July 19, 2024

 OFFICIAL: Lions Just added a very powerful line  coordinator to staff…

Jim O’Neill will be joining Detroit as a defensive assistant. He worked with Jeff Hafley in 2014-2015 with the Cleveland Browns.

The Detroit Lions announced on Wednesday that they had hired Jim O’Neil as a defensive assistant, Terrell Williams as their defensive line coach and run game coordinator, and Deshea Townsend as their defensive backs coach and coordinator of the passing game. Considering everything else that is happening in the NFC North, that last move in especially is intriguing.

Both O’Neil and new Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley coached at the University of Albany early on in their careers, O’Neil as an assistant offensive line and tight ends coach in 2001 and Hafley as a defensive assistant from 2002-2005. They never officially crossed paths until 2014, though, when O’Neil was named the defensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns. The first defensive backs coach that O’Neil hired in Cleveland was Hafley, who had just come off his first season as a full-time on-field NFL coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

After their two years together in Cleveland, the team went in a different direction, leading to Hafley joining the San Francisco 49ers as their defensive backs coach, a job he would retain when Kyle Shanahan — a former Browns coach during their tenure together — took over as the franchise’s head coach. Hafley held that position for three seasons until former 49ers assistant coach Ryan Day was named as Ohio State’s head coach, leading to Day offering Hafley the defensive coordinator position at the program. After just one year there, Hafley was named Boston College’s head coach in 2020, a position he held until this offseason — when he returned to the NFL.

Unlike Hafley, though, O’Neil hasn’t been as lucky at finding high-level jobs. Like Hafley, he was hired by the 2016 49ers, who at the time were coached by Chip Kelly — who only held the head coaching position for one season. O’Neil was a defensive coordinator that season, his final year as a defensive coordinator at the NFL level.

After spending a season out of the sport, he resurfaced as a senior defensive assistant for the Oakland Raiders in 2018, parlaying that job to the defensive backs coaching position for the 2019-2020 teams. If you’re doing the math there, yes, that overlaps with Packers special teams coordinator and assistant head coach Rich Bisaccia’s time with the Raiders. During those seasons, Bisaccia was also the assistant head coach and special teams coordinator for Oakland/Las Vegas.

In 2021, O’Neil returned to the college level for the first time since he was a safeties coach at Eastern Michigan back in 2008. He served as Northwestern’s defensive coordinator for the 2021 and 2022 seasons. In 2023, he was out of the sport again for the entire season.

So now the 45-year-old O’Neil has resurfaced in the NFC North, where he will likely provide intel on two of the Packers’ coordinators, whom he’s previously served on staffs with for multiple seasons. Little information has been provided about what O’Neil’s role with the Lions is expected to be other than the title of “defensive assistant.”

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