I wanted to take some time during the slow season to introduce the San Francisco 49ers newest position coaches. I will be going through them one at a time. Hopefully it helps those that do not know much about them. I have decided to combine Mike LaFleur and Mike McDaniels since I couldn't find a whole lot of information on the two.
Mike LaFleur graduated from Elmhurst College in 2009. He stuck around as an offensive assistant that fall. He then moved on to St. Joseph’s College, where he served as quarterbacks coach in 2010 and offensive coordinator in 2011 and 2012.
In 2012, the St. Joseph’s Pumas set a conference record in total yards in one game, along with a school record of most touchdowns in a season. Their points per game average also increased by ten points per game while their yards per game average increased by 72 yards. Wide receiver Julian Walker caught 11 passes for 205 yards and two touchdowns during the opening game of that season and went on to be named to the All-Great Lakes Conference first team. Quarterback Billy Vandemerkt set a school and conference record for completions in a season and was named Division II national player of the week that season.
LaFleur then worked for one year as the quarterback and wide receivers coach at Davidson College in 2013 before becoming an offensive coaching intern under Kyle Shanahan with the Cleveland Browns. In his time there, LaFleur mainly worked with the offensive line. He then followed Shanahan to Atlanta where he worked as an offensive assistant, working with the tight ends in 2015 and the wide receivers in 2016.
Mike McDaniels first met Kyle Shanahan when McDaniels was a ball boy and Kyle’s father was the head coach for the Denver Broncos. He then went on to be a wide receiver for Yale before returning to the Broncos as a coaching intern in 2005 under then offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak. When Kubiak moved on to the Houston Texans, McDaniels joined him, where he worked as an offensive assistant. He was reunited with his childhood friend Kyle Shanahan who was their wide receivers coach at the time.
McDaniels left the Texans in 2009 to be the running backs coach for the Sacramento Mountain Lions of the UFL. He was again reunited with Kyle in Washington where he was an offensive assistant in 2011 and 2012, before being promoted to wide receivers coach in 2013. He moved on with Kyle to the Brown where he remained a wide receivers coach in 2014. He again moved with Kyle to the Falcons in 2015, where he worked as an offensive assistant.
Pierre Garçon arguably had one of his best seasons under McDaniels in 2013, leading the league with 113 receptions and setting a new franchise record. He was able to get plenty of production from guys like Andrew Hawkins and Taylor Gabriel in Cleveland, and then again with Taylor Gabriel along with Mohamed Sanu in Atlanta. You might think Kyle should get all of the credit but it also goes to show how well McDaniels has worked under him.
The biggest issue McDaniels has faced during his career is alcoholism. USA Today NFL columnist Tom Pelissero put together a fascinating feature about McDaniels that I highly recommend reading.
How do they fit?
I have often wondered why Mike Lafleur was given the extra title of passing game specialist and why Mike McDaniels was named the running game specialist when we already have running backs coach Bobby Turner. Then I came across this quote from Kyle Shanahan that was originally posted by Matt Terl back in March of 2010:
“I’ve been [calling plays] for two years, and I feel calling plays is about preparation,” he said. “I’m not going to sit there and go completely off stats–you’re going to study all week and you have to get a feel for their defensive coordinator, and you have to try think like him.
“I just want to watch and watch it until I know it and I can feel it. And you kind of get a hunch of what they’re thinking and you try to roll with it.”
As the head coach, Shanahan no longer has the time for that kind of preparation so it only makes sense that he would have two well trusted members of his staff making sure he is properly prepared to call each game. Hopefully it will help him remain just a effective in his play calling as he was in Atlanta.
The more I read about the 49ers offensive coaching staff, the more they seem like a tightly knit club of disciples that have completely bought into Kyle Shanahan’s coaching methods and philosophy. Mike McDaniels has known Kyle Shanahan since they were kids and they have worked together in Houston, Washington, Cleveland, and Atlanta and while Mike LaFleur has only worked with Kyle in Cleveland and Atlanta, his brother Matt worked with Kyle in Houston, Washington, and Atlanta before becoming the offensive coordinator of the Rams which brings up a very good possibility that Mike LaFleur and Kyle did not just meet in Cleveland. Rich Scangarello went from being an offensive coordinator to being an offensive control assistant under Shanahan in order to better learn his system. Robert Turner has worked with Kyle in both Washington and Atlanta. Even John Benton has worked with Kyle in Houston.
I can't help but think our offensive coaches already have to be one of the most cohesive coaching groups in the NFL.