Matt LaFleur has hired a new defensive coordinator. Not from the list that Packer pundits have been tossing around for weeks. Not a current NFL coach. Jeff Hafley has been a college coach for four years.
He has not been in the NFL since 2018 and his defensive coaching experience in the NFL was as a secondary coach for three different teams, Tampa Bay, Cleveland and San Francisco. He has six years of NFL coaching experience. LaFleur did go outside his comfort zone and picked a coach outside of his coaching tree with no L.A. Ram background.
A New Direction for the Packer Defense
In fact, Hafley has coached a 4-3 defense for four of his six years in the NFL. His current college team ran a 4-3 defense. So, what impressed LaFleur that Hafley could lead the Packer defense?
Perhaps it was Hafley’s journey with his last team at Boston College. In 2023, the B.C. Eagles did not start well. They went into Louisville and got pounded by the Cardinals giving up 56 points. They had already lost to Northern Illinois in their home opener and barely slipped by Holy Cross at home.
The Eagles were 1-3, and a playoff bowl game looked like a pipe dream. But Hafley’s Boston College team regrouped, won five in a row and ended the season beating 22nd ranked SMU in the Wasabi Fenway Bowl.
Sound familiar Packer fans? When Hafley was interviewed by Steve Roche in the Fighting Gobbler, Virginia Tech’s news blog, Coach Hafley talked about how his team stayed together during the rough start. Hafley was quoted saying:
“Well, I think you guys have asked a bunch of the players and the same thing that I keep hearing is the consistency. Whether it’s from me, whether it’s the staff…and then I think it’s the belief. I think it’s the belief I had in them, the belief they had in me and it’s the belief they had in each other…”
Jeff Hafley’s Ups and Downs at Boston College
Hafley’s Boston College teams haven’t always excelled. In 2022 Hatley went 3-9. His only bowl appearance was his final year. But in 2021, Hafley’s Eagle defense was ranked third nationally against the pass. On the flip side, his teams never had a winning record in the ACC.
Stats are great, but Packer fans will not know if Hafley can improve this defense until the games start. We know LaFleur wants a more aggressive approach.
Hafley has that reputation. His work ethic impressed Dave Wannstedt who hired him at Pitt. He also has a history of focusing on the angles and approach to tackling. Hafley’s focus on tackling was credited as a huge factor at Ohio State which saw the Buckeye defense leap up the national rankings from 72nd ranked defense in 2018 to best in the nation in Hafley’s first and only year at Ohio State.
The numbers give solid statistical support to LaFleur’s hire and Hafley’s reputation for an aggressive approach to defensive strategy fits with what LaFleur has communicated to the press he wants in his defense and found lacking in his former coordinator.
Hafley does not have the resume of Bill Belichick, but he wants to work in Green Bay and has a hunger to succeed. Next step, determining the other defensive coaches that will stay and then player evaluation.
Who will stay, who will Hafley want to replace. Packer fans have been asking for change but what we want is improvement. Wednesday, January 31st, 2024 is the start. Welcome to the team, Mr. Hafley.