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.
“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.”