Packers hire Jeff Hafley from Boston College as new defensive coordinator

Jeff Hafley is leaving his job as Boston College's head coach to become the Green Bay Packers' defensive coordinator. (AP/Matt Freed, File)

Jeff Hafley is leaving his job as Boston College’s head coach to become the Green Bay Packers’ defensive coordinator.

The Packers announced Wednesday night that Hafley will take over for Joe Barry, who was fired last week after three seasons as Green Bay’s defensive coordinator. Hafley went 22-26 at Boston College in four seasons, including a 7-6 mark this past season with a Fenway Bowl victory over SMU. 

“I loved my four years at Boston College,” Hafley said in a statement released by the school. “This is an exceptional place to coach given the caliber of student-athletes we recruit, the facilities and the support from the University and BC fans. I will miss the players who gave so much of themselves these past four years, and my wife Gina and I will certainly miss the BC community and the many friends we have made here.” 

The 44-year-old Hafley becomes the latest college head coach to leave for a role as an assistant after Maurice Linguist departed from Buffalo and Kane Wommack exited South Alabama to join new Alabama coach Kalen DeBoer’s staff.

His move also re-opens the coaching carousel, giving Boston College the only vacancy of any Football Bowl Subdivision program.

Hafley had worked as an NFL secondary coach with Tampa Bay (2012-13), Cleveland (2014-15) and San Francisco (2016-18) before becoming Ohio State’s co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach in 2019.

“Jeff has had success at every stop of his coaching career with an impressive track record of developing players at every level,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said in a statement announcing the hire. “We look forward to him leading our defense.”

Hafley takes over a defense that underperformed for much of this season before rallying late.

Green Bay ranked 10th in points allowed per game (20.6), 17th in yards allowed per game (335.1) and 23rd in yards allowed per play (5.4) during the regular season with a defense featuring eight former first-round draft picks.

After the Packers allowed 29.3 points per game during a 1-2 December stretch against the New York Giants, Tampa Bay and Carolina, their defense performed much better the rest of the season.

The Packers allowed just one touchdown over their final two regular-season games, and that came when Minnesota recovered a muffed punt at the Green Bay 7-yard line. The Packers then held Dallas scoreless until the final play of the first half in a 48-32 wild-card victory.

Green Bay’s season ended with a 24-21 NFC divisional playoff loss at San Francisco in which the 49ers drove 69 yards and scored the go-ahead touchdown with 1:07 remaining.

Hafley had mixed results at Boston College.

After firing Steve Addazio because he couldn’t get beyond seven wins in his seven seasons in Chestnut Hill, BC lured Hafley away from Ohio State – even as the Buckeyes were preparing for the College Football Playoff.

But Hafley managed six wins in each of his first two seasons as he tried to adjust to his new environment in the midst of a pandemic.

The Eagles were arguably the most successful team in the country at managing the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020, with just one positive test all season, and that in the final week. But the players opted out of a bowl game to spend Christmas with their families; in 2021, a COVID outbreak forced the cancellation of the Military Bowl.

BC went 3-9 in 2022, a season beset by injuries and the same quarterback shuffling that characterized much of Hafley’s tenure in the Heights. When the Eagles opened this season 1-3, Hafley’s job was in jeopardy; five straight wins earned them another bowl berth.

Boston College athletic director Blake James said in a statement that “we are incredibly grateful” for Hafley’s years of service and a national search for a new head coach will begin immediately.

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