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Catching up with: Matt LaFleur

2/13/2014

Former Redskins quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur didn't take too long to find a new job, taking over as Notre Dame's quarterbacks coach more than two weeks ago -- and less than a month since he was fired in Washington. I caught up with LaFleur earlier this week; yes, we talked about Robert Griffin III as you can see in this column. And in this one, LaFleur talks about if Griffin was tough to coach (as well as some thoughts on Kirk Cousins). I'll have more of LaFleur's thoughts on Griffin in a post Saturday afternoon when he'll talk about why he thinks the quarterback can still be successful and what he can do to help himself.

Here's what LaFleur (who now has to recruit for the first time in six years) had to say on:

His new gig: “Obviously I’m extremely excited going to a university that has so much tradition and it’s a program that is not only nationwide, but world wide. Everyone knows about Notre Dame. Just the pageantry around college football. I’m excited to get that experience again.”

If it was hard to leave the NFL: “Of course it was. It wasn’t by choice, obviously. But when you’re in that situation you’re trying to look for the best opportunity for you and I was familiar with coach [Brian] Kelly, having [worked] for him for two years. I know what he can do with a program. I thought it was a great opportunity to work with a great head coach and a guy that has been able to really turn around a lot of programs.”

What it feels like to look for a job in this business: “It definitely is a lonely world. It really puts your whole life on hold and you are going full speed ahead trying to reconnect with people. In the season you’re so busy, you don’t get the opportunity to stay in contact with anybody because you’ve got to do your job. There’s no time for that. So it’s more or less trying to reconnect and find any leads that you can come across and then follow up on those. Just like anything else the profession is a lot about who you know and who knows you. You might be the best coach in the world but if you don’t know anyone or no one knows you, it really doesn’t matter.”

The competitiveness of finding a coaching job: “It’s crazy. I went to the national coaches convention and having coached for more than 10 years now I went down there thinking I’d know a lot of guys and it was amazing how it’s two different worlds – the college world and the NFL world. I went down there and felt like I didn’t know anybody. It gives you an appreciation for how many coaches are out there. There are so many people. It’s extremely competitive and it’s tough to get a job, especially a high-quality job – like any job in the NFL or in the major programs in college football. It makes me feel extremely fortunate for the situations I’ve been in, the four years in Washington and then this. It makes you grateful for what you have.”

How being in Washington changed him as a coach: “It was the first time being a position coach in the NFL and dealing with the situation we had two years ago where we dealt with two rookie quarterbacks. They were definitely experiences I felt were invaluable in terms of how you go about preparing those guys and getting those two rookies ready to play.”

What he learned: “I learned never to assume anything no matter how many times you tell a guy, don’t assume it and what we did with those two is we quizzed them a lot. I’d give written tests and you start to find out what they know. As a coach it doesn’t matter what you know, it’s only about what your players know. A great coach is someone who can get their players to operate and perform at their highest level and it’s all about what they know and what they can do.”

Whether Griffin can be coached: “I never had a problem with him. Ever. There was that one bogus report out there. He would always do exactly what I asked him to do or at least try to do it how we asked him to. Some of those reports that were out there were just bogus.”

Why Griffin received so much negative attention: “It comes with the position, especially in that media market when you don’t have success everybody is a target. That’s what happened last year and it made stuff bigger than what it was. The bottom line is we went 3-13. And that’s what happens when you don’t a successful season. … When it’s good, it’s good and no one says anything and when it’s bad everyone’s a critic and everyone has all the answers.”

Kirk Cousins: “I thought his play, if you look at the numbers, it didn’t look impressive but his play was pretty good. The Giants game was not a great game by any means, but it wasn’t conducive to having a great game. We never make excuses for the quarterback but the game conditions were about as horrific as they could be for a quarterback. But he stepped up and did a nice job. The year before he had better numbers but his play against Atlanta and Dallas was as good as it was against Cleveland … . Coming out of college, he was one of the most natural throwers and he still throws the same way. When you look at some of the throws he made and some plays he made, they were pretty damn impressive.”