Matt LaFleur "sure as hell" hopes Aaron Rodgers returns to play for the Green Bay Packers next season amid doubts over his future after falling short of the Super Bowl, describing the star quarterback as the "heart and soul of our football team".
Rodgers indicated his future is uncertain following Green Bay's 31-26 loss to Tom Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday.
Favourite to be crowned the NFL's MVP, Rodgers was appearing in his first NFC title decider at Lambeau Field as he and the top-seeded Packers looked to return to the Super Bowl for the first time since reigning supreme in the 2010 season.
But the Packers fell short – 37-year-old quarterback Rodgers completing 33 of 48 passes for 346 yards, three touchdowns and an interception at home to the Buccaneers.
Asked if Rodgers will be back next season, Packers head coach LaFleur told reporters: "I sure as hell hope so. I mean, the guy is the MVP of this league.
"He's the heart and soul of our football team. So, hell yeah. He better be back here. He's our leader."
LaFleur was heavily criticised after his approach during the closing stages of the blockbuster contest against the Buccaneers.
Trailing by eight points with just over two minutes remaining, the Packers were unable to get into the endzone on three attempts from the eight-yard line.
Instead of taking the aggressive approach in backing Rodgers to pull Green Bay within a two-point conversion of tying the game at 31-31, the Packers elected to kick a field goal and while they reduced the deficit, they never got the ball back following a pass interference call on Kevin King.
"Yeah anytime it doesn't work out, you always regret it, right?" LaFleur said. "It was just the circumstances of having three shots and coming away with no yards and knowing that you not only need the touchdown but you need the two-point [conversion]. The way I was looking at it was, we essentially had four timeouts with the two-minute warning.
"We knew we needed to get a stop, and I thought we were going to have a stop there at the end but we got called for [defensive pass interference] and it didn't work out.
"I think anytime something doesn't work out, do you regret it? Sure, but we're always going to be process-driven here and the way our defense was battling, the way our defense was playing, it felt like it was the right decision to do. It just didn't work out."