Part of the transition to HC Matt LaFleur‘s new offense for Packers QB Aaron Rodgers will include potentially having less freedom to call audibles at the line of scrimmage.
“Aaron and I have had some good talks, and we’re going to have to talk a lot more — and one thing we have to work through is the audible thing,” LaFleur explained, via NFL Media’s Mike Silver. “We’re running a system I first picked up while working with Kyle (Shanahan) in Houston a decade ago, and we’ve never really had a quarterback who’s had complete freedom to change plays at the line, because that’s not really the way the offense is set up. But, I mean, this is Aaron Rodgers. He’s had a lot of freedom to make those calls, and deservedly so. Now, how do we reconcile that, and get to a place where we put him in the best position to succeed?”
Rodgers is known for his ability as one of the most creative quarterbacks in the NFL, both by scrambling and making plays outside the designed structure and by making tweaks before the ball is snapped to exploit a weakness he sees.
However, a story by Tyler Dunne of Bleacher Report showed that Rodgers’ freelancing wasn’t always welcomed by previous HC Mike McCarthy and contributed to the offensive problems that led to LaFleur being brought in.
How LaFleur and Rodgers learn to work together and coexist will be key to the Packers’ success in the coming seasons.
“It’s a conversation in progress,” Rodgers said. “I don’t think you want to ask me to turn off 11 years (of recognizing defenses). We have a number of check with me’s and line-of-scrimmage stuff. It’s just the other stuff that really not many people in this league can do. That’s not like a humblebrag or anything; that’s just a fact. There aren’t many people that can do at the line of scrimmage what I’ve done over the years. I mean, obviously, Tommy (Brady) can do it, no doubt. Peyton (Manning) could do it. Drew (Brees) can do it. (Patrick) Mahomes will be able to do it. Ben (Roethlisberger) has called the two-minute for years. There are a few of us who’ve just done it; it’s kind of second nature. And that’s just the icing on the cake for what I can do in this offense.”
Rodgers’ ability to call audibles isn’t just tied to tension over who has more control over the playcall — the quarterback or LaFleur. The new system has more specific formations and motions that would hamper anyone’s ability to tweak the play before the play clock runs out.
“I think that has a lot to do with it,” LaFleur said. “We move a lot more. There’s a lot more motion. There are a lot more moving parts. And so if you just let the quarterback have that freedom to just get to whatever, I’m afraid it would slow our guys down. Now, he is a special talent and he’s got an incredible mind, so as we move forward throughout this process he’s getting more freedom. It’s just, where is that happy medium?”
Another limiting factor is that Rodgers is learning a new offense for the first time since his rookie season. The process is often compared to learning a new language, though LaFleur is working to make it easier on his quarterback.
“There’s certainly a learning curve,” LaFleur said. “And at the same time, I feel like we’ve adapted, and changed some names of things (to words) that maybe he’s called it in the past. Like I always tell him, ‘Let’s make this our offense.’ And I think certainly I’ve got a philosophy of how we need to do things, but I’d be crazy not to listen to a guy that has got as much experience and has played at the level he’s played at.”
“We did a lot of that, too, with (Falcons quarterback) Matt Ryan,” LaFleur continued. “It just took a year of working together to make it our offense in Atlanta. It did take some time figuring out not only the quarterback, but it’s everybody else too — it’s everybody else learning the details of the play. Because the beauty lies in the details, and those nuances can take you from just average to great.”
Rodgers says he’s excited for the way LaFleur’s offense will make his job easier, which was a criticism of McCarthy’s former scheme. Once he gets up to speed, though, Rodgers says he won’t hesitate to do what he thinks will be best for the team.
“(I won’t call) checks just to call checks,” Rodgers said. “Look, you know the offense is great. And you scheme people up and you have formations and motions, and it should be fantastic. But if we need a little something, it’s ’cause we need it. “Any check I’ve ever made is about getting us in a best-play scenario. So when it comes to that, if we need that, I’m sure he’ll be happy when it looks the right way.”
Rodgers, 35, is a former first-round pick of the Packers back in 2005. He agreed to a four-year, $134 million extension that includes over $100 million guaranteed last summer.
Rodgers will make base salaries of just $1,100,000 over the next two years of the agreement, due to a $57,500,000 signing bonus he received last year.
In 2018, Rodgers appeared in 16 games for the Packers and completed 62.3 percent of his passes for 4,442 yards, 24 touchdowns and two interceptions. He has also rushed for 269 yards and two touchdowns.