Will the Rams' new offense be influenced by 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan?
New Rams offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur remembers the phone call.
In 2010, after Sean McVay interviewed for an NFL quality-control coaching job, Washington assistant Matt LaFleur called his younger brother to rave about the candidate.
“I think we all know what he was kind of talking about,” Mike LaFleur said of Matt, now coach of the Green Bay Packers, on Tuesday during a videoconference with reporters.
Thirteen years after learning about the then-precocious McVay, LaFleur is preparing to work side by side with him as the Rams attempt to rebound from a disastrous 5-12 record, the worst season-after performance by a Super Bowl champion in NFL history.
LaFleur replaces Liam Coen, who left the Rams' staff after one season to return as offensive coordinator and play-caller at Kentucky.
LaFleur, who turns 36 next month, spent the last two seasons as the New York Jets' offensive coordinator and play-caller, a relationship that ended after the team finished 7-10 under second-year coach Robert Saleh.
The Jets ranked 25th in total offense, 15th in passing, 26th in rushing and 29th in scoring.
“There were things I won’t share in terms of what I would do differently or anything like that,” LaFleur said, “but it was a great learning experience about building a roster with a lot of youth and I was proud of a lot of things we did.”
McVay has given no indication that he will cede play-calling duties. So, as with those who have preceded LaFleur in the titled offensive coordinator position, LaFleur's role is expected to be largely administrative.
The Rams' staff also includes associate head coach Thomas Brown, senior offensive assistant Greg Olson and quarterbacks coach Zac Robinson, all of whom McVay passed over to hire LaFleur.
Accepting McVay’s offer with the Rams was “a pretty simple decision,” LaFleur said.
“You’re going into an organization that has won, knows how to win, wants to win, has the right process and culture in place to win,” LaFleur said.
LaFleur met McVay during Washington’s organized team activities in 2010, when LaFleur was the quarterbacks coach at St. Joseph’s College, a Division II program in Indiana.
Five years later, LaFleur became an offensive assistant with the Atlanta Falcons, for whom Kyle Shanahan was offensive coordinator.
In 2017, LaFleur followed Shanahan to the San Francisco 49ers, while his brother joined McVay’s first Rams staff as offensive coordinator.
Mike LaFleur said he remained in contact with McVay through the years.
“Whether it be schematically or just catching up real quick,” LaFleur said.
LaFleur indicated he was prepared for a role that will not include play-calling. His immediate focus is on helping McVay complete his coaching staff — the Rams remain in search of an offensive line coach — getting to know the roster, and finding a home for his family and school for his children.
During the season, “I’m going to be there to support and do my part,” he said.
LaFleur will be charged with helping improve an offense that was beset by injuries and ranked last in the NFL in total yards per game. The Rams were 27th in passing yards, rushing yards and points per game.
LaFleur will go from tutoring young Jets quarterback Zach Wilson to working with Matthew Stafford, a 14-year veteran. Stafford, sidelined the latter part of the season because of a spinal cord contusion, is expected to be a full participant in offseason workouts.
“A lot of times, coaches can teach players a lot of things, but in more instances, players can teach coaches a lot of things too," LaFleur said. "So I'm excited to get working with him, learn from him, and whatever I can provide for him, I'm going to do.
"I can't wait to start building that relationship with him.”
Star wide receiver Cooper Kupp also is expected to be recovered from a season-ending ankle injury.
LaFleur is excited about adding to the principles of an offensive system that has been used in San Francisco, Green Bay and New York.
“Everyone takes it, and individually you’re going to make it match for what you believe, but you also more importantly got to make it match to what your players are and what your roster are,” LaFleur said. “And that’s what Sean has done better than anyone …
“So, it will just be fun to start to kind of mesh that up for what we’re going to see from this 2023 version.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.