Considering they worked together for five years (four in Washington and one in Los Angeles), it likely comes as no surprise that Packers head coach Matt LaFleur thinks of Rams head coach Sean McVay as family.
On Saturday, the two will face off as head coaches for the first time as the Packers host the Rams in the divisional round of the playoffs (1:35 p.m. PT, FOX).
"That's one of my closest friends in life," LaFleur said on a video conference with Green Bay and L.A. media Tuesday. "I love him like a brother. We got pretty tight in our time in Washington. He lived right across the street from me there, and he'd come over quite a bit, and my wife and I would have dinner together (with him) quite a bit. So he's a great friend of mine, but the gloves will be off on Saturday."
Before becoming head coach of the Packers in 2019, LaFluer was the Rams' offensive coordinator in McVay's first season in L.A. (2017) and also worked with him in Washington from 2010-13.
LaFleur knew right away McVay would be a head coach someday.
"I'll never forget when (then-Washington head) coach (Mike) Shanahan and (offensive coordinator) Kyle (Shanahan) were interviewing him, my office kind of butted up to the offensive staff room, and I could kind of hear him through the wall and just the excitement and enthusiasm and energy he had in his voice," LaFluer said. "And then you get to sit down with him. Everybody knows about his memory and everything that's associated with that, but his ability to connect with people, I think that's special. He's an excellent communicator, so you knew quite quickly that he was destined to be a head coach in this league."
In Los Angeles, the two worked together to produce the NFL's No. 1 scoring offense (29.9 points per game) and No. 10 total offense (361.5 yards per game) in the 2017 regular season as the Rams clinched their first playoff berth since 2004.
That work led to LaFleur becoming the Titans' offensive coordinator in 2018 before replacing Mike McCarthy as the Packers' head coach in 2019.
LaFleur said his time working with McVay three years ago was a "great learning experience" and a "great time for growth personally." It was a work relationship built on honesty and mutual respect.
"He and I never battled each other," LaFleur said, before pausing a couple seconds for effect. "Just kidding. Every day was a battle. That's what's fun about this, though. You can challenge each other, and that's how you grow. You know the intentions of the other person. Just like family, you don't hold anything back when you have complete trust in who you're talking to. You're just trying to work as hard as you can in the best interest of the team, or trying to do things the best way possible. It's no different than when I sometimes work with my wife at home."
While the matchup between the two individuals makes for a fun storyline, LaFleur emphasized that at the end of the day, the game is about the Packers and the Rams.
"It's a blessing and a curse at the same time," LaFleur said, when asked if there was "extra juice" to a game against someone who is like family. "It's a blessing, the fact that we're even in these positions and you're in the National Football League and you're in the playoffs, but I mean, ultimately, the sole focus is on the Green Bay Packers versus the LA Rams. It doesn't matter who you're playing. The urgency, the intensity (that) typically comes playoff time, it gets amped up. So we're just excited to go out there on Saturday and compete against one of the best teams in (pro) ball."