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What Boston College head coach Jeff Hafley brings to Packers as new defensive coordinator

Green Bay is taking a chance on Hafley, who did good things at BC as a head coach.

Wasabi Fenway Bowl - SMU v Boston College
Head coach Jeff Hafley of the Boston College Eagles reacts as he lifts the trophy after a victory during the 2023 Wasabi Fenway Bowl against the Southern Methodist University Mustangs on December 28, 2023 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.
Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

The Green Bay Packers are bringing in Boston College head coach Jeff Hafley to replace Joe Barry as the team’s defensive coordinator, according to Pete Thamel. The Packers fired Barry despite improvements in the defense over the last few weeks of the season, and now bring Hafley into the mix.

It’s an odd hire, considering the Packers had their choice of several other candidates with NFL experience. Former Chargers head coach Brandon Staley, who oversaw a Rams unit that ranked first in scoring and yards during his lone season as the defensive coordinator there, was a candidate. Former Titans head coach Mike Vrabel might not have been internally discussed but was a popular pick if he didn’t land another job. Panthers defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero, who has previous ties to the Packers, might’ve also been thrown around.

Hafley does have some NFL experience as a defensive backs coach in Tampa Bay, Cleveland and San Francisco. The secondary is a spot where Green Bay could see the most improvement, so that’s a decent starting point for the new coordinator.

It’ll also be important to see who remains on this roster. Jordan Love is expected to command a big extension, which means the Packers will have to make some cuts elsewhere. Jaire Alexander looks like the most likely candidate to be gone, with Preston Smith and Kenny Clark also carrying big cap numbers. Darnell Savage is a free agent and although Green Bay would like to bring him back, the Packers might not have cap room.

Boston College’s defenses weren’t that great during Hafley’s tenure, but he was able to take a historically poor football program to bowl eligibility in three of his four seasons there. That’s no small feat, a sign he knows how to get the most out of the talent at his disposal. That seemed to be a problem for Barry, who fielded an average to below average unit despite some big-time talent across all three levels. Another element Hafley likely brings is creativity, which is great for Green Bay’s defense which played the same base formation too often when it was struggling.

The Packers had a great pass rush and are expected to continue to have one, so Hafley won’t have much work to do there. If he can elevate the secondary with his defensive backs coach background, this hire will be a huge win. If he can’t do that, there will be questions about the Packers taking a chance on a college head coach.

I ultimately think it’s a fine move for the Packers. It’s not a splash hire like Vrabel or a homecoming for Evero, but it’s not a complete mystery box. Green Bay clearly didn’t believe in Staley’s body of work enough to bring him on, and Hafley’s background with NFL secondaries is a good starting point.