Who was LA Rams offensive mastermind: McVay or LaFleur?

Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports /

The LA Rams burst onto the scene in 2017 when they hired a very young but offensively-minded head coach Sean McVay. After he took over for the seasoned head coach Jeff Fisher, he immediately set about changing the way that the LA Rams handled their business when they had possession of the football. Of course, he did not do so in a vacuum. He had the 2016 NFL Draft top-picked quarterback in Jared Goff. He also had his friend and colleague Matt LeFleur as his offensive coordinator.

The two were friends, colleagues, and co-workers. But they were also two very adept minds whose ability to see football challenges from different angles sharpened the knowledge and wisdom of both. The pair may not have seen eye-to-eye with every decision, but they were so good that they became the top-scoring offense of the NFL.  And yet, when the opportunity to work together occurred in Los Angeles, LeFleur stayed just one season.

By 2018, LeFleur had taken a new job with the Tennessee Titans where he would become their offensive coordinator. You see, he held the title of offensive coordinator for the LA Rams, but he was not calling the offensive plays. That was a  responsibility reserved for head coach Sean McVay. While the two were on the same team, the partnership was as much about opposing views as it was about LeFleur acquiescing to McVay.

Whetting the stone

LeFleur and McVay parted ways after just one season. Some attribute the struggles to come to the Rams’ loss of wide receiver Cooper Kupp. Others have pointed to the inability to keep running back Todd Gurley healthy as the reason for future offensive struggles. Still, others suggest that quarterback Jared Goff was playing over his head. But the Rams have never been better on offense as the year that McVay and LeFleur collaborated on offense.

"“He and I never battled each other,” LaFleur said, before pausing a couple seconds for effect. “Just kidding. Every day was a battle. That’s what’s fun about this, though. You can challenge each other, and that’s how you grow. You know the intentions of the other person. Just like family, you don’t hold anything back when you have complete trust in who you’re talking to. You’re just trying to work as hard as you can in the best interest of the team, or trying to do things the best way possible. It’s no different than when I sometimes work with my wife at home.” – per Stu Jackson of therams.com"

While the move was merely a lateral move, it was one that the LA Rams might have prevented. The Rams did not prevent LeFleur’s migrating to a new position. In 2018, the LA Rams went on to compete in Super Bowl LIII, but the offense sputtered, dramatically.  The offense scored more that year but slipped to second in the NFL.  Meanwhile, LeFleur’s offense never took off in Tennessee, and the Titans fell to the 27th scoring offense in the NFL.

LeFleur Packs his bags

Los Angeles Rams
Los Angeles Rams /

Los Angeles Rams

The fortunes reversed in 2019 as the Green Bay Packers hired Matt LeFleur to be the Packers head coach. Since that time, the Packers have gone 26-6 in the past two seasons. The LA Rams, meanwhile, have gone 19-13. The Packers’ scoring offense has improved from 15th in 2019 to 1st in 2020. Over the same time frame, the LA Rams scoring offense has fallen from 11th in 2019 to 23rd in 2020.

In fact, Matt LeFleur was named NFL Coach of the Year by Analytics Site EdjSports. McVay finished a distant 16th. In fact, since the two contemporaries parted ways, LeFleur’s career has been trending up, while McVay’s career has trended down. Well, if you look at the quarterback that each has worked with, it’s an obvious conclusion that working with Aaron Rodgers is a huge advantage to scoring in the NFL over Jared Goff. That may change.

In 2021, Rodgers and the Packers’ relationship is quite strained, while the LA Rams have added a bit of a sharpshooter under center in veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford.  Even now, the comparison is not apples to apples. But when the two did have the same offense to work with, the combined oversight of McVay and LeFleur was more effective than McVay alone. And in the NFL way of measuring individuals, LeFleur has certainly shown to be more effective as a head coach over the past two seasons than McVay.

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Who is the offensive mastermind: LA Rams head coach Sean McVay or Green Bay Packers head coach  Matt LeFleur? We may never know. But if McVay’s offense does not rebound this year, the evidence will certainly point to LeFleur.