It appears Brian Kelly's coaching staff is finally back to full strength. After losing offensive coordinator Chuck Martin over a month-and-a-half ago, Mike Jones of The Washington Post reports that Notre Dame has filled the position with former Washington Redskins quarterback coach Matt LaFleur.
LaFleur was part of the purge that cost 10 assistants their jobs in Washington when Daniel Snyder fired Mike Shanahan and decided to reboot the Redskins.
The 33-year-old assistant had followed offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan to Washington from Houston, where he had been an offensive assistant for the Texans since 2008.
That LaFleur was hired by Kelly was not entirely unexpected, with his name being floated for the past week. But as we followed the twists and turns of the 50 days that have come and gone since Martin took the Miami job, there was a wide variance in the speculation about where Kelly would go with the offensive staff opening.
Rumors of established coordinators were floated as outsiders being looked at for the offensive coordinator position.
Dan Murphy of 247Sports.com listed Al Borges as a candidate, Brian Hamilton of SI.com linked Doug Nussmeier with the position and Greg Gabriel of NationalFootballPost.com suggested that Buffalo head coach Jeff Quinn may have been the favorite at one point—a shocking development considering the potential step down from leading a program.
That Kelly would look outside his coaching tree for a new offensive leader was somewhat surprising, especially considering he'll have Everett Golson back to run the offense.
However, as the search progressed, Kelly confirmed to 247Sports' On Campus that he was more interested in hiring a quarterback coach, a job that had been held by the coordinator—most recently Martin and before him Charley Molnar.
"As I look towards the hiring process offensively, I think a quarterback coach is where I’m really looking at in developing young quarterbacks and really being able to spend the time with those quarterbacks," Kelly said. "Because of their age, we want to make sure we’re developing our quarterbacks."
|2003||Saginaw Valley State||Offensive GA|
|2004-05||Central Michigan||Offensive Assistant|
|2006||Northern Michigan||QBs and WRs|
|2007||Ashland University||Offensive Coordinator|
|2008-09||Houston Texans||Offensive Quality Control|
|2010-13||Washington Redskins||Quarterbacks Coach|
|2014||Notre Dame||Quarterbacks Coach|
Kelly will have Malik Zaire and DeShone Kizer on campus next fall, both quarterbacks with four years of eligibility. While Kelly will likely handle things with Golson, the job of coaching up the two youngsters will go to LaFleur, a coach he's known for over a decade.
Though the hire won't be official until the university's extended vetting process is complete, LaFleur brings a perfect mix of proven commodity and personal connection for Kelly, mirroring the Brian VanGorder hire at defensive coordinator.
Kelly likely first saw LaFleur as a player, when he was a two-time MVP of the Saginaw Valley State Cardinals in 2001 and 2002, battling Kelly's Grand Valley State squad to a tight 23-18 game in the Lakers' national title season.
From there, LaFleur went from playing to coaching, making the immediate transition to graduate assistant. It was Kelly that also gave LaFleur his first D-I job, bringing him on to his first staff at Central Michigan.
The next year, LaFleur coached with Bob Diaco and Mike Elston, so it certainly won't be a tough transition for LaFleur into the staff room.
What philosophies LaFleur brings with him will likely be a product of his recent experience.
Coached by LaFleur over the past two seasons in Washington, Robert Griffin III wowed during his 2012 Rookie of the Year campaign. He struggled in his return from a torn ACL, though.
LaFleur worked with a wide range of quarterbacks before Griffin, including developing former Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins—who was taken in the same draft as Griffin—and veterans like Donovan McNabb, Rex Grossman and John Beck.
Off the field, LaFleur represents a ton of what Kelly looks for in both coaches and players. He grew up around the game, wandering the Central Michigan sidelines as his father Denny LaFleur spent two decades as a defensive assistant.
Given the chance to catch on with Gary Kubiak's staff in Houston, he quickly found his niche working with young quarterbacks.
Here's what Kubiak told The Washington Post when LaFleur moved to the Redskins to work with Mike and Kyle Shanahan.
I think every coordinator needs a right-hand guy, from a quarterbacks standpoint, to be with him. He'll do a great job. He's just getting started. He's a very bright young man. To be honest with you, he's a lot like Kyle was four or five years ago.
Basically, Kyle and I gained so much confidence in him, we had him do a lot of work with our quarterbacks. He just grew on us, kept doing a great job. Our quarterbacks gained a lot of confidence in him. His specialty was working with our backup quarterbacks, our second and third. And he just did a hell of a job.
That's LaFleur's main objective from the start: making sure the personnel develops while Everett Golson plays out his final two seasons in South Bend.
With the offensive system in place, Kelly taking back play-calling duties and Mike Denbrock removing the interim tag from his coordinator position, the Irish's offensive staff is complete—with Tony Alford staying with the running backs and Scott Booker working with the tight ends.
At long last, the Notre Dame offense is ready to mirror the image of its head coach. Bringing in LaFleur, a position coach that's spent the last six years learning in the NFL, is the perfect piece to continue teaching the message while advancing the curriculum.