THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – In 2010-11, Mike LaFleur was coaching at Division II Saint Joseph's College in Rensselaer, Indiana while older brother and future Packers head coach Matt LaFleur, future 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan and future Rams head coach Sean McVay were on staff together in the NFL in Washington.
Mike had recently graduated college, and because of his situation at that time – married, but no kids yet – he could easily fly out to the East Coast and sit in film rooms with that trio to pick their brains and get valuable knowledge.
"You think you know what's going on as a college football player, then you quickly realize you know nothing," Mike told theRams.com Tuesday. "I was an offensive coordinator at a D-2 school in the middle of Indiana, and so anytime I had a little bit of time on our spring breaks and stuff like that, I had no children at the time, so it was easy to convince my wife, can I leave for a week and spend a week or two out with OTAs, and sit in that film room, and just sit there and learn, and just be kind of in awe of how many smart people could be in one room. And then not only that, but then just pick up on how important it was for them, not only to have good schemes and all that, but how important is to develop these players. So it was a great learning lesson at a young age, and then you fast forward 10 years later, and obviously got to know Sean at that time, along with a lot of those guys, but him and I being the closest in age, we could potentially relate a little bit more to each other than my brother (who) is eight years older. So it was a good experience."
Now, Mike is reuniting with McVay as the Rams' new offensive coordinator.
Mike said he and McVay have always stayed in touch over the years, and also talked about the possibility of working together if things lined up perfectly. When that opportunity arose last month after Mike and the Jets parted ways, the Rams fit what he was looking for.
"I couldn't be happier," Mike said. "If I could have picked (out) of all the teams, there wouldn't have been one that I would have rather gone to than here, for obvious reasons. They know how to win in this building, and there's a lot of great people in this building. And when you can check those boxes and be genuine as a coach, as a player, as a staff member, what else would you want? So it was a really good process, somewhat of a quick process, but it was done the right way and excited to be here."
While with the Jets, Mike worked with one of the youngest offenses in the NFL. It's a contrast to the personnel on the Rams' roster, but LaFleur has had experience working with experienced rosters as well.
Mike said that his first year with the 49ers in 2017, they intentionally built a veteran-heavy roster. While the Jets chose to go young, Mike said he "wouldn't change that for anything" because of what the experience taught him.
"It was a great learning experience on a lot of different levels," Mike said of his time in New York. "They're gonna win a lot of football games there, as that young core continues to develop, and you wish them all the best, but it was a great learning experience. You quickly remember what young guys don't know, and how the experiences of every facet of it, not just on Sundays, but building it the right way – what to eat, when to go to bed, all those little things that sometimes you can take for granted – and when you don't a lot of times have the veterans to teach them that, you got to teach them that as coaches. Again, a great learning experience, something I'll never forget and a lot of good that I took from there, but now it's it's a different experience, coming into a situation where you have more of a veteran group. We're still going to mix it in with the youth and kind of go from there."
Of course, the learning doesn't stop at one job or one location. Just like he learned from his time around younger players in New York, he'll also be absorbing knowledge from veterans like quarterback Matthew Stafford, wide receiver Cooper Kupp and tight end Tyler Higbee in Los Angeles.
"It'll just be different from the last two years, right," Mike said. "You got a group that's won a lot of games, you got a group that's won a Super Bowl, that has been in big games for the better part of six years, right? So it will be fun to get working with these guys and learning from them. As coaches, you learn from these players as much as the players learn from the coaches, particularly when there's vets like Matthew, like Kupp, that see the game in such a great way. Higbee, I mean, how many times he's made so many great plays against teams that I've been on the opposite end of. It'll be good to get to know these guys and get to working with them."
Asked about how playcalling duties will be handled, Mike said that he and McVay "will continue to talk about all that," but the plan for now is for McVay to continue doing so. Still, that's not what's top of mind for Mike as he gets settled into his new job.
"My job right now is not even worrying about any of that," Mike said. "Trying to get with Sean and the rest of this staff, trying to figure out A) the roster, (and) B) what we're going to do offensively moving forward for this next team. So it's not even on the forefront of my mind, I don't even really care right now. It's just getting this thing, this foundation going for the next season."