The Los Angeles Rams have an ace up their sleeve for their NFC Wild Card Playoff matchup with the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday, and it's not MVP Todd Gurley.
It's offensive coordinator, Matt LaFleur, and he could be the secret weapon the team needs to take down the reigning NFC Champion Falcons.
LaFleur is in his first year with the Rams as offensive coordinator, but he spent last season as quarterbacks coach for the Falcons when he guided Matt Ryan to an MVP season.
For fans that don't know his backstory, LaFleur was a former college quarterback at Saginaw Valley State and briefly played in the National Indoor Football League with the Omaha Beef before turning to coaching in 2003.
He began his coaching career where it all began at Saginaw Valley State, but quickly bounced around the college ranks, coaching quarterbacks at Central Michigan and Northern Michigan, respectively.
In 2008, he jumped to the NFL where he was an Offensive Quality Control coach with the Houston Texans before joining Mike Shanahan's staff in 2010 with the Washington Redskins as their quarterbacks coach.
It was in Washington, that LaFleur met a young assistant named Sean McVay, a man that would not only become his friend, but one day his boss.
McVay was the assistant tight ends coach at the time, but he quickly rose up the Redskins' ranks, becoming the team's offensive coordinator from 2014 to 2016.
LaFleur left in 2016 to the Falcons, but when McVay was offered the Rams head coaching position following the 2016 season, his old friend Matt was the first person he called.
"You look at Matt LaFleur and where he's been. It seems like successful quarterback play follows him," said McVay during his press conference with the media on Wednesday. "Matt LaFleur's a great coach. We're fortunate that he's here and I think he's done a great job with our guys and certainly his time in Atlanta—they had a lot of success as well."
LaFleur worked his quarterback magic on Jared Goff, who threw for over 3,800 yards and 28 touchdowns in just 15 games during his sophomore season in 2017.
Goff threw for more touchdowns than Ryan this season, and the two quarterbacks had nearly identical yards per game numbers at 255 and 253, respectively. Goff also had just seven interceptions this season to Ryan's 12.
The most glaring difference between the two quarterbacks was Goff led the Rams high potent offense, which led the league in scoring at 29.9 points per game this season.
It was the Falcons who led the league in scoring at 34.1 points per game in 2016, but averaged just 22 points this season without LaFleur and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who left to take over as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.
Throughout the week, LaFleur has been helping McVay, and the Rams defense led by veteran defensive coordinator, Wade Phillips, as they plan and scheme for the Falcons vaulted offensive attack.
"Some of the nuances in what they're doing are similar, and he's been able to help with that," said Phillips on Wednesday. "The guy [Ryan] was a great player last year and he's continued that. He's [LaFleur] has helped us overall with a concept, but it doesn't influence how we play in certain coverages. It's how well we cover."
As mentioned, LaFleur will be able to provide his coaches with insight and information on Matt Ryan, and the subtle nuances that could be the difference from the Rams going home, or advancing to the next round of the NFC Playoffs against the Vikings.
"I think it is helpful," McVay said about having LaFleur provide him with insight on the Falcons for their NFC Wild Card matchup. "The experience that he had is very helpful. Matt's got a great way of being able to kind of give information in those small bite-sized increments where they can utilize it to their advantage this week."
The Rams host the Atlanta Falcons at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum on Saturday at 5:15PM PST.