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Hafley says he wasn't looking to leave BC, but chance to join Packers' staff was too tempting

Jeff Hafley Boston College
Posted at 11:02 AM, Feb 23, 2024

GREEN BAY (AP) — Jeff Hafley says he wasn't necessarily looking to get out of college football before he left his job as Boston College's head coach to become the Green Bay Packers' defensive coordinator.

Hafley, 44, said he simply received an opportunity that was too appealing to turn down. He cited the chance to work with Packers coach Matt LaFleur, the talent of Green Bay's roster and the history of the Packers.

"As a guy that grew up loving football, it's the Green Bay Packers," Hafley said Thursday in his first news conference since making the move. "This is like the mecca of the football world to me and probably to most people who grew up loving football. Just being here and driving into Lambeau every day, it still feels surreal."

Hafley, who went 22-26 in four seasons at Boston College, is among a handful of people who voluntarily left head coaching jobs at Football Bowl Subdivision programs to become assistants elsewhere.

These moves have come as the college game goes through big changes with players being permitted to transfer without sitting out a season and having the opportunity to profit from their name, image and likeness.

Chip Kelly left UCLA after going 35-34 in six seasons to become Ohio State's offensive coordinator. Shawn Elliott, a former South Carolina interim head coach, rejoined the Gamecocks as tight ends coach and running game coordinator after a 41-44 record in seven seasons at Georgia State.

South Alabama's Kane Wommack and Buffalo's Maurice Linguist left their respective head coaching positions to join new Alabama coach Kalen DeBoer's staff.

Hafley's move was unique because he left the college ranks entirely to move to the NFL. Most head coaches who make this transition do it for another head coaching opportunity, such as when Jim Harbaugh took over the Los Angeles Chargers after leading Michigan to the national title.

Although Hafley said it was difficult to leave Boston College and the "players that I loved, staff that I loved, the leadership at the school," he acknowledged his job had changed quite a bit from when he arrived in 2020.

"When I got the BC job, COVID hit," Hafley said. "I got to know my team over Zoom. We had masks on in practice and that was way different than anything I'd never experienced. Then the next year the transfer portal came in, which was like, all right, now I have to recruit players, but I also have to keep the guys that are on my team from leaving. There's no contracts, so you recruit a guy and develop a guy, and all of a sudden he can leave.

"And then came paying players, NIL, so it was a storm basically, since I got the head job, of things that kept getting thrown at you. But you do the best you can and you adapt. Certainly college football has changed and I do think that — I'm not going to get on a soapbox here today — but what I will say is I that do think there needs some things to change. It's still a great game and there's still great coaches, but it changed a lot since I started that job."

Hafley's arrival means Green Bay will shift to a 4-3 defense after operating a 3-4 under former coordinator Joe Barry, who was fired after three years on the job.

Although Hafley had spent the past five years in the college ranks — spending one season as Ohio State's co-defensive coordinator before taking over Boston College's program — he has an NFL background from coaching defensive backs with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2012-13), Cleveland Browns (2014-15) and San Francisco 49ers (2016-18).

"Really excited what he's going to bring," LaFleur said. "Certainly it will be a different scheme, but I think it's one that will be easy to adjust to with the personnel that we have."

NOTES: Although the Packers haven't announced any changes on the defensive staff aside from the change at coordinator, Hafley said he is bringing in Derrick Ansley, Anthony Campanile and Vince Oghobaase. Ansley was the Chargers' defensive coordinator, Campanile coached the Miami Dolphins' linebackers and Oghobaase was Boston College's defensive line coach this past season. … LaFleur said he is hiring Sean Mannion as an offensive assistant who will work primarily with quarterbacks. Mannion has been an NFL reserve quarterback for the past nine seasons and spent 2023 on practice squads with the Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks.