INDIANAPOLIS - Mike LaFleur signed a contract extension to remain with the San Francisco 49ers shortly before the Super Bowl.
Matt LaFleur has not hired a wide receivers coach since firing Alvis Whitted shortly after the NFC championship game.
Was the Green Bay Packers head coach at any time expecting his brother to fill the vacancy once the 49ers’ season was over?
“We did not talk about it (this offseason),” Matt LaFleur said at the NFL scouting combine Tuesday. “It (firing Whitted) had no bearing. I have no idea what you're talking about.”
Though 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan blocked Mike LaFleur from leaving a year ago when Matt got the Packers job, he agreed to let Mike’s contract run out so that he could join Matt this season if he wanted.
“It would've happened eventually,” Shanahan said. “Mike and I are close, and Matt and I are very close. It was something we all talked about for a while. I know the emotion of going to work with a family member is very high at first. I think the more we all talked about it, we thought it was better situation for him to stay.”
Shanahan knows personally what it means to coach with family. He served with Matt LaFleur under his father, Mike Shanahan, in Washington.
If Matt LaFleur had been able to bring in his brother to Green Bay, he probably would have had to give him a coordinator’s title, because he is passing game coordinator with the 49ers. It would have been a step down to take just a receivers position.
LaFleur already has an offensive coordinator (Nathaniel Hackett), and that might have complicated matters and made it a bad time for a reunion.
Matt flew to Miami to spend time with the LaFleur family during Super Bowl week and had to know then, if not earlier, that Mike was staying. His deal with the 49ers was leaked a day before the Super Bowl.
Shanahan said he left the door open for Mike to join Matt, but Mike chose San Francisco.
“When we gave him a new (contract) in January, he didn't want to go somewhere else,” Shanahan said. “He wanted to be here."
As for the receivers coach opening, LaFleur said a move is coming. He didn’t rule out hiring someone with lots of experience to help his young receivers corps.
“I think it’s more about fit,” LaFleur said. “We’ve got a lot of guys that have a lot of experience. It’s just trying to find the right fit, not only for our staff but for our players, and for them to go out and perform at their best.”
Pettine’s job never in danger
Despite the Packers' inability to stop the 49ers' rushing game (285 yards) during a 37-20 blowout loss in the NFC championship game, LaFleur said he did not think defensive coordinator Mike Pettine deserved to shoulder the blame.
And he never considered firing Pettine afterward.
“There was never a doubt,” he said. “I mean, I’m not going to make a rash decision on one game. I think our defense did a lot of great things (in 2019). There are areas we have to improve upon, but it’s not just defensively. It’s on offense and on special teams as well.
“I’ve been able to spend a lot of time in the defensive room (this offseason) and kind of get a different perspective than I’ve had in comparison to last year.”
Joint practice deal close
LaFleur said he had an agreement with another team for a joint practice during training camp, but he wanted to wait for NFL approval before announcing it.
Since the NFL could have different training camp rules if it reaches a collective bargaining agreement with the players’ union, it doesn’t make sense to finalize plans. After hosting the Houston Texans last year, LaFleur expressed a desire to practice against another team every training camp.
“It's good to change the scenery a little bit and go against a different scheme,” LaFleur said. “You try not to scheme up your own team on a daily basis. It's more or less about trying to build on your foundation and get good at the core concepts you're going to run throughout the season, really in all three phases.
“It gives you somebody else to go against and tests those concepts against somebody else.”
Keeping calls short
Among the things that were different between LaFleur’s offense and former coach Mike McCarthy’s was the way play calls were made in the huddle.
LaFleur’s calls were much longer and quarterback Aaron Rodgers needed to wear a wrist band to help him remember all the words. And there were many times Rodgers had to burn a timeout or take a delay call because the team was late getting to the line of scrimmage.
The Packers were penalized 12 times for delay of game, most of which came on offense.
This offseason, LaFleur said he and his staff are working to change the verbiage.
“I think a byproduct of the schemes that these college kids are coming from, there’s not a lot of talking going on,” he said. “It might be all signals. The more we can shrink that verbiage, I think that’ll allow our players to go out there and play.
“It’ll get us in and out of the huddle a little bit faster and then go out there and play a little bit faster.”
Crosby’s return welcomed
The decision to hand kicker Mason Crosby a three-year, $12.9 million contract extension was a critical one, LaFleur said.
“Obviously, here’s a guy that’s been doing it for a really long time at a high level, had the best year of his career, and I just think the continuity with our three specialists is huge,” he said. “He’s been through everything. There’s nothing he hasn’t seen. He came up big for us last season, and we expect the same in the future.”
According to an NFL source, Crosby’s deal featured a $3 million signing bonus and $3 million in base salary, roster, workout and 46-man roster bonuses in 2020. He will earn $3.5 million in ’21 and $3.5 million in ’22.
His salary cap number for ’20 will be $4 million, which is lower than his 2019 cap number of $4.85 million.
He made $3.6 million in salary and bonuses last year.