THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — The energetic back-and-forth between Sean McVay and Matt LaFleur contained in the assembly room on the Los Angeles Rams‘ follow facility made for explosive offense and a energetic setting.
As the pinnacle coach and playcaller, McVay needed to put in a play into the sport plan a technique. LaFleur, the offensive coordinator, would insist on some form of variation. And after the very fact, LaFleur would not hesitate to criticize McVay if he made a nasty name.
Neither coach would simply yield, so the banter would proceed.
“He and I by no means battled one another — simply kidding,” LaFleur deadpanned this week. “Each day was a battle.”
“He advised me what I wanted to listen to, and it was good,” McVay mentioned. “Though typically we needed to choke one another out.”
That was 2017. When McVay and LaFleur arrived in L.A. to guide an offensive juggernaut that turned a stagnant franchise right into a division winner.
Three seasons later, McVay and LaFleur will battle it out once more Saturday, however from reverse sidelines, when the Rams (10-6) play LaFleur’s NFC top-seeded Green Bay Packers (13-3) in a divisional-round playoff at Lambeau Area (4:35 p.m. ET, Fox) of their first battle as head coaches.
“That is one in all my closest associates in life,” LaFleur mentioned about McVay, who will flip 35 later this month. “I like him like a brother.”
The sensation is mutual.
“I like him,” McVay mentioned. “He is like my huge brother, and we have been shut for a very long time.”
The 2 met in 2010 with the Washington Soccer Crew, the place they labored as assistants beneath head coach Mike Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. LaFleur knew the primary time he met McVay that he had a vibrant future.
“I am going to always remember when Coach Shanahan and Kyle had been interviewing him,” LaFleur mentioned. “My workplace sort of butted as much as the offensive employees room, and I might sort of hear them by way of the wall and simply the thrill and enthusiasm and power he had in his voice.”
Collectively for 4 seasons in Washington, their relationship grew past the confines of the follow facility. They lived throughout the road from one another, and McVay usually would drop in on LaFleur and his spouse, BreAnne, for meals.
“I would come third-wheel it with them quite a bit,” McVay mentioned. “They sort of took me beneath their wing.”
Their paths diverged when LaFleur departed to turn out to be the Notre Dame quarterbacks coach in 2014, then took the identical job for 2 seasons with the Atlanta Falcons. When McVay was named coach of the Rams in 2017, he snagged LaFleur to affix him.
“[LaFleur] did an ideal job with me in that second yr, actually pouring into me and giving me all the things he had,” mentioned Rams quarterback Jared Goff, referencing his second NFL season, when he handed for 3,804 yards and 28 touchdowns with seven interceptions. “That is what I’ve all the time appreciated from him, is how onerous he coached me and the way onerous he labored me and the way a lot he believed in me.”
Goff smiled when he thought concerning the dynamic of the McVay-LaFleur relationship.
“They’re actually shut and would get after one another a bit bit typically,” Goff mentioned. “However I do know they’re as shut as anybody, and I feel that is simply the way it works. You guys all have brothers and sisters, you know the way it will get typically.”
“It [was] an ideal match being with them,” Rams large receiver Robert Woods recalled. “Excessive-energy guys, aggressive practices, however actually simply pushing our offense to be the highest offense.”
Nonetheless, after one season in L.A., LaFleur departed for the Tennessee Titans, the place he’d have the identical title and be capable to name performs. After only one season, the Packers named LaFleur head coach.
“Positively noticed it coming along with his offensive thoughts,” Woods mentioned about LaFleur’s head coach potential. “However actually my expertise with him was simply his reference to the cross recreation, encouraging his gamers, constructing confidence and actually encouraging guys to be on the high of their recreation.”
The 41-year-old LaFleur has now coached the Packers to back-to-back playoff appearances, incomes the NFC’s high seed this yr. Behind future Corridor of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the Packers have the NFL’s top-ranked offense, scoring a mean of 30.81 factors per recreation.
The Rams this season have been tormented by inconsistencies on offense and, since Week 17, uncertainty at quarterback, as Goff continues to get better from Dec. 28 surgical procedure on his throwing-hand thumb.
However the Rams doubtless will not should depend on scoring at an aggressive tempo if their top-ranked protection, which is permitting a mean of 18.5 factors per recreation, can have an effect on Rodgers, decelerate receiver Davante Adams and rating. Since Week 12, the Rams’ have scored 5 defensive touchdowns, the perfect within the NFL.
This would be the fifth matchup between the top-ranked scoring offense and the top-ranked scoring protection prior to now 20 postseasons, and the protection has received three of the previous 4 matchups, in accordance with ESPN Stats & Data.
McVay and LaFleur anticipate they will see some acquainted appears to be like from one another’s offense.
“I joke with him about working performs that we ran the earlier week the subsequent week, and I am going to steal from him, too,” McVay mentioned.
However each insist Saturday’s matchup is the Rams versus the Packers, nothing extra. In any case, taking part in previous associates has turn out to be previous hat for every.
Each have confronted their former boss from Washington, Kyle Shanahan — the pinnacle coach of the San Francisco 49ers — a number of occasions, and he is gotten the perfect of them.
Shanahan’s squad has received 4 straight over McVay and the Rams, whereas the 49ers routed the Packers within the common season final yr, then delivered a knockout within the NFC Championship Recreation.
“He is an ideal pal of mine,” LaFleur mentioned about McVay, “however the gloves will likely be off on Saturday.”