Opinion: 2022 is a Huge “Prove It” Season for Jeff Hafley

Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

In Steve Addazio’s 7 seasons as head coach of Boston College, he posted final records of:

Steve Addazio was not fired because Boston College was frequently at the basement of the ACC. He was fired because he was unable to take the Eagles to that “next level” and he was stuck behind an impenetrable 7-win threshold. For better or worse, BC fans were not satisfied with a ceiling of 7 wins despite Daz’s remarkable consistency from season to season and the way he quickly pulled BC out of the Frank Spaziani disaster.

Jeff Hafley was hired to break through that threshold and take BC to its next level. It is imperative to view Jeff Hafley’s Boston College tenure with that framing in mind.

In Jeff Hafley’s 2 seasons as head coach of Boston College so far, he has posted final records of:

In either season, even if the bowl games had been played, Hafley’s Eagles would not have broken through the 7-win threshold set by former head coach Steve Addazio.

There are very reasonable explanations as to why these teams failed to win 8 games or more. The 2020 team was Hafley’s first season as head coach and the opportunity for offseason development was severely limited by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Implementing a new system is already difficult enough without having to deal with an unprecedented health crisis, and expectations for a first-year head coach shouldn't necessarily be too high. At the time, 6-5 was a respectable first season considering the circumstances.

The 2021 team suffered a devastating blow when starting QB Phil Jurkovec went down with a hand injury in Week 2 and did not return until Week 9. And upon his return in Week 9, it was clear that he was rushed back from injury and not playing to his full potential. The team went 3-4 without Jurkovec, as opposed to 3-2 when he played a full game. Still, there were other issues with the team (like run defense) that also held them back. The Eagles’ performances overall, not just at the QB position, were very poor against teams like Wake Forest, NC State, and Louisville. Still, it was just Hafley’s 2nd season and the bottom did not completely drop out. Hafley continued to show promise and BC fans are generally a patient bunch (at least the reasonable ones).

Now, in 2022, there are no excuses.

Coach Hafley has his guys. It’s been 3 offseasons since Steve Addazio’s staff left and Hafley has had plenty of time to construct the roster in the way he intends. Especially with the rise of the transfer portal, roster construction should no longer be a negative factor.

Phil Jurkovec, Zay Flowers, Pat Garwo III, and other playmakers are at the peak of their capabilities. Jurk and Zay will be gone after this season and BC will enter a transition year on offense in 2023, so striking now is crucial. Hafley has spent multiple years developing these players and there are very few reasons as to why they shouldn’t be explosive in 2022. The offensive line took some hits in departures and injuries, but it was already performing at a mediocre level last season and Coach Hafley is responsible for his own depth in recruiting replacements now.

The defense didn’t lose key pieces. The most significant loss this offseason for the BC defense was LB Isaiah Graham-Mobley, who was just 3rd in total tackles for BC LBs in 2021. Boston College’s defense returns DBs Josh DeBerry and Jaiden Lars-Woodbey, LBs Kam Arnold and Vinny DePalma, and DLs Shitta Sillah, Marcus Valdez, Cam Horsley, Khris Banks, previously injured Chibueze Onwuka, and a number of others. Hafley has been touted as a great defensive mind and he has the opportunity to prove it by coaching up these players over a number of seasons to finally make a big impact this year.

The ACC’s powers are more vulnerable than ever. BC was a fumbled snap away from beating Clemson in 2021 with Dennis Grosel starting as the Eagles’ QB, and now the Tigers have lost their legendary defensive coordinator. FSU, while starting to improve again, still missed a bowl game last season and likely will not be competing for the ACC Atlantic crown. In cross-division play, BC will face bottom-dweller Duke and a severely depleted Virginia Tech squad with a brand new coaching staff. The teams to beat in-division this year are Clemson, NC State, and Wake Forest, and none of them are playing at the “unbeatable” level that BC has run up against in the past like with Clemson and FSU. There is absolutely room for 8+ wins on Boston College’s schedule.

Anything less than 7 wins in 2022 would be a major disappointment.

And 7 wins would still be disappointing.

The pieces are there for this to be the year Boston College finally breaks through the 7-win curse of Addazio. Jeff Hafley was hired for this exact purpose and if he doesn’t at least come close to achieving it in 2022, then it could become time to question his success in taking BC to the “next level.”

8 wins or more in the regular season? I’m over the moon. 8 wins is not a cakewalk by any means, and achieving it will confirm that Hafley is the leader who can start taking the Eagles there more consistently.

Even if that 8th win is a bowl game, I’m still content with Hafley as this team’s leader, though maybe a bit less impressed. Either way, 8 wins is an improvement over the previous staff and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

7 wins? Depends on how they get there. If BC wins 7 regular season games, loses a nailbiter to Notre Dame (for example) in the process, and then loses a close bowl game... I’m frustrated. There is room for 8 wins on the schedule, but it’s definitely not easy. If the team looks really good while doing it then I could convince myself to be okay with a 7-6 season, but it would be a hard pill to swallow. Hafley was hired for the express purpose of avoiding these types of “almost 8 wins” seasons.

If BC goes 6-6 in the regular season, then wins a bowl game against some lousy G5 team, it’s a much much more disappointing way to get 7 wins. Or worse, loses their bowl game to go 6-7. Or maybe it’ll be cancelled altogether! Anything that looks like what I’ve described here, or worse, would be a big disappointment.

Steve Addazio got by on 7-win seasons for years at Boston College, always with mountains of excuses as to why they didn’t win more.

If Jeff Hafley, 3 years in, finishes another season without breaking the 7-win threshold and those excuses start to pile up... then Boston College fans may start to get antsy once again.

So in 2022, it’s time for Jeff Hafley to prove himself.

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