Matt LaFleur coached Robert Griffin III in Washington, and that alone made his name pop when Notre Dame announced him as the team's quarterbacks coach last week. No NFL rookie has ever had a season better than Griffin in 2012, when he set the league record for rookie passer rating and earned a Pro Bowl bid.
Griffin was the ultimate playmaking quarterback in 2012, pushing Washington to the playoffs with a rocket arm, elite athleticism and a fearlessness that turned out to (mostly) be a boon for his game.
Everett Golson and Malik Zaire aren't Robert Griffin III, who prior to the NFL won a Heisman Trophy at Baylor. But both Notre Dame quarterbacks are elusive players who can make plays out of the pocket, and Golson showed an ability to shine in big moments in 2012.
With that in mind, LaFleur can apply a lesson he learned from coaching Griffin to his pupils at Notre Dame.
"It's a fine line because as a coach, especially with the quarterback position everything is based on timing and rhythm," LaFleur said. "There is a fine line that you can't be too strict in your teachings to take that playmaker ability out of that quarterback."
While there were certainly extenuating circumstances, Griffin was less of a playmaker with Washington a year ago. He averaged about one carry less per game and didn't rush for a touchdown, and also saw his completion percentage drop from 65 percent to 60 percent while throwing seven more interceptions. There are plenty of reason for Griffin's regression, though perhaps being forced to reign him and his surgically-repaired knee in did a good chunk of the harm.
Notre Dame liked LaFleur's development of not just Griffin in Washington, though. Coach Brian Kelly pointed to LaFleur's work with Kirk Cousins and Rex Grossman (the latter of whom threw for over 3,000 yards in 2011).
But LaFleur's work with an outside-the-pocket playmaker like Griffin holds plenty of sway, given that's what Kelly wants out of his quarterback going forward.
"I think it starts with the quarterback, and his ability to be a playmaker within the offense — an offense that certainly at times, we really haven't been able to craft it to fit a player behind the center," Kelly said, between-the-lines referring to some of Tommy Rees' physical limitations. "And I think what I'm looking for in particular is somebody that can make some things happen outside the pocket."