Matt LaFleur has both worked with and played against a number of high-caliber football players during his first decade coaching the NFL, including his current roster of stars with the Green Bay Packers.
But when it comes to Washington’s Adrian Peterson, a seven-time All-Pro and the most recent running back to win the NFL Most Valuable Player Award in 2012, the Packers coach has seen very few players come close to his longstanding success.
“He’s a freak,” LaFleur told reporters Wednesday when asked about Peterson’s 13-season career. “They just don’t make too many like that and … he’s still doing it at a high level.”
LaFleur’s Packers will be tasked with stopping both Peterson and Derrius Guice, who came off the injured reserve list three weeks ago and has been running well out of the Redskins’ backfield.
Guice was instrumental in the Redskins’ 29-21 win over the Carolina Panthers, rushing for 124 yards along with the first two touchdowns of his two-year career. Peterson hardly took a backseat, either, rushing for 99 yards and his own touchdown as Washington finished with 248 of their total 362 on the ground.
“They’re going to try to pound the ball,” LaFleur said. “I don’t think it’s any secret what they’re going to try to do to us. You see those guys, they’re physical, they both have a nasty stiff arm and they’re really solid backs. Obviously Adrian, a Hall of Famer, he’s been doing it for a really long time, so we’re going to make sure we do a good job of being gap sound, setting edges and really getting after those two ball carriers.”
The 34-year-old Peterson has been somewhat inconsistent for the Redskins (3-9) this season, but he has flashed his superstar ability at times and has five times rushed for more than 75 yards in 11 performances in 2019. He needs just 40 more career rushing yards to eclipse 14,000 and 142 yards to overtake Curtis Martin for the fifth-most yards in NFL history.
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Washington Began Things for Matt LaFleur
Thriving in his first year as a head coach with his Packers (9-3) pointed toward the playoffs, LaFleur looks back at his time spent in Washington as his “foundation in this league.”
“Got an opportunity to work with a lot of great people,” LaFleur said of his four seasons as the Redskins’ quarterback coach from 2010-13. “Mike Shanahan, some of my closest friends in this business and in life — Sean McVay, Kyle Shanahan, Mike McDaniel. There were a lot of good people and it was a really great learning experience for me.”
LaFleur briefly returned to college football and mentored Notre Dame’s quarterbacks during the 2014 season, but he took on the same role with the Atlanta Falcons the next year and helped coach Matt Ryan to an NFL MVP season in 2016. He also worked as the offensive coordinator with both the Los Angeles Rams (2017) and Tennessee Titans (2018).
Looking back on his time with the Redkins, though, LaFleur insists he didn’t spend it dreaming of the day when he would stand in his current role as an NFL head coach.
“Back then? ” LaFleur said. “There was nothing more than the task at hand and just trying to be the best quarterback coach I could be.”