The Matt LaFleur era has seen the Green Bay Packers fully embrace the use of data to help inform in-game decision-making. In these last three years, nobody else in the building has been more responsible for keeping the head coach aware of the probabilities affecting his gameday decisions than Connor Lewis.
Few people outside the building really know what Lewis has been doing for the Packers for the last few years. Since being hired by Mike McCarthy in 2016, he has bounced around to a handful of different positions, spending several years as a Football Technology Analyst. He then took on new titles the last two seasons, working as an offensive quality control coach in 2020 and holding the position of special teams assistant/game management specialist last season.
Now, Lewis is the Packers’ assistant quarterbacks coach, a promotion that LaFleur discussed during an interview session with media on Wednesday at the 2022 NFL Combine. But to understand why he is moving into that role, one must understand what he has done the past few years.
Our Jon Meerdink discussed Lewis’ background and contributions last offseason, when he got that new role with the special teams. As a person who never played college or pro football, he seems like an unusual choice to work with a prominent position group like the quarterbacks, but LaFleur brought up Lewis and his promotion unprompted, praising him for his work in the past.
“I have yet to meet somebody in my time in the NFL that’s as knowledgeable as he is with all the rules,” LaFleur said. “He’s a guy that I’m listening to constantly on the headset on gameday. Just situationally, he’s got such a great grasp, he does such a great job of studying everything that’s going on throughout the course of the league.”
That deep study of trends, numbers, and probabilities is something that LaFleur appreciates on gameday, but Lewis also has been getting a bigger platform with the team recently as well. LaFleur said that Lewis presents these league trends to the entire team on Fridays, showing the team a variety of interesting items. “A lot of them are instances where teams make mistakes, so certainly you want to learn from everybody’s mistakes. He does a great job of getting up there and articulating to our team and presenting to our team.”
All of that work has helped LaFleur rank highly in terms of decision-making, according to data-driven models. LaFleur has earned the Coach of the Year title from EdjSports for each of the last two seasons, getting that distinction as a result of both the team’s play on the field as well as his critical 4th-down decisions — the types of decisions on which Lewis is providing input.
Now, Lewis is moving into the quarterbacks room, and his data-driven approach is one reason why.
“I just think, why wouldn’t you want that in your quarterback room?” LaFleur rhetorically asked.
Lewis already has a good relationship with Aaron Rodgers — a “great rapport,” as LaFleur called it. But it’s clear from this move that the Packers see Lewis continuing to ascend the coaching ladder, and doing so quickly. Getting experience with Rodgers (should he return for 2022, of course) would only bolster his resume, and LaFleur says that learning from Tom Clements should be a great benefit as well.
“(I’m) just excited to watch him grow and develop. And learning from a guy like Tom, there’s probably nobody better to help groom a young coach.”
It feels like the Packers look at Lewis a bit the same way they view Mike McDaniel, the 38-year-old whom the Miami Dolphins just hired as head coach. McDaniel began his NFL coaching career immediately after completing a history degree from Yale, getting a coaching internship from Mike Shanahan and the Denver Broncos. McDaniel would follow Kyle Shanahan for years, even working on the same staff as LaFleur in Houston, Washington, and Atlanta. He then earned the duties of run game coordinator in San Francisco for four seasons before holding the title of offensive coordinator in 2021.
Both Lewis and McDaniel have unusual backgrounds for NFL coaches, and both started with NFL teams virtually straight out of college. The move for Lewis feels like one that LaFleur is making to help develop a promising young coach expand his repertoire and set him up for bigger things down the road.
And if these new duties with the quarterbacks still allow for Lewis to keep chirping in LaFleur’s ear about game situations? So much the better.