StaTuesday: How first-year Packers coaches have fared

Matt LaFleur is stepping into an interesting situation in his first gig as a head coach.

The new Green Bay Packers boss (well, not official as we write this, but soon enough), inherits one of the best quarterbacks in the game (when healthy) in Aaron Rodgers, a Pro Bowl receiver in Davante Adams and a young, up-and-coming defense.

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But also a Packers team which has missed the postseason the past two seasons and fan base hungry for a return and not thrilled at the prospect of a third straight year without a rooting interest in the playoffs (that is, beyond rooting against Chicago or Minnesota).

To do so, LaFleur will be going against Packers history.

No first-year Green Bay head coach has led the team to the playoffs in his initial year at the helm. As in ever. Not Curly Lambeau. Not Vince Lombardi. Not Mike Holmgren. No one.

Interestingly, only five had a better record in his first season with the Packers than the previous season, and two of those just meant getting three and four wins that initial year. However, each of the past two Green Bay head coaches did improve the team’s record in his first year.

PACKERS HEAD COACHES, FIRST YEAR

COACH YEAR PREV 1ST YR OVERALL PLAYOFFS
Curly Lambeau 1921 n/a 3-2-1 209-104-21 8*
Gene Ronzani 1950 2-10 3-9 14-31-1 0
Lisle Blackbourn 1954 2-9-1 4-8 17-31 0
Ray McLean 1958 4-8 1-10-1 1-10-1 0
Vince Lombardi 1959 1-10-1 7-5 89-29-4 6
Phil Bengston 1968 9-4-1 6-7-1 20-21-1 0
Dan Devine 1971 6-8 4-8-2 25-27-4 1
Bart Starr 1975 6-8 4-10 52-76-3 1
Forrest Gregg 1984 8-8 8-8 25-37-1 0
Lindy Infante 1988 5-9-1 4-12 24-40 0
Mike Holmgren 1992 9-7 9-7 75-37 6
Ray Rhodes 1999 11-5 8-8 8-8 0
Mike Sherman 2000 8-8 9-7 57-39 4
Mike McCarthy 2006 4-12 8-8 125-77-2 9

* – Includes championships won before there was a playoff system

Of course, none of this means LaFleur can’t lead the Packers to the playoffs in 2019. A look around at the current NFL coaches shows that while it’s not common for a first-year head coach to lead his team to the postseason, it isn’t like it’s never happened.

Two coaches who were in their first year this season led their team to the playoffs. The same in 2017. Others have led their team to the playoffs in subsequent seasons (probably one reason they are still head coaches in the NFL; we aren’t including those fired after the 2018 season).

Keep in mind that, of course, circumstances can help or hurt a first-year coach. For example, Drew Brees joined the Saints in 2006 and Andrew Luck was healthy in 2018 after missing all of the previous season, while on the flip side Jon Gruden and the Raiders dealt away some key players this year.

But — and good news here, Packers fans — generally speaking teams improved in the first year under the active head coaches. OK, not Bill Belichick, but we think things have still turned out pretty well for New England.

CURRENT NFL HEAD COACHES, FIRST YEAR WITH TEAM

COACH TEAM YEAR PREV 1ST YR
Bill Belichick Patriots 2000 9-7* 8-8
Sean Payton Saints 2006 3-13 10-6*
Mike Tomlin Steelers 2007 8-8 10-6*
John Harbaugh Ravens 2008 5-11 11-5*
Pete Carroll Seahawks 2010 5-11 7-9
Jason Garrett** Cowboys 2011 6-10 8-8
Ron Rivera Panthers 2011 2-14 6-10
Andy Reid Chiefs 2013 2-14 11-5*
Bll O’Brien Texans 2014 2-14 9-7
Jay Gruden Redskins 2014 3-13 4-12
Mike Zimmer Vikings 2014 5-10-1 7-9
Dan Quinn Falcons 2015 6-10 8-8
Doug Pederson Eagles 2016 7-9 7-9
Sean McDermott Bills 2017 7-9 9-7*
Doug Marrone*** Jaguars 2017 3-13 10-6*
Anthony Lynn Chargers 2017 5-11 9-7
Sean McVay Rams 2017 4-12 11-5*
Kyle Shanahan 49ers 2017 2-14 6-10
Frank Reich Colts 2018 4-12 10-6*
Mike Vrabel Titans 2018 9-7* 9-7
Jon Gruden Raiders 2018 6-10 4-12
Pat Shurmur Giants 2018 3-13 5-11
Matt Nagy Bears 2018 5-11 12-4*
Matt Patricia Lions 2018 9-7 6-10

* — Made playoffs

** — Garrett took over as interim coach midway through the 2010 season and went 5-3. He had the interim tag taken away after the season.

*** — Marrone took over in the final two games of the 2016 season and went 1-1. He had the interim tag taken away after the season.