Al Washington Aspires to Become Defensive Coordinator and Head Coach, But Decided Staying at Ohio State “Was the Best Decision for Me Right Now”

By Dan Hope on March 25, 2021 at 2:10 pm
Al Washington

Al Washington could be the defensive coordinator at Tennessee right now.

While Washington and Ryan Day would have preferred if that information never became public, Tennessee’s interest in Washington was an open secret in early February, when the Volunteers reportedly offered Washington more than $1 million to become their new defensive coordinator. Washington, however, decided to turn that opportunity down and stay at Ohio State for a third year as the Buckeyes’ linebackers coach.

In his first interview since then on Thursday, Washington said that even though he aspires to eventually become a defensive coordinator and later a head coach, he decided staying at Ohio State for at least one more year “was the right move.”

“Yeah, I do want to become a coordinator. I do want to be a head coach. But I feel like timing’s important. I’m fortunate to be able to use that as a factor in the equation. I don’t have to jump at anything,” Washington said. “And I’m not saying Tennessee’s that. That’s a great place, great program, great tradition. I just felt for me personally, it was the best decision for me right now to be where I’m at. And I feel confident that making that decision will put me in position when that time comes.”

Washington is only 36 years old, so there’s still plenty of time for him to move up the coaching ranks. He said he believes “being at a place like Ohio State will put me in a position to actualize that,” and Day – whose relationship with Washington dates back to when they worked together at Boston College in 2013 and 2014 – wants to help him get those opportunities in the future.

“I love Al. I always have. He and I go back a long, long ways. He’s like a brother to me. And I always want Al to have great opportunities,” Day said last week. “That’s why he came back here. We talked about that when we came here is that I want Al to be a coordinator and be a head coach someday. So he’s gonna always have great opportunities. And this was just one of those opportunities.”

“I just felt for me personally, it was the best decision for me right now to be where I’m at. And I feel confident that making that decision will put me in position when that time comes.”– Al Washington on staying at Ohio State over Tennessee

There were several factors that kept Washington in Columbus over the lure of a promotion and pay raise in Knoxville. “It always starts off with the people,” Washington said, and he’s looking forward to continuing to work with Day, Kerry Coombs, Larry Johnson and the rest of Ohio State’s coaching staff while continuing to coach Teradja Mitchell, Dallas Gant and the rest of the linebackers he’s built bonds with over the past two years.

“You could have a job on Mars, but if it’s good people, I feel like that makes it a good job,” Washington said. “And not to say that places I’ve been in the past didn’t have good people, but I really enjoy the people I work with. Starting with Ryan Day. Obviously it’s documented. Ryan is a very influential person to me professionally, and I’ve known him for years. So I’ll start with him. He’s a great leader. He is an elite person to mold yourself after because of his habits and the way he lives his life.

“The people here make you better. Because everything at a place like Ohio State is expected to be excellent. So every day, you wake up, you get in there, you’re motivated to be your best, because that’s the standard in every way.”

Staying in Columbus was also personally appealing to Washington because it’s his hometown. His parents still live in Columbus, while his in-laws live only about an hour away, and it’s important to him that they’re able to see their grandchildren regularly. 

“My mom, she came over (Sunday), she drove 20 minutes instead of 12 hours, and she was able to see her grandkids, my kids and they get to know her as Yaya. And they really get to know her as that,” Washington said. “My father, he’s over all the time, he shares his opinion all the time, he knows the players, he’s around it. It’s unique. My kids get a chance to see my parents. And my in-laws, the same difference.

“So having a young family and being a professional, doing what you do at the highest level – which Ohio State is that – and having your family around, that makes it unique. And that’s unique to me personally. I’m just speaking for me personally. That’s why Ohio State’s special. The people, and this is where I’m from.”

Remaining at Ohio State means overseeing a major transition in Ohio State’s linebacker corps, which is replacing four seniors – Tuf Borland, Baron Browning, Justin Hilliard and Pete Werner – from last season. Washington is excited to be a part of that process, though, as it means some of the other linebackers he’s been developing for the past two seasons will get their chance to really show what they can do in 2021.

“You love to see where a guy starts at point A, and you love to see what it looks like at B, and then you love to see what it looks like at C. And that progression is why you’re in college coaching. So it’s a great opportunity here and now,” Washington said. “And I’m confident in what they can do. I’m confident in what it’ll look like. Because I know their potential. So that’s a part of it too. That was a factor in why I’m still here.”

Gant and Mitchell both said they would have supported Washington in whatever decision he chose to make, but they’re certainly glad he’s still their coach.

“Coach Washington is an incredible coach,” Gant said. “As a player for him, you don’t want to see a good coach like that leave. But it obviously was a great opportunity for him to become a defensive coordinator, so whatever route he took, I was in support of. But he said firmly that he wants to stay with us. All the guys were excited to have him back. A guy like that, he’s capable of so much, you’re happy for him either way. But you love to have him back.”

Mitchell said he considers Washington to be “the best linebacker coach in the country without a doubt,” and he expects his unit to continue to grow with Washington’s leadership.

“Obviously those opportunities are going to arise at the end of the season. So I’m glad he’s sticking around, glad to work with him,” Mitchell said. “He’s definitely elevated our unit. He pours into us like no other. So I’m glad to have him around.”

View 16 Comments