GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP)The Green Bay Packers on Sunday will host the Washington Redskins, a club Packers coach Matt LaFleur knows all too well.
LaFleur’s first NFL job was with the Houston Texans. He was hired as an offensive assistant in 2008 by then Texans coach Gary Kubiak after LaFleur spent a season as the offensive coordinator at Ashland, a Division II program in Ashland, Ohio.
LaFleur served as an offensive assistant with the Texans, lending his help to both the wide receivers and quarterbacks. But it was in Washington where LaFleur made his first true mark in the league.
After developing a close relationship with then-Texans offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, LaFleur joined Shanahan in Washington when Shanahan’s father, Mike, was hired as Redskins head coach and vice president of football operations in 2010.
”Yeah, that was pretty much my foundation in this league,” LaFleur said. ”I got the opportunity to work with a lot of great people: Mike Shanahan and some of my closest friends in this business and in life, Sean McVay, Kyle Shanahan, Mike McDaniel. There was a lot of good people. It was a really great learning experience for me.”
The 40-year-old LaFleur, who played wide receiver at Western Michigan and quarterback at Division II Saginaw Valley State, coached quarterbacks for Washington from 2010-13. His primary responsibility was to mentor rookies Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins during the 2012 season.
Under LaFleur, Griffin III set records for the highest passer rating (102.4) and touchdown-to-interception ratio (20-5) by a rookie quarterback. Griffin III went on to win Offensive Rookie of the Year and was voted to the 2013 Pro Bowl.
”It was nothing more than the task at hand and just trying to be the best quarterbacks coach I could be,” LaFleur said.
Washington has changed a bit since then. Mike Shanahan is out of the league and Bill Callahan is now leading the Redskins’ charge. Sean McVay led the Los Angeles Rams to the Super Bowl last season and Kyle Shanahan has his own team in San Francisco.
”There’s so many things that I learned from him,” LaFleur said of Kyle Shanahan. ”But I think just his detailed approach that he takes every day. He’s a guy that has a great vision for what he wants to get done, how to use players, how to adapt and put people in the right position. A lot of my football philosophy has been shaped by him so it’s hard to sit here and just say one thing that I’ve learned from him because there’s been so much.”
Shanahan’s 49ers, who are tied for the best record in the league at 10-2, thumped LaFleur’s 9-3 Packers 37-8 in Week 12. Mike McDaniel is on Shanahan’s staff as the run game coordinator, while LaFleur’s younger brother, Mike, is the passing game coordinator.
Griffin and Cousins are no longer under center in Washington. Griffin is backing up star QB Lamar Jackson in Baltimore and Cousins is in LaFleur’s division in Minnesota. But LaFleur knows all about the Redskins’ new quarterback, rookie Dwayne Haskins.
”He’s an up-and-coming guy,” LaFleur said. ”He’s led them to two wins, back to back. The sky’s the limit for him. He’s a talented player. That’s why he went in the first round.”
With a win on Sunday, LaFleur would pass Mike Holmgren and Mike Sherman (9-7) for the most wins by a Packers head coach in their first NFL season.
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