Mike Lafleur

Best friends Matt LaFleur, Robert Saleh face off in Packers-49ers showdown

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USATSI

Best friends Matt LaFleur, Robert Saleh face off in Packers-49ers showdown

SANTA CLARA – Matt LaFleur and Robert Saleh are best friends, so it would be no surprise that one had a favor to ask of the other this week.

“I was messing with him the other day,” LaFleur said Wednesday on a conference call with Bay Area reporters. “I asked him to call me. I shot him a text message. I said, ‘Hey, would you give me a call? I have a couple questions about your defense.’”

LaFleur, 40, is the head coach and offensive play-caller for the Green Bay Packers. Saleh, 40, is the 49ers’ defensive coordinator. The two will face off Sunday night at Levi’s Stadium.

“That was the last of the communication,” LaFleur said.

LaFleur and Saleh served as graduate assistants on Brian Kelly’s 2004 staff at Central Michigan in LaFleur’s hometown of Mount Pleasant, Michigan.

Saleh began work for the Houston Texans in an entry-level position in 2005. LaFleur joined the Texans’ staff as a quality control coach in 2008 after Saleh gave him a recommendation for the job.

LaFleur, whose brother Mike is the passing game coordinator for the 49ers, is in his first year as head coach of the Packers. Saleh is being talked about as a person who will receive interest as soon as this offseason for any and all NFL head-coaching vacancies.

Matt LaFleur's offense will be going head-to-head against Saleh’s defense on Sunday in a game with huge NFC playoff implications. The 49ers are 9-1 and atop the NFC West, while the Packers lead the NFC North with an 8-2 mark.

The Packers coach has known Saleh well for more than a decade, and he is impressed with the alterations he has made to his defensive scheme this season with the 49ers.

[RELATED: How 49ers, Packers gave LaFleur bros 'win-win' situation]

“It’s definitely evolved from the background being Seattle, Jacksonville,” LaFleur said of Saleh. “He’s implemented some more two safety looks and changed some of the rules up. I think he’s done a heck of a job with it.

“You talk about one of the more sound systems in this league, I think that’s a big reason they haven’t given big plays. It’s extremely difficult to get those big plays on that defense. That’s a credit to Robert and his staff, and there are some pretty damn good players on that side of the ball, too.”

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.

[RELATED: How Jimmy G joined Montana, Young in 49ers history books]

“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.”

Matt LaFleur addresses Kyle Shanahan not allowing him to hire brother

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AP

Matt LaFleur addresses Kyle Shanahan not allowing him to hire brother

INDIANAPOLIS — Green Bay Packers coach Matt LaFleur did not intend on trying to take away one of Kyle Shanahan’s top assistant coaches.

And, ultimately, Shanahan did not let him.

LaFleur contacted the 49ers about hiring his younger brother, Mike LaFleur, to become Packers offensive coordinator.

When asked Wednesday at the NFL Scouting Combine how that conversation went with Shanahan, LaFleur answered, “Obviously, it didn’t go very well.”

The 49ers denied permission for LaFleur to hire his brother, who remained under contract with the 49ers. Mike LaFleur is the 49ers passing game coordinator.

LaFleur said hiring his brother was not part of his plan when he interviewed with the Packers — and was announced as the team’s surprise hire.

“It really wasn’t something I anticipated leading up to the interview because I didn’t know how the Packers would take it,” LaFleur said “I got a lot of respect for my brother and I know he does a great job and I think that’s the reason they didn’t want to let him out of San Francisco.

“I think in the end it’s probably going to work out for the better for both of us.”

LaFleur said he believes Shanahan struggled with denying the brothers an opportunity to work with each other — for now.

[RELATED: Shanahan finalizes coaching staff]

“He’s done a lot for myself and my brother throughout our careers. Certainly, I know that kind of tugged on his heartstrings a little bit,” LaFleur said

“He (Shanahan) had the opportunity to coach with his with his father in Washington for the four years we were together I know it wasn’t easy on him (to deny permission).”