It's been a whirlwind few weeks for Los Angeles' new offensive coordinator, Matt LaFleur. From coaching Atlanta's quarterbacks in Super Bowl LI to now studying film in his Thousand Oaks office, LaFleur is getting up to speed on everything Rams.
"There's so much evaluation that needs to [go on], especially for myself — I know there's other guys who have a better feel for our roster than I do right now, to be honest with you, but there's a ton of evaluation that's taking place as we speak," LaFleur said Thursday, having arrived in Southern California at the beginning of the week. "I think I'll have a better feel a week or two from now."
LaFleur and head coach Sean McVay know each other well from their shared time in Washington from 2010-2013, when they worked under Mike and Kyle Shanahan. But that friendship is a significant part of why LaFleur elected to depart the Falcons.
"We've developed a pretty strong relationship. I think there's a mutual respect for our coaching abilities," LaFleur said. "It was just one of those deals where I was fortunate enough to work for a great organization and Dan Quinn, he allowed me the opportunity to further my career as well."
"He's a guy that [I was] able to develop a really close relationship with in Washington," McVay said last week. "Detail oriented, good communicator, been around some of the most productive offenses over the last couple of years. You look at what Atlanta was able to do. A lot of the things that we do philosophically will be very similar."
McVay and LaFleur's shared experiences should help both in coming up with a playbook for Los Angeles' offense. But that does necessarily mean the process will be easy.
"There's going to be a ton of work," LaFleur said. "As coaches, you always feel like you're behind the eight ball. I'm confident that we're going to carve out enough time and have a very detailed, thorough plan that's well thought together.
"It truly will be a system that is going to marry the run with the pass," LaFleur continued. "I know we both believe in that, and the benefits that it gives, really, not only the quarterback, but all the players on our team."
At this point in the offseason, McVay has already stated he plans on calling the Rams' offensive plays, so that is one duty LaFleur will not have as offensive coordinator. LaFleur envisions his job as making sure the offense stays up to task during the season.
"A big thing that I'm going to have to do is try to help organize and kind of like set the table for Sean, because he's not always going to be able to be with us," LaFleur said. "There's many more obligations and duties as a head coach. Just make sure that the rest of the staff, we're all on the same page, kind of lay the table for him."
He also expects to be spending plenty of time in the quarterbacks room, given that it's his area of expertise. LaFleur's spent six years as a QBs coach in the NFL.
"We haven't really totally discussed all of the responsibilities but I would think I that I'll be heavily involved in dealing with the quarterbacks," LaFleur said. "It was the same way when I was with Kyle in Washington and in Atlanta. He was heavily involved. Because you want to know what the, and I think Sean will be, too. You want to know what the play-callers are thinking. It's only going to help the quarterback."
With McVay, LaFleur, and quarterbacks coach Greg Olson all experienced in bringing up signal-callers, there will be plenty of coaching available for 2016 No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff. And those three voices don't expect an issue when it comes to conveying one consistent message in teaching the system.
"I don't think so because [I've] got a lot of respect for 'Oly,'" LaFleur said. "Obviously, he's been a coordinator for a long time, quarterback coach. We've had a lot of discussions and I think we all see the position the same way. So when you see it the same as the other guys it makes for a much easier transition."
"That's why it's very important to have Matt and Greg in place where if you're not able to be a part of the offensive meetings, or whatever is going on, you trust that their leadership will continue to have that same messaging, so that our quarterbacks know exactly what the expectations are," McVay said. "I don't think you can have enough good coaches in the building."
As for Goff, LaFleur said he's looking forward to working with the second-year QB. LaFleur relayed he studied Goff during the 2016 pre-draft process, and now has been taking a close look at his Rams game film.
"From what I've seen on tape, he's got some of the key attributes that you always look for in a quarterback. He's a natural thrower," LaFleur said. "You never want to see your quarterback getting hit too much, but he doesn't shy from contact. I think that's true of any good quarterback in this league. You have to be able to hang in there in some uncomfortable pockets and some uncomfortable situations where you're going to take a hit and deliver the football. He's proven that he'll do that on tape."
LaFleur anticipates his experience with coaching quarterbacks — like 2016 NFL MVP Matt Ryan in Atlanta — should aid his ability to help develop Goff.
"I was in Washington when we drafted Robert Griffin and Kurt Cousins, so, to help them through, we worked together with those guys for two guys," LaFleur said. "It's going to help me in this situation dealing with a second-year player."
"I think I've grown a ton from the time I was working with those guys, then you do work with a veteran like Matt Ryan and you have a Matt Schaub in the room, who is a veteran quarterback that's played at a really high-level himself and you just take everything you learn from all those situations," he continued. "I think it's only going to help me dealing with a second-year quarterback that really, truly, has rookie-like experience."
And so LaFleur enters his new job as one of many tasked to help turn around the Rams' offense. But what will it take to make L.A. a consistent performer?
"I don't think you really truly know until you start to work with these guys. We have a system that we're going to put in place," LaFleur said. "But I think at the end of the day, you have to be able to adapt to the players that you have and put them in the best position to be successful."