Jeff Hafley Isn't Scared of Matt LaFleur

The new Defensive Coordinator isn't afraid to challenge the Head Coach

Like many other Green Bay Packers fans, my desire for a new Defensive Coordinator preceded the 2023 season. Matt LaFleur is an offensive-minded Head Coach. With former Defensive Coordinator Joe Barry at the helm, it was obvious that LaFleur still needed to babysit the defensive coaching staff a bit regarding concepts and schemes. My desire for a replacement Defensive Coordinator was one that Matt LaFleur didn't have to keep tabs on at all times. One that would match his intensity and intelligence when planning for game day. So that LaFleur could focus on his offensive plans and only observe the defense from a quality control standpoint. It so far appears he's gotten that type of coordinator in Jeff Hafley.

On Monday, Keisean Nixon appeared on the "Up & Adams Show" with Kay Adams and absolutely glowed when asked about his new Defensive Coordinator. Nixon commented that Jeff Hafley is a very competitive guy and he enjoys the fact Hafley has a background as a defensive backs coach. For the first time in Nixon's career, his coordinator's expertise is the secondary, so it's exciting having most defensive concepts start with the back end. He continued to say that Jeff Hafley came in immediately with the mindset of finding out how can he get the defense to play like the best defense in the league. Sounds about normal for any new Defensive Coordinator right? Sure. But what stuck out to me the most, is that Keisean Nixon stated that, unlike other Defensive Coordinators, Jeff Hafley is not there to compliment Matt LaFleur. He wants his defense to go after the offense even in practice. He's not afraid of Matt LaFleur. 

Nixon joked at the beginning of his comments about Jeff Hafley that Hafley is a "short guy, so he's kind of got like little man syndrome I think, but he's competitive as hell." No matter what the Head Coach says, Hafley's defense is going to be competitive and go after the offense every single play. Right away in practice, Hafley was going after Matt LaFleur's offense and blitzing on third down, showing that he's not afraid to set an aggressive standard for his defense. 

Iron Sharpens Iron

OTA's, Mini Camps, Training Camp, this is the time of year when a practice highlight, can also be a low-light. In an offense vs defense drill, if Jordan Love hits Dontayvion Wicks for a 60-yard touchdown, of course, it's going to be exciting to see the offense nail a big play. But then you look at the other end, that was also our defense. Who blew that coverage? Did they just get beat, or was there a miscommunication? Suddenly excitement for the offense turns to worry for the defense. It needs to be looked at as nothing but a growth opportunity for our team. Packers receivers of the past like James Jones and Jordy Nelson used to say that they were better players for having lined up against the likes of Charles Woodson in training camp and practice week in and week out. Jaire Alexander has said that he grew as a cornerback having to line up against Davante Adams every day of the week. I've seen many times this situation dubbed "Iron Sharpens Iron."

We're talking about practice here. The results don't matter at all. It's what comes after those results that counts. And that's why I'm thrilled to see that Jeff Hafley has no issue whatsoever with going after Matt LaFleur. LaFleur joked in his press conference on Tuesday that that situation hasn't truly happened yet as he's had Offensive Coordinator Adam Stenavich and Jordan Love calling plays during practices thus far, not him, but he and Hafley have had some great conversations helping each other improve their concepts. 

When that time does come that LaFleur and Hafley do go head to head when it comes to calling plays on offense and defense in practice, hopefully, the same aggression remains on the part of Hafley. Matt LaFleur is very detail-oriented in his schemes. Every detail needs to be executed to perfection for that scheme to work. So, when it comes to competition in practice, LaFleur doesn't need a "Yes Man" to make his schemes look good. If it's not going to work, he needs his defense to blow it up in practice to show that it needs to be changed. A fearless Hafley will do that. Sure that play could take the top off a base defense, but what happens if a Safety and Middle Linebacker are sent in on a blitz? Is the ball carrier a sitting duck? If so, it's back to the drawing board for Matt LaFleur. 

With this aggressiveness in practice, Jeff Hafley could be showing that he is the Defensive Coordinator that Matt LaFleur needed all along. The coordinator that LaFleur doesn't have to worry about as he knows that they're going to bring it every single play. The coordinator that will complement LaFleur instead of just standing behind and occupying the position.

Time will tell if Jeff Hafley ends up being an excellent defensive coordinator for the Packers. But the buy-in and excitement from the players so far is surely a step in the right direction to the defense finally becoming an asset rather than a liability. 

 

 

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Greg Meinholz is a lifelong devoted Packer fan. A contributor to CheeseheadTV as well as PackersTalk. Follow him on Twitter @gmeinholz for Packers commentary, random humor, beer endorsements, and occasional Star Wars and Marvel ramblings.

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Comments (5)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
T7Steve's picture

June 12, 2024 at 12:20 pm

Get some turnovers and 3 and outs. Get the offense on the field a keep the D rested for the 4th quarter. Close out games.

Be nasty. Make the opposition have to worry about the next time they carry the ball.

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SicSemperTyrannis's picture

June 12, 2024 at 12:45 pm

When's the last time the league actually FEARED coming to Green Bay?

We do ask for much, just make that happen again; no pressure, Jeff ...

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TKWorldWide's picture

June 12, 2024 at 03:37 pm

How often do the starting offense and defense go “live” against each other in practice? Sincerely asking.

But I love the idea that Hafley won’t take a back seat. The “iron sharpens iron” could really be a big benefit this year!

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ricky's picture

June 12, 2024 at 08:32 pm

As far as keeping Barry around too long (by at least one season), weren't he and LaFleur very good friends? Cutting ties in that case would be more difficult, as you know the other person's family more intimately, and know how this could impact them. Also, LaFleur seems to be learning the ins and outs of being a head coach as he coaches more. It is rare that a HC comes in, and immediately hits the ground running. All that written, why on earth did he let the ST's coaching situation get so bad, and not do anything about it for so long? But I guess that goes with the "learning curve". Sometimes, that can turn into Dead Man's Curve.

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GB@Germany's picture

June 13, 2024 at 02:19 am

Oh man, hope is sky high that it works out on D this year.
Still I expect it will take a couple of games to come all together, similar to O last year.
After so many years of soft shell some big mistakes would not be surprising.
Go D Go

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