Ryan Day, Jeff Hafley Happy Coaching At Ohio State Despite Potential NFL Interest

By Colin Hass-Hill on October 8, 2019 at 3:44 pm
Ryan Day and Jeff Hafley

Ryan Day has experience coaching in the NFL, spent two years with Dwayne Haskins at Ohio State and is now the head coach at arguably the most prominent college football program in the nation.

Naturally, given his experience and success with Haskins, his name has been bandied about in public as a potential successor to Jay Gruden as the Washington Redskins' head coach. Day said on Tuesday, however, that the Redskins have not contacted him about their job opening.

He also both expressed a preference not to discuss NFL opportunities with reporters and an appreciation for his current job in Columbus.

“I don't really ever want to talk about any of that stuff. I love it here. This is where I want to be,” Day said on Tuesday. “Whether it's good, bad or indifferent, even for the next five, 10, hopefully 20 years, while I'm here I really don't want to comment on any of that because I don't think it's good for anybody.”

Day, 40, might not want to talk about it, but this won’t be the last time he’s ever asked about the NFL and whether he’ll eventually return to the league where he recently spent a pair of seasons.

Rarely, if ever, do head coaches at football programs the size of Ohio State leave to become head coaches elsewhere in college. However, the NFL looms as an ever-present possibility, especially when coaches such as Day have spent time in the league – even though it was only two years.

“The good news is our coaching staff is really entrenched in this community now, which is great. We love it here, and they're happy. I don't expect anybody to leave anytime soon.”– Ryan Day on Ohio State's coaching staff

Day largely attributed his decision to make a career in college football rather than the NFL due to his preference to keep his family from moving again. He and his family moved from Boston College when he took a job with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2015, then they got uprooted and left the next year when Day got a job with the San Francisco 49ers in 2016. The following year, Day got hired at Ohio State and is now in his third year coaching at the university.

“That was hard times for us,” Day said. “I said never again. I don't want to do it anymore. She said the same thing. That was the decision that we made.”

Every permanent head coach at Ohio State has spent at least seven years in the job since Wes Fesler’s four-year run from 1947 to 1950. Woody Hayes had the longest run as a Buckeyes head coach, stretching from 1951 to 1978.

When asked whether he might match Hayes’ 28-year stint with 28 years of his own, Day chuckled.

“Oh boy, I don't know if I could make it that long,” he said. “But a good problem to have.”

Co-defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley, too, has dealt with speculation about a possible eventual move to the NFL.

Having not coached in college since 2011 before this season, Hafley has much more NFL experience than Day. He spent the past seven years in the NFL working as a secondary coach and assistant secondary coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cleveland Browns and San Francisco 49ers. Prior to that, he spent a decade in the college ranks at Rutgers, Pittsburgh, Albany and Worcester Polytechnic.

“Truthfully, this is the most fun I've had coaching in a long time,” Hafley, who is also 40, said last week. “I feel reenergized. I love the staff. I love working for coach Day. I love these players. I love coming to work every day, and I haven't been able to say that in a long time, but I mean that. This is fun. So I'm really excited to be here right now.”

With a co-coordinator title, there’s also the possibility Hafley could garner interest in the coming months for college head coaching opportunities. The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman ranked him third on a list of college coaches to watch before the season began, and Ohio State’s defensive success has further propelled his profile.

Hafley said he and Day never talked about a commitment of at least two years at Ohio State, which was an expectation of assistant coaches during Urban Meyer’s tenure. He said he’s “just thinking about today.”

“I haven't had time to shave – look at me, right?” Hafley said last week. “There's so much that needs to go into every single day, every single minute, every meeting. I walk around here, someone grabs me here. Someone grabs me there. So just to think about tomorrow would be hard for me. I'm very happy here.”

Ohio State essentially never goes through an offseason without losing at least one assistant coach elsewhere. However, first-year head coaches are sometimes more inclined to return their entire coaching staffs for year two.

In 2013, Meyer brought back all 10 of his assistant coaches for a second year. It's a bit different in Day's case since five assistants – Larry Johnson, Brian Hartline, Tony Alford, Greg Studrawa and Kevin Wilson – are holdovers from the Meyer era. Still, he has expressed optimism in keeping the coaching staff intact.

“We talk about it when people bring their families here that we'd like them to be here for a long time, and I'd rather not them come here for one year and leave, but guys have opportunities, and I don't want to get in the way of that,” Day said a week ago. “But at the same time, when you're building relationships and you're recruiting, we expect at least two years, sometimes more. The good news is our coaching staff is really entrenched in this community now, which is great. 

“We love it here, and they're happy. I don't expect anybody to leave anytime soon.”

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