INDIANAPOLIS — When the Packers hired Matt LaFleur to be their head coach in January, you likely saw the headlines or the chatter on social media:
Rams head coach Sean McVay now had a coaching tree.
McVay himself brushed it aside, at one point saying he was "too young" to have a coaching tree. But given the history between him, LaFleur, and now Zac Taylor as head coach of the Bengals, there's probably an argument to be made in favor of the foliage.
LaFleur, of course, was the Rams' offensive coordinator under McVay during the 2017 season, before L.A. let him out of his contract to make a lateral move in title to coordinate the Titans offense in 2018. Part of the reason that happened was so that LaFleur could become a full-time playcaller for the first time in his career.
That worked out well for LaFleur, who said at the NFL Combine on Wednesday that he "learned a lot" as the Titans' OC.
And it's part of why LaFleur was so complimentary of McVay when asked about his takeaways from working with the Rams' head coach both in L.A. and in Washington under former head coach Mike Shanahan.
"Sean is a tremendous leader," LaFleur said. "I think a lot gets made about his age and what not — I think he's wise beyond his years. I just learned so much from him in terms of how important that communication is — not only with your staff, but with your players — and developing relationships, and, ultimately, being true to yourself. What you see is what you get from him. And he is a genuine guy. I think the guys, they love playing for him. And I can speak to being on the same staff as him — I loved coaching with him. He's just a genuine guy and he's made of the right stuff."
LaFleur and McVay shared only one year together in Los Angeles, but they were a part of the same staff in Washington from 2010-2013 — with LaFleur as the quarterbacks coach and McVay as the tight ends coach. San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan was also on that staff under his father as the team's offensive coordinator — which makes three head coaches out of that offensive group.
"It's kind of surreal," LaFleur said of that fact. "And it's something that — not that we have a lot of time to sit back and reflect — but it is pretty cool to see some of your closest friends in life, and you're all kind of living your dream. And, you know, it's going to be even more fun when we compete against each other on Sundays. But, no, it's a really cool experience."
And not that they're exactly exchanging tips on scheme and opponents at this point, but given that the three men are friends, LaFleur said he's been able to lean on both McVay and Shanahan in his first couple months on the job.
"[I]t certainly is helpful for me to have guys like that, that have already gone through this process — because it's something that, there's stuff that comes up that I've got to bounce off those guys," LaFleur said. "So it's a huge advantage for me having those two guys in place that have already gone through it."
Check out photos of Los Angeles Rams players at the NFL Combine through the years. (Credit: Associated Press)