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A Valentine’s Note For Matt LaFleur, the Coach Who Helped Matt Ryan Flourish

A message from the heart to LaFleur, after he got outta dodge

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Dear Matt LaFleur:

Your last name translates to “The Flower,” so I figured it would only be appropriate on Valentine’s Day to send you this note to express my dearest, deepest thoughts and gratitude for how you guided Matt Ryan’s play to fully blossom this past season, something that even Matt Ryan’s dearest, deepest defenders would have considered an unlikelihood before the season started.

I don’t know what you did when talking to Matt Ryan on the sidelines during each game and in the meeting rooms. Maybe something about the fundamentals of football, or how to dodge traffic in the backfield. But it was clear that Matt Ryan took to your coaching and displayed an uncanny quarterbacking wizardry that was at the level of the best throwers of his generation.

While your predecessors as Matt Ryan’s quarterback coach – Bill Musgrave, Bob Bratkowski, and that other guy after Bratkowski whose name I forgot – all had their moments, only you were able to unlock Matt Ryan’s potential and coax an MVP season out of him, with many big-time victories along the way.

You’re Pretty Special

When I think of the people most responsible for the Falcons’ unstoppable offense this past season and post-season, your name is one of the first that comes to mind.

Well, after Matt Ryan of course. And Julio Jones.

And I guess Kyle Shanahan deserves a lot of credit for masterminding playcalls.

Oh, and Alex Mack really dominated with those offensive line protections and calls.

And Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman did some really awesome things in the running and receiving game. And that Taylor Gabriel, man, he can really fly.

And Thomas Dimitroff and Scott Pioli made some great draft and free agency moves to build the offense. And Dan Quinn and Arthur Blank --

Look: you’re definitely among the first 20 or so people whose names comes to mind who helped this Falcons offense flourish to new heights in 2016.

And that’s special. That’s unique. Not everyone can say that they were among the top 20 or so people responsible for an offensive firepower like that.

You’re Kind of Unforgettable

I don’t think I’ll ever forget your face on the sideline, going over situational football with the players, I can picture it in my head right now.

That’s you, right?

Oh, no wait. That’s not you, LaFleur. That’s Mike McDaniel.

But like I was saying, you had that awesome working relationship with Matt Ryan that got him to elevate his play and how could I forget that face of yours alongside Matt Ryan’s -

Guy who might be LaFleur next to Matt Ryan

Oh no wait - that’s Matt Simms. Sorry, there were way too many Matts on the Falcons this year for me to keep track of.

Wait, I think I got it this time -

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

I think that’s you, right? Or is it your brother Mike? There are also too many LaFleurs.

Maybe if we zoom in a bit, I can confirm whether that’s really you —

The Real LaFleur

Yes, YES! That’s the LaFleur I love and remembered. I told you I would never forget your face.

The Memories We’ve Shared Over the Past Year Mean the World To Me

Over the past year, you took me to a world I didn’t believe existed - one where Matt Ryan could lead the league with a 117.1 passer rating and win the MVP award, throwing touchdowns to 13 different receivers. One where he could win a season sweep against Drew Brees, Cam Newton, and Girl Scout Troop #417 (that last one by disqualification, but it definitely still counts) in order to win the division and make it to the playoffs.

And then the playoff run that followed was magnificent. Matt Ryan played out of his mind, hitting his targets left and right. You took down the Seahawks and Packers in convincing fashion, and for good measure knocked off the Lumberjacks and Skillz That Killz.

It seemed that everything we’d been working for was going to come together for a magical conclusion, LaFleur.

But Then You Let Me Down

But then what happened? It was almost like you had a crisis of confidence the night before the big game. A passing offense that scored touchdowns on seemingly every opening drive started the Super Bowl with two 3-and-outs, with Matt Ryan taking sacks on consecutive third downs, unable to dodge the wrenches that the Patriots threw in the Falcons’ game plan. Whatever Lance Armstrong said to you that morning, it didn’t seem to work.

And I didn’t see any sideline shots of you during the 4th quarter, but I can only assume you were out there coaching blindfolded. Bold strategy, LaFleur.

How could you have let us down in that moment? Did you forget to remind Matt Ryan of the 5 f’s of football? I don’t remember them either, but the 5 f’s that I saw looked like: fumbling, failing, flailing, frazzled, and f— I’ll stop at four because this is a family website.

And you also told me that I’m not a pirate. I can be whatever I want to be!

And Then You Skipped Town

Instead of sticking through tough times, what did you do? You took your tournament winnings and skipped town to flee cross-country to L.A. to be the Rams offensive coordinator and lead your personal gym franchise. Typical.

Not only did you leave Dan Quinn, but you stuck it to your buddy Kyle Shanahan by abandoning him too for that Sean McSomething or other. Honestly, you have so many guys on the side, it’s hard to keep track sometimes.

I seriously can’t believe you would give up what we had - coaching Matt Ryan to greatness - for an average joe like Jared Goff.

I really thought we had something special between us. Me, you, the 20 or so other Falcons coaches, players, and assorted personnel. It was perfect. It was fated. It was meant to be.

Look, I’m trying to do my best to keep my composure here. I’m still very angry. My therapist tells me that I’m probably suffering from Super Bowl-induced PTSD, so forgive me if I’m misremembering a few details of our relationship.

But now, I’m so depressed that I pass my days sitting in front of the TV in an open bathrobe, drowning myself in fried chicken.

Cram what we had up your cramhole, LaFleur. You’re dead to me.

Have a Happy Valentine’s Day.