“The one thing that we used when we first came here was, ‘We all have to get comfortable with the uncomfortable,’” LaFleur said in an interview. “There was going to be certain things that we may ask you to do that you haven’t done in a long time, or maybe never done, period. But I think he’s had a really open mind.”
Rodgers needed to form new positive memories and mental images to help him think about the proper things when the play call came in, when he broke the huddle, when he was at the line of scrimmage. The calls in LaFleur’s offense are longer — so long that earlier this season Rodgers wore a play-calling wristband to facilitate a faster tempo — because many have two plays integrated into the terminology. If before he cherished having freedom at the line to audible into other plays, now he has built-in options dependent on the defensive look or coverage.
Hard into training camp, Rodgers was still translating, and it wasn’t until mid-August, he said, that he started breaking the huddle without thinking about the old play.
“It’s maybe much like someone who goes and lives in a different country, whether it’s school or work or whatever it might be, a walkabout,” Rodgers said. “When you start thinking about words and phrases in this new language, it does change your perspective. That’s when you feel like you’ve had that mental retraining.”
Rodgers’s rapport with LaFleur is especially critical. Both men value trust and communication as the underpinnings of their relationship. It has developed organically, from a series of early phone calls to a meeting in Arizona in late March to the daily interaction — such as an animated sideline discussion in Week 2 that they say they quickly resolved — that has forged their compatibility.
LaFleur has asked his quarterback to operate more under center, to conform without sacrificing his essence, but listened when Rodgers expressed his own preferences. In the red zone and in the two-minute drill, LaFleur has given Rodgers “total control.” LaFleur might suggest a play, but Rodgers has the autonomy to use it or to choose something else.
For LaFleur to cede that power required a certain amount of faith. As the Packers’ offense tottered in September, ranking 28th of 32 teams in yards per play (4.83) and yards per game (286.7) across the first three weeks, according to Pro Football Reference, Rodgers and his teammates reciprocated by maintaining their belief in LaFleur’s scheme.