How Jim Haslett, an NFL coaching veteran, ended up as a Penn State football 'intern'
Jim Haslett, the veteran football coach with more than 20 years of NFL service, is watching Penn State football practices these days. According to his boss, Haslett is getting paid less than the graduate-assistant coaches, making him an affordable, and experienced, addition to the program.
"Maybe you have a college student intern working for you for free," Penn State coach James Franklin explained. "Wouldn't you take one who has 30 years of experience? It was a no-brainer."
Haslett, the former New Orleans Saints coach, is serving as a consultant this season at Penn State. It's a specific position whose benefits significantly outweigh the cost, Franklin said.
Haslett, who was the Washington Redskins' defensive coordinator the past five seasons, is restricted in what he can do at Penn State, according to NCAA rules. He can't provide "technical or tactical instruction" to players, make "tactical decisions" during games or recruit off-campus.
What Haslett can do is attend staff meetings and practices, watch film and offer guidance to coaches. Matt Millen, the Big Ten Network's newest analyst and a former Penn State linebacker, called Haslett's hiring a boost for the program.
"Franklin did something really smart by hiring Jim Haslett," Millen said. "That's a great hire. Not a good hire; a great one. Jim's been around the game for a long time, and he sees things with an educated eye. That will pay dividends."
Haslett ended up at Penn State through the staff's deep web of coaching connections. He had coached Brent Pry, Penn State's assistant defensive coordinator, at the University of Buffalo in the late 1980s.
While at Buffalo, Haslett worked with Jim Pry, a former East Stroudsburg University assistant, and maintained a friendship with the family. Brent Pry invited Haslett to visit Penn State for a clinic last spring.
Franklin said his staff liked Haslett, who planned to take this season off from coaching, primarily to watch son Chase play quarterback at Division II Indiana (Pa.). Since his father-in-law also lives in State College, Haslett could see his son play football and remain active in the game by working at Penn State.
"To be honest with you, it was just a perfect storm," Franklin said. "All these things aligned, and it just kind of made sense."
Millen said that Haslett can help Penn State on both sides of the ball. Though primarily a defensive coach, Haslett has studied offenses for years. Millen said Haslett's skill at watching game film will be a significant benefit for Penn State's staff.
"Jim can see things others can't," Millen said. "'How can we attack it, here's our matchups, we don't want to get this guy in this situation,' Jim can see all that."
After he announced Haslett's hiring this summer, Franklin said he heard "a bunch of conspiracy theories" regarding the move. For instance, was Franklin hiring Haslett with an eye toward the future? Perhaps to fill a potential staff opening, should one occur?
Franklin dismissed all that, calling the decision pretty simple and maybe "the best deal in the country."
"We had a guy who coached in the NFL for 30 years, has been a head coach, been a coordinator, and we basically can get this guy for free?" Franklin said. "And all the guys can bounce ideas off him? Who would turn that down?"