Prior to the 49ers game early in the season, it became apparent that Kyle Shanahan was really unhappy about what he and his father had been through in Washington, especially the final season in 2013. Kyle was passive-aggressive all week long in press conferences ahead of the game. He mentioned the positive relationships he formed with players and coaches as the Redskins offensive coordinator, and was then asked what the negatives were in the experience. Kyle quipped, “Everything else.”
It was reported that he gave the game ball from San Fran’s victory to his dad, former head coach Mike Shanahan, in some sort of symbolic gesture.
Another member of that Mike Shanahan staff was Matt LaFleur, who is now the head coach of the Packers, Washington’s opponent on Sunday afternoon.
He was fired, along with every other offensive coach from Shanahan’s staff not named Sean McVay.
After getting sacked by the Redskins, LaFleur landed with the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame as the quarterback coach.
His trip to the college ranks lasted only a year, however. He was hired by the Atlanta Falcons in 2015, and spent two years as the Quarterbacks Coach, again under OC Kyle Shanahan. His 2016 season culminated with the Falcons’ super bowl appearance, and when Kyle Shanahan was hired as the head coach of the 49ers, LaFleur was on the move again — this time taking on the role of offensive coordinator of the Rams, working for his former colleague, Sean McVay.
Given his apparent close relationship with Kyle Shanahan, who is clearly bitter about his DC experience, it seems reasonable to wonder if Matt LaFleur feels the same way. He was asked about it on a conference call with local reporters this week.
It’s no different for me than any other team and so it’s just another game in the National Football League. I would say that I’ve already played against, shoot, my blood relative — my brother’s in San Francisco [and] we went through that game. I’m not related to anybody on Washington in their organization, so, ,to me it’s another game against a team that’s coming off two straight wins in a row.
Clearly, LaFleur didn’t feel as though Dan Snyder and Bruce Allen mistreated him. In fact, he seems to be philosophical about it. There’s an old adage in sports: There are coaches who’ve been fired, and coaches who are going to be fired. It’s a rare individual who escapes from the profession unscathed.
Grant Paulsen of the Athletic wrote a long story about Matt LaFleur this week after speaking to him at length.
“I never took it personal, I know that’s part of the business,” LaFleur told The Athletic about his dismissal. “I’ve got no ill will towards any of it. It’s an unfortunate part of our business, and I certainly never want to go through it again, but the reality is that it happens.”
I learned a lot of ball there. But four years around the same people, around a Hall of Fame head coach in Mike Shanahan, who taught me so much not only from an offensive perspective but a defensive perspective. Everything we did there from drafting Robert Griffin and integrating a mix between our old system and some of the zone-read stuff. It was an incredible period of growth for me.
LaFleur has landed on his feet in Green Bay. Most first-time head coaches walk into really bad situations with crappy rosters, and, often, no franchise quarterback. LaFleur was hired to one of the best jobs in football to work with arguably one of the greatest quarterback talents of all time.
His team is 9-3 and leading the NFC North. The Packers seem to be playoff-bound in LaFleur’s rookie season, and he seems to be happy.
When he was asked this week if he had any advice to potential head coaching candidates who might interview with the Redskins, he was enthusiastic:
Oh, I had a great time there in Washington. I met a lot of great people, there’s a lot of great people in that organization – shoot, some of my closest friends in life, not only in football, but in life, I got an opportunity to work with them. We had a lot of great moments there that I’ll never forget.
We hear so much about organizational dysfunction with the Redskins, it’s easy to forget that, like most jobs, the experience is mostly about the people you meet and work with, and the relationships that you form. Kyle Shanahan was in a unique position because of being the head coach’s son — it all became very personal for him, I guess. But others, like Sean McVay and Matt LaFleur seem to credit much of the success they’ve enjoyed so far to the skills they learned with the Redskins.
Of course, none of that changes the fact that Bruce Allen has got to go, but it’s nice to see our former QB coach enjoying success and talking fondly about his time with the Redskins franchise.