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Silver details how pursuit of Rodgers caused drama between Shanahan, LaFleurs

© Stan Szeto | 2019 Nov 24

When personal relationships and business get tangled together, things can get awkward. That’s apparently what happened this offseason during the 49ers and Kyle Shanahan’s soft pursuit of Aaron Rodgers.

Shanahan is longtime friends with the LaFleur brothers, Mike and Matt. Mike was one of Shanahan’s lead assistants in San Francisco until he took the offensive coordinator job with the Jets this offseason. Mike and Kyle go way back, the two worked together since they were both with the Browns in 2014.

Matt is the head coach of the Green Bay Packers, and worked with Shanahan in 2010-2013 with the Washington Football Team, serving as the Quarterbacks Coach with Shanahan as the Offensive Coordinator.

The three have been close for a long time, but that friendship was strained this offseason according to a report by Mike Silver of NFL Network. It centered around reports that Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers wanted to be traded just days before the NFL Draft. Upon hearing these rumors, Shanahan called up his buddy Matt to inquire as to his availability. The 49ers were planning on drafting a QB at No. 3 overall, but the prospect of Rodgers being available via trade would change the calculation.

Apparently, Matt LaFleur didn’t return the call, something that contributed to an awkward incident just minutes before the NFL Draft. Via Silver:

THREAD 1) On Wednesday, Packers coach Matt LaFleur said he holds no ill will toward 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan, his longtime colleague & friend, in the wake of the Niners’ offseason pursuit of Aaron Rodgers. Shanahan also downplayed any tension. The two teams play Sunday night…

2) But the Rodgers situation caused a lot of drama between LaFleur, Shanahan and their mutual friends and coaching colleagues last spring, and one story in particular–which took place on the first night of the draft–underscores that strain…

3) Minutes before the start of the 2021 draft, 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel was having a FaceTime conversation in his office with two former SF assistants: Jets HC Robert Saleh & Jets OC Mike LaFleur (Matt’s younger brother), who were together in Florham Park, NJ…

4) McDaniel’s office door was open, and some other Niners coaches walked into the room. Playful banter was exchanged by both sides. Then Shanahan entered McDaniel’s office and joined the conversation.

5) A couple of hours earlier, the NFL world had been rocked by reports of Aaron Rodgers’ desire to leave Green Bay–and a report that the 49ers had called the Packers (Shanahan, to LaFleur) to inquire about a trade. Now the Niners were getting ready to pick a QB third overall…

6) The Jets, with the No. 2 pick, were expected to take BYU QB Zach Wilson. Shanahan joked to Saleh and (Mike) LaFleur: “I hope you guys don’t take a different QB and cross us up. We haven’t looked hard enough at Wilson.”…

7) “What do you mean? You’ve already got your quarterback,” Mike LaFleur replied to Shanahan. “Aaron Rodgers.” Shanahan tried to brush it off as a joke, saying, “Hey, tell your brother to call me back. He hasn’t returned my calls.” LaFleur’s response: “Can you blame him?”…

8) At that point, according to several people familiar with the call, Shanahan got visibly upset and hastily left the room. In his eyes, he had merely done due diligence on behalf of his franchise. But it was clear to all that Matt LaFleur viewed it differently…

9) The fact that Rodgers and Niners GM John Lynch share an agent, David Dunn, contributed to the perception that there had been a coordinated effort to get Rodgers from the Packers to the Niners. And to Mike LaFleur, blood is clearly thicker than water…

10) As Sunday night’s game approaches, it’s heartening that Matt LaFleur and Shanahan are publicly downplaying any tension. They’re both accomplished coaches and have a lot of history, & the NFL is a stressful business. And Rodgers, for now, remains property of the Packers. (END)

It sounds like Matt LaFleur thought Shanahan, John Lynch and the 49ers organization was going behind his back and colluding with Rodgers, to try and force Green Bay’s hand in trading him. Ultimately, Rodgers stood pat, the 49ers drafted Trey Lance, and the two sides have, allegedly, moved on.

The NFL is a high-stakes and ruthless business, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise when feelings get hurt in the name of coaches and executives doing whatever they can to try and improve their teams.

 

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