Who is Jeff Hafley? Why Boston College coach left to become new Packers defensive coordinator

The college football coaching carousel appeared to be done turning after Nick Saban’s retirement set a series of major moves in motion. A surprise move made Wednesday by Boston College head coach Jeff Hafley might have the carousel spinning yet again.

Hafley is reportedly leaving BC to become the Packers’ defensive coordinator, jumping down a rank to return to the NFL and replace Joe Barry as the leader of what has been an inconsistent Green Bay defense. 

While Hafley’s exit from Chestnut Hill won’t have nearly the same ramifications as a Saban or Jim Harbaugh exit, it’s a highly unusual decision to jump from a Power Four head coaching job to an NFL coordinator role.

MORE: What to know about new Seahawks coach Mike Macdonald

Here are the reasons behind Hafley’s decision, plus a look at what Packers fans can expect with his arrival. 

Why did Jeff Hafley leave Boston College?

Multiple factors pushed Hafley to accept the Packers’ defensive coordinator job, including the current state of college football, according to ESPN.

“He wants to go coach football again in a league that is all about football,” a source told ESPN, explaining that the cycle of recruiting and fundraising in the NIL era has taken a toll on Hafley. 

While two other college football head coaches have left for coordinator jobs this offseason, both stayed at the collegiate level and moved up from a Group of Five program to Alabama. Hafley is leaving the college ranks altogether, with the ever-changing landscape of the sport evidently the biggest factor.

ESPN also reports that the “opportunity to work for one of the NFL’s most respected franchises” drew Hafley to Green Bay.

The NFL has seen a wave of defensive-minded coaches ascend to head coaching gigs this offseason, after several years in which those jobs predominantly went to coaches with an offensive background. With Jerod Mayo, Antonio Pierce, Raheem Morris and Mike Macdonald jumping from the defensive side of the ball to a head coaching role, Hafley might see a path to becoming an NFL head coach.

Hafley has seven years of NFL experience, having served as a defensive backs coach with the Buccaneers, Browns and 49ers. He worked under Kyle Shanahan and Greg Schiano in the NFL, also spending two years under Mike Pettine, who was Matt LaFleur’s first defensive coordinator in Green Bay.

MORE: How years sitting behind Aaron Rodgers prepared Jordan Love for Packers’ starting job

Boston College defensive rankings

Below are Boston College’s FBS rankings in points allowed per game during each of Hafley’s four seasons in Chestnut Hill.

Season Points allowed per game FBS rank
2020 28.4 59th (of 127)
2021 24.2 38th (of 130)
2022 31.5 105th (of 131)
2023 28.3 74th (of 133)

While Hafley’s defenses were hit-and-miss at Boston College, where it’s historically been tough to compete, he helped lead Ohio State’s defense to a stellar season as the Buckeyes’ co-defensive coordinator in 2019. Ohio State allowed 13.4 points per game during the campaign, ranking third in the nation. 

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