NFL

The NFC Championship Will Be a Battle of the LaFleur Brothers

At this point in the NFL season, there’s no shortage of storylines. Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs are trying to get over the hump. Aaron Rodgers wants to prove that he can still win the big game. And on Sunday night, the LaFleur brothers, Matt and Mike, will be battling for family bragging rights.

While both the Green Bay Packers’ head coach and San Francisco 49ers’ passing game coordinator desperately want to reach the Super Bowl, Sunday’s meeting will provide an extra challenge. Beyond football, it will be a night of mixed emotions for both brothers.

Mike and Matt LaFleur’s parallel roads to success

It’s tough enough for anyone to make it to the NFL. Both LaFleur brothers, Matt and Mike, made it to the big time.

After a brief spell in the National Indoor Football League, Matt LaFleur headed to the sidelines. He started out at smaller colleges, like Saginaw Valley State, Central Michigan, Northern Michigan, and Ashland, before getting his first NFL job working under Kyle Shanahan with the Texans in 2008. LaFleur spent a season in Houston before joining the Redskins organization; he then returned to the college ranks at Notre Dame, spending one season with the Fighting Irish. Following stints with the Falcons, Rams, and Titans, Matt got his shot at the big time, taking over as head coach of the Green Bay Packers.

Mike LaFleur followed a similar, albeit shorter, path to the NFL. After paying his dues with the Elmhurst Bluejays, St. Joseph’s College Pumas, and Davidson Wildcats, he made it to the pros in 2014; LaFleur accepted a coaching internship with the Cleveland Browns and, like his brother, worked under Kyle Shanahan. Since then, the pair have stayed together, with Mike following Shanahan to Atlanta and San Francisco.

Battling on the field won’t be easy for the brothers

During the 2019 regular season, the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers met in the Bay Area. While Mike LaFleur’s 49ers came out on top, Sunday’s game will be even tougher; with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line, the stakes are higher than ever.

“It’s mixed emotions,” Matt told ESPN’s Rob Demovsky about the game’s impact on his parents. “It is what it is. It certainly was last time, too. Anybody that knows me knows how much my family means to me—my brother, my parents, and my wife and kids. It is an emotional deal, but this is not about us. This is about the Green Bay Packers versus the San Francisco 49ers, two great football teams, with the opportunity to go to the Super Bowl. It doesn’t get any bigger than that.”

“I think there’s a little different vibe,” the Packers’ head coach continued. “I’ll just leave it at that. I haven’t really talked to [Mike] much at all. It’ll probably be that way for the remainder of the week.”

Which LaFleur brother will come out on top?

While Sunday’s game won’t be easy on a tactical or emotional level, one team has to win. Which LaFleur brother will come out on top?

On paper, Mike and the San Francisco 49ers should have the edge. While Aaron Rodgers might still have name recognition, Aaron Rodgers isn’t the same quarterback he once was; the Packers offense isn’t dynamic at the best of times, and the 49ers defense should make things even more difficult. If Green Bay falls behind early, it will be tough for them to climb back into the game.

No matter what happens, though, one LaFleur brother will be happy on Sunday night. The other, however, won’t be looking forward to family gatherings for a while.