How Packers' Matt LaFleur is doing what other first-year coaches haven't: Win

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- No one wants to be on what Blake Martinez called "The Bad Tape."

Sometimes, however, the Green Bay Packers linebacker knows it’s coming. And as much as he wants to sink lower into his chair in the team meeting room, he knows he has to sit tall and take it.

Everyone does.

"Every single time you go in there, everybody’s talking about it, everybody’s saying, ‘Oh no, I might be on 'The Bad Tape,’" Martinez said. "It’s just the concept of [not] letting each other down."

It happens in every team meeting -- whether it’s after a practice, a walk-through or a game. First-year coach Matt LaFleur shows two films. "The Good Tape" is always played first. Then comes "The Bad Tape."

"He’ll make sure he puts every single thing on there that could potentially lose us games," Martinez said.

If "The Bad Tape" sometimes gets long, it’s because LaFleur lets little go unnoticed. And no one -- not even quarterback Aaron Rodgers -- gets an exemption.

"Whatever we’re doing he’s making sure we’re doing it right, whether it’s running off the field, whether it’s warming up, whether it’s breaking the huddle -- doing all those little things that are going to count in the game and focusing on it every single day," Martinez said. "He points it out, he’s praising it. It could be something as little as making sure your shoes are tied when you’re walking out there. It’s been awesome to have a coach like that and hold everybody accountable. It doesn’t matter if No. 12 is doing it or a practice-squad guy."

It's just one device the coach has employed. All of them, however, have added up to the best start by any of the first-time head coaches hired this past offseason. While the 39-year-old LaFleur sits at 4-1, the other five first-timers have a combined 4-19-1 record. Individually, none of them has even a .500 mark. Browns coach Freddie Kitchens, at 2-3, is closest. At least Arizona’s Kliff Kingsbury (1-3-1) and Denver’s Vic Fangio (1-4) have won a game. Cincinnati’s Zac Taylor (0-5) and Miami’s Brian Flores (0-4) remain winless.

"For real?" Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander said when shown those records. "I just feel like we’re all just playing for one another. Coach brought in a fresh new energy, a new life that we needed and we’re just feeding off of it."

LaFleur is probably the last person to ask how he’s navigated the first few weeks of his first season so successfully, but someone did just that after Sunday’s win over the Dallas Cowboys that doubled the Packers’ road victory total from last season.

"That’s a great question because there’s something almost on a daily basis that comes up that you’re like, ‘Oh, OK,’" LaFleur said.

Maybe it’s that attitude that allows him to take it all in stride without getting flustered.

It’s not that there haven’t been mistakes.

For example, he acknowledged that he should have run the ball more near the goal line on those failed drives in the Week 4 loss to the Eagles, and he adjusted. In seven red zone trips against the Eagles, the Packers ran four times and passed 16 on the way to going 3-for-7. Against the Cowboys, the Packers ran seven times and passed five on the way to going 4-for-5.

Last season's first-time head coaches went a combined 40-40. Two -- Chicago’s Matt Nagy (12-4) and Indianapolis’ Frank Reich (10-6)-- made the playoffs. One other -- Tennessee’s Mike Vrabel (9-7) -- had a winning record. Two -- Detroit’s Matt Patricia (6-10) and Arizona’s Steve Wilks (3-13) -- had losing records, and Wilks got fired.

LaFleur plays Patricia, who beat the Packers twice last season, on Monday night at Lambeau Field, so the Lions' coach has no doubt studied LaFleur extensively, particularly since his team had its bye in Week 5.

"Just doing everything right," Patricia said at the end of a long answer about how LaFleur has done it.

Or maybe it’s what Rodgers said after Sunday’s victory over the Cowboys, when he talked about "the vibe" on the team.

"Whenever he’s excited," center Lucas Patrick said of Rodgers, "it’s so infectious just because of the player he is and the person."