t good enough to produce consistent results when leaned upon heavily.
When the offense was at its best, it was due to the success on the ground, and that helped open up the passing game. However, when defenses were able to limit Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon, Green Bay didn’t have a steady passing game to fall back on or, at times, the patience to stick with the run game, and moving the ball became a massive chore.
Although frustrating (and I’m not suggesting it was always the right decision), but when Aaron Rodgers was heaving the ball downfield on third and fourth and short downs last season, it was often related to the look that the defense gave him with more defenders playing closer to the line of scrimmage in an effort to limit the run game, which then created a potential opportunity over the top for Rodgers to exploit. Perhaps on paper that decision-making made sense, but given the issues Green Bay had in the passing game all season long, picking up the two yards needed to keep the drive going would have been the more prudent play.
As a collective group, head coaches have been becoming more aggressive and less willing to punt or settle for field goals in recent years, and LaFleur continues to be one of the leaders in this charge, ranking in the top five of the Aggressive Index during each of the last two seasons.
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