Sean McVay and Matt LaFleur speak to each other every few weeks during the NFL season, the Rams and Green Bay Packers coaches keeping the close tie they established early in their careers.
But not every bit of good news for one is positive for the other.
Take, for example, the Rams’ decision to claim quarterback Baker Mayfield off waivers.
“I can’t say I was real excited from a competitive standpoint,” LaFleur said jokingly Friday during a videoconference with Rams reporters.
Now, with the Rams traveling to Lambeau Field for a “Monday Night Football” game, LaFleur and defensive coordinator Joe Barry — both former assistants under McVay — must game plan to try to shut down Mayfield, who with less than 48 hours of preparation led the Rams to a dramatic victory over the Las Vegas Raiders.
The Rams trailed by 13 points when Mayfield directed two fourth-quarter scoring drives, the second covering 98 yards with no timeouts left. Mayfield finished with a game-winning touchdown pass to Van Jefferson.
“I don’t think there’s too many guys that could have done that,” LaFleur said. “I mean it’s pretty remarkable. … Shoot, some of the throws he made on that last drive were pretty spectacular.”
Mayfield’s heroics helped the Rams end a six-game losing streak and improve their record to 4-9.
Despite the Rams’ struggles this season, McVay remained positive throughout, LaFleur said.
“Every time I’ve talked to him he’s been as positive as you could possibly be, I would say, given the circumstances,” LaFleur said. “They’ve gone through a lot this year just losing, obviously, key players.”
The Packers (5-8) also have struggled.
“It’s been an interesting season, to say the least,” LaFleur said. “Obviously, it hasn’t gone as smooth as we’d like it to.”
Mayfield, the top pick in the 2018 draft, has faced the Packers once.
Last Dec. 25, while playing for the Cleveland Browns, Mayfield completed 21 of 36 passes for 222 yards and two touchdowns, with four interceptions, in a 24-22 defeat by the Packers at Lambeau Field.
Mayfield’s touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter pulled the Browns to within 24-22. The Browns drove to midfield with 50 seconds left before the final interception.
In last Thursday’s victory over the Raiders, Mayfield did not commit a turnover. An interception was nullified because of a pass interference penalty.
Prepping Mayfield through cram sessions in less than 48 hours was “really never-ending for the amount of time, which was great,” offensive coordinator Liam Coen said Friday.
Mayfield has said that it was “nice to take a deep breath” for a few days after the dramatic victory.
But Mayfield has dived into the game plan for the Packers, Coen said.
“He did a great job studying over the last few days,” he said. “He was in here every morning at 6 a.m. and was here pretty late every night too.”
With Matthew Stafford on injured reserve, McVay, Coen and the rest of the staff have four more games to work with Mayfield.
“It’s different players, but very similar in terms of some of the arm talent,” Coen said. “The way they can push the ball down the field, the strengths of their game in terms of just being able to throw the football accurately with some velocity.”
Coen provided no update on discussions he’s had with Kentucky about returning as offensive coordinator. “That’s the conversation that I’ll end up having with those guys at the end of the season,” he said. “The biggest thing is just trying to do right by this place and finish the season off in the right way and really just that’s the main focus is getting Baker going, getting these guys ready, and being there for these guys.” … Quarterback John Wolford (neck), defensive linemen Aaron Donald (ankle) and Marquise Copeland (ankle), linebacker Travin Howard (hip) and cornerback David Long (groin) did not practice, according to the Rams injury report. Linebacker Ernest Jones (wrist), cornerback Robert Rochell (wrist) and center Brian Allen (knee) were limited.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.