Packers introduce LaFleur as next head coach

New coach hopes to help team get back to winning

For the first time since early in the most recent NFL season, there was a positive vibe at Lambeau Field.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Green Bay Packers introduced Matt LaFleur as the 15th coach in team history.

“This is a little surreal for me right now, but I just want to start off by thanking Mark (Murphy), and Brian (Gutekunst) and Russ Ball for the opportunity,” LaFleur said in his opening statement. “I cannot tell you how honored I am for this situation. It’s always been a dream of mine to be an NFL head coach, but to be the head coach of the Green Bay Packers, it is surreal. I am extremely humbled. To follow in the footsteps of Curly Lambeau, Vince Lombardi, Mike Holmgren, Mike McCarthy, it is truly an honor….”

The 39-year-old LaFleur sat between Gutekunst, the team’s general manager, and Murphy, the team’s president and chief executive officer while his family sat off to the side of a crowded media auditorium on Wednesday.

Murphy opened the press conference by going into some of the details of the hiring process.

Murphy noted that firing McCarthy in early December gave the Packers an advantage when it came to doing background research into potential candidates.

The team’s search committee interviewed a pair of candidates in December while the season was still being played out before interviewing eight other candidates after the regular season ended.

Murphy and Gutekunst also sat down with the team’s leadership council — leaders from every position group, nine players in total — and mentioned that group of players was very helpful in determining what kind of changes were needed moving forward.

LaFleur was the team’s 10th and final interview this past Sunday. After making the trip to Nashville, Tennessee, to conduct the interview, Murphy, Gutekunst and Ball thought LaFleur was the top candidate.

After taking a night to sleep on it, the trio reconvened in the morning and agreed LaFleur was the best direction to go.

“Once we kind of narrowed in that Matt was our guy, I had (quarterback) Aaron (Rodgers) reach out to him,” Gutekunst said.

LaFleur said speaking with Rodgers, who was part of the Packers leadership council before he was hired, gave him a hint that he might be in the running for the position.

“I did have the opportunity to talk to Aaron and I’ll tell you what, I cannot wait to get to work with him,” LaFleur said. “I think he is equally as excited. There’s a lot of work to be done in front of us but (I’m) just looking forward to that opportunity.”

On Monday afternoon, LaFleur received a call being offered the position and said he was “speechless.”

The whirlwind of a week is just getting started for LaFleur, who noted he had not made any decisions in terms of how he would fill out his coaching staff.

Mike Pettine was rumored to be coming back as defensive coordinator, but LaFleur said he had not met with Pettine as of Wednesday’s press conference.

After the coaching staff is set in stone, LaFleur will sit down with Gutekunst and start determining areas of need this offseason.

Regardless of who is on the team’s roster when training camp rolls around, LaFleur already has a plan of action ready to get the team back to winning football.

“I want to develop a championship culture. It’s filled with high-character people that are dedicated to becoming the best versions of themselves,” LaFleur said.

“My philosophy is really to lead, teach and inspire — not only our football team but everybody in this building,” LaFleur continued. “We are going to be process driven, we are going to be process driven in the pursuit of bringing a Lombardi Trophy back here to Green Bay.”

LaFleur noted how calling plays for the Tennessee Titans this past season set him up to be a head coach. He also said he plans to call the plays this upcoming season.