49ers

How 49ers, Packers' offseason moves were 'win-win' for LaFleur brothers

How 49ers, Packers' offseason moves were 'win-win' for LaFleur brothers

SANTA CLARA -- Either way, Mike LaFleur would have a significant role this week and Sunday night when the 49ers face the Green Bay Packers in a key game for positioning in the NFC playoffs.

LaFleur says he is happy with how everything worked out for himself and his brother, Matt LaFleur, the Packers’ first-year head coach.

Shortly after Matt LaFleur was tabbed as the surprise pick to coach the Packers, he reached out to the 49ers to hire his brother.

Mike LaFleur, 32, would have been a non-play-calling coordinator with the Packers. He has held a similar position with the 49ers since immediately following the 2017 season when he was promoted to passing game coordinator.

But 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan turned down the Packers’ request because Mike LaFleur would not have been in line for a promotion. Shanahan did not want to lose a valuable resource who remained under contract to the 49ers.

“It was cool -- honestly,” Mike LaFleur said on The 49ers Insider Podcast. “I have so much respect for Kyle. I love being here. I love working here. I love living in this area. It was really a non-story for me.

“Obviously, it just kind of blew up. Matt put the request in there, and I understand he trusts me and he wanted me obviously to go to Green Bay with him. But he got a great coordinator in Nate Hackett. And I got to stay here. It’s a win-win for everybody. It’s awesome.”

The 49ers (9-1) face the Packers (8-2) on Sunday night at Levi’s Stadium in a game rich with longtime football connections and friendships.

The Packers’ head coach and 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh became close friends in 2004 when they served as unpaid graduate assistant coaches at Central Michigan University. When Saleh ended up with the Houston Texans several years later and the Texans were looking for an entry level offensive coach, he recommended Matt LaFleur.

The offensive coordinator of that team was Kyle Shanahan.

Matt LaFleur subsequently became a trusted Shanahan assistant at Washington. When the coaching staff was fired following the 2013 season, LaFleur became offensive coordinator at Notre Dame.

Shanahan reached out to Matt LaFleur to see if his younger brother, Mike, would be interested in joining his staff with the Cleveland Browns as a quality control coach. Matt LaFleur immediately accepted the job on his brother’s behalf. Mike LaFleur was the offensive coordinator at Davidson at the time.

“It was a Sunday night and my wife was sleeping, and I got a call from Matt and he said, ‘Hey, you’re going to Cleveland,’ “ Mike LaFleur said.

The next day, Mike LaFleur drove to Cleveland. One year later, he made the move with Kyle Shanahan to the Atlanta Falcons. Mike and Matt LaFleur served two seasons together on the Falcons’ staff for before Matt went to the Los Angeles Rams in 2017 with Sean McVay. Mike followed Shanahan to the 49ers.

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“He’s always looked after me more than he’s looked out for himself,” Mike said of his older brother. “And I like to think that I’d do the same for him.

“Obviously, this week, we both have a job to do the whole week and on Sunday for our organizations we work for. I love him, and I know he feels the same, and he’s always had my back.”

49ers vs. Saints live stream: How to watch NFL Week 14 game lonline

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49ers vs. Saints live stream: How to watch NFL Week 14 game lonline

The 49ers are almost through the gauntlet. 

A three-week stretch against Super Bowl contenders concludes Sunday in New Orleans against the Saints, the NFC's No. 1 seed. The 49ers passed their first test against the Green Bay Packers, but San Francisco lost for just the second time this season last week against Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens. 

A loss to the Saints would all but eliminate the 49ers in pursuit of home-field advantage through the entirety of the NFC playoffs, and they'd be rooting even harder for the Seattle Seahawks to lose to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday night. A win, however, would set the 49ers up for a potential winner-take-all clash for NFC supremacy in Week 17 against the Seahawks. 

[RELATED: 49ers' Kittle on pace for best tight end season in PFF era]

Here's how to watch the 49ers-Saints game online and on TV. 

Start time: Sunday, Dec. 8, at 10:00 a.m. PT
TV Channel: FOX
Live Stream: fuboTV -- Get a free trial

49ers' George Kittle on pace for one of best seasons ever by tight end

49ers' George Kittle on pace for one of best seasons ever by tight end

George Kittle is keeping elite company this season, according to Pro Football Focus.

The 49ers tight end has earned a 93.8 grade from the analytics site so far this season. If that grade holds, Kittle will have had the best season at the position since they started grading players in 2006. 

Though Kittle is far off his record-setting receiving pace from a year ago, he has graded out better than he did in 2018. Kittle finished his second NFL season with an 89.8 grade from Pro Football Focus, and he ranked 13th in the site's top 101 players. 

PFF's methodology is just a bit more detailed than Doug Gottlieb's. Each player graded on a game-by-game basis by three separate analysts whose evaluations are "verified" by a network of former coaches, according to the site. Kittle has been a darling by PFF's metrics all season, grading out as the NFL's best player through the first four weeks of the season. 

[RELATED: Ravens' Harbaugh reacts to Ryan's Jackson comments]

Kittle will have his hands full Sunday against the New Orleans Saints. He's set to match up against Cam Jordan while run-blocking and New Orleans has allowed the 13th-fewest receiving yards against tight ends this season. Saints coach Sean Payton praised Kittle's versatility earlier this week, indicating that New Orleans is focused on slowing the tight end down in order to limit the 49ers' offense. 

As Kittle's grade shows, that'll be a tall order for the NFC's No. 1 seed.