TINSMAN: What the Redskins should learn from Matt LaFleur

Brian Tinsman
December 08, 2019 - 8:30 pm
Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur during the 4th quarter against the Washington Redskins.

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Categories: 

There is no actual stat line for “winning off the field,” either in moments of charity or pettiness.

In the aftermath of losing to another former coach (joining the likes of Norv Turner and Kyle Shanahan), the Washington Redskins would be wise to study what makes Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur successful. 

What’s at stake is figuring out what D.C. has been missing since he left. Let’s start with his D.C. accomplishments, including:

  • Robert Griffin III’s record-setting, NFL Rookie of the Year season
  • Building Kirk Cousins’ foundation as an NFL starter
  • The best statistical season of Rex Grossman’s career
  • An almost believable John Beck experiment (just kidding)

When LaFleur got flushed out with the Shanahan regime in 2014, he did so with class. There were no anonymous rumors or tell-all reports. He let his work speak for itself.

Even when media reports connected him to the RGIII-Shanahan drama, internal Redskins sources confirmed that LaFleur was never part of the problem.

He was upset to be associated with the story, taking a year in the college ranks before earning his way back to the NFL. At any level, he makes his quarterbacks comfortable and perform at/above career bests, leaving the narratives to somebody else.

It’s no surprise then, that he spoke highly of his time with the Redskins during his interview with 106.7 The Fan's Grant Paulsen earlier this week. 

“I had a great time there in Washington. I met a lot of great people,” he said, via The Athletic. “I learned a lot of ball there...it was an incredible period of growth for me.”

Unburdened by vengeance, LaFleur was able to guide his Packers to victory, setting up an opportunity to clinch a playoff spot as early as next week. On the other sidelines, the Redskins’ 10th loss officially ended their unlikely path to the playoffs.

While the organization could probably learn something from LaFleur, there are three players who could really benefit from his football-first approach:

Dwayne Haskins: Just five starts into his NFL career, Haskins already has an unusual approach to the media covering the team. Watch his press conferences and you will hear lengthy responses for some reporters and one-word answers for others. He was also quick to call a story in the national media about his preparation, a “BS media narrative,” giving it more attention than a BS story would deserve. This approach could speak to a larger family distrust of the media, including his father’s bizarre stonewalling of a pre-draft interview with a reporter. Whatever the reason, Haskins should ignore the media narrative altogether and focus on being the quarterback of the future.

Derrius Guice: When healthy, running back Guice is a rockstar on the field, and seems like a nice guy off of it. But the frustrations of Redskins nation are starting to wear on him, with him complaining: "It just sucks when I score, or someone else scores, and our team posts a picture to Instagram or Twitter and everything under it is just, 'Fire this, fire that, we suck.'” At some point, he has to stop reading the comment section. The only way to win back fans is to win games. And stay healthy.

Jon Bostic: This might be shooting the messenger, but why would Bostic tell the media that making Aaron Rodgers throw the ball on Sunday is “What it’s going to take to beat (the Packers)?” Rodgers is a Hall of Fame quarterback who has shredded far better defenses than the Redskins. He stopped short of saying the quote motivated him, but Rodgers smiled when asked about it postgame, saying: “Bring it on...if guys want to make us pass, sweet.” 

As the Redskins’ front office prepares for 2020, it needs to prioritize focus: players who have it and coaches who reinforce it. It’s not enough to assemble the best talent if players can’t filter out the noise that comes from the fans, the media, and other teams. 

With any luck, there will be another coach like Matt LaFleur who is able to set the tone.

Brian Tinsman has covered D.C. sports since 2011, both from the team marketing and skeptical fan perspectives. Tweet your criticisms @Brian_Tinsman.

Related: