Sunday, November 7, 2021

Bounce-Back Win a Must after Green Bay Falls in KC

 By Eric Goska

Packers head coach Matt LaFleur
(NFL Game Pass screenshot)

Matt LaFleur’s pursuit of Paul Brown is in jeopardy.

The Packers’ head coach has never lost two regular-season games in a row. But with the Chiefs having ended his team’s seven-game winning streak with a 13-7 victory Sunday and the Seattle Seahawks on tap, his extraordinary accomplishment is in peril.

The loss in Kansas City was just the eighth time LaFleur has tasted defeat in the regular season since he assumed control in January 2019. Green Bay followed each of its previous seven losses with a win.

This time is different if for no other reason than LaFleur may be without his future Hall of Fame quarterback for a second straight week. Jordan Love, not Aaron Rodgers, got the nod against the Chiefs after Rogers tested positive for Covid-19 earlier in the week.

Now, it’s possible Rodgers may be back in time to face the Seahawks. And, if not, it’s possible Love might play well enough in his second career start for the Green and Gold to prevail.

But coming out on top is far from assured despite Seattle’s (3-5) struggles of late.

The contest against the Chiefs was the 41st regular-season game coached by the 42-year-old LaFleur. After two-and-a-half years on the job, his record is an impressive 33-8 (.805).

It bears repeating: his charges have never lost consecutive regular-season games. Who does that?

The list is short, and it includes some of the greatest names in the NFL’s long and storied history.

Stick around long enough and any coach, regardless of talent or pedigree, will lose. The question is how soon and how often.

For many – even some of the most revered in the business – coming up short happened right away. Tom Landry, Andy Reid, Jeff Fisher, Tom Coughlin, Mike Holmgren, Bud Grant, Joe Gibbs, Tony Dungy, Mike McCarthy, Marvin Lewis, and Mike Ditka all won more than 100 games. All eleven were handed Ls the first two times their teams took to the field.

Not LaFleur. As a rookie coach, his team won three times to open the 2019 season. In the time since, his club has fashioned winning streaks of four, nine, two, five, and seven games in a row.

Some of the seven setbacks – Chargers (11-26), 49ers (8-37), Buccaneers (10-38), and Saints (3-38) – were brutal. But in each case, the team bounced back.

Only four coaches have held out longer than LaFleur: Brown (49 games), Guy Chamberlain (47), Red Miller (46), and Allie Sherman (44). Another three – George Seifert (38), Steve Mariucci (38), and George Halas (37) – pushed past 35.

Chamberlain captured four NFL titles. Miller guided the 1977 Broncos to a Super Bowl. Sherman directed the New York Giants to three consecutive championship games (1961-63).

Brown led the Cleveland Browns to four consecutive titles (1946-49) in the All-American Football Conference. Then, after Cleveland was absorbed into the NFL in 1950, his hirelings appeared in six consecutive title games (1950-55), winning three.

At that time, the NFL regular season consisted of 12 games. Brown’s outfit didn’t drop two straight until losing to twice to the Eagles, once in the 1953 finale and again in the 1954 opener.

For LeFleur to get to 50 and surpass Brown, Green Bay would need to prevail against the Seahawks and not commit a two-step misstep until 2022 or beyond.

So, let’s be upbeat and say that happens: the Packers win Sunday and they avoid a two-fer for the remainder of the season. How far does LaFleur have to go to get the record for longest start to a coaching career without three straight losses?

Get ready for a long haul. Seifert, who coached the 49ers (1989-1996) and the Panthers (1999-2001), didn’t suffer his first three-game losing streak until his 164th regular-season game.

Saying No to the Two-Step Misstep
Head coaches who coached more than 35 regular-season games before sustaining their first two-game losing streak.

  Game      Coach                                   Years              Final Record
      49          Paul Brown                         1950-1954              166-100-6
      47          Guy Chamberlain              1922-1925                58-16-7
      46          Red Miller                           1977-1980                40-22-0
      44          Allie Sherman                    1961-1964                57-51-4
      42*        Matt LaFleur                      2019-2021                       
      38          George Seifert                   1989-1991               114-62-0
      38          Steve Mariucci                  1997-1999                72-67-0
      37          George Halas                     1920-1923              318-148-31

*If the Packers lose to Seattle on November 14.

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