COLUMBUS — Greg Mattison lived up to his reputation, and Ohio State gave him a fitting end to a storied career.
Now the veteran coach has earned his chance to go spend more time with his family after four decades building ferocious defenses, developing players and mentoring fellow coaches.
In the big picture, Mattison’s two-year stint with the Buckeyes is just a blip on the radar considering just how extensive his resumé in the sport is as he settles into retirement. But Mattison wanted one final shot to show what he could do when he left Michigan two years ago, and his impact during that stint both competitively as the Buckeyes won a couple Big Ten titles and personally as he helped a young, first-time coach like Ryan Day won’t be forgotten.
“I want to thank Greg Mattison for everything he’s done,” Day said on Friday. “He’s retiring here after an unbelievable career at the end of the month. He’s a special guy. … His career speaks for itself. What he’s done and what’s accomplished on the field, but more important, it’s what he’s done off the field. The relationships, respect he has around the country as one of the best coaches and the impact he’s had on so many people.
“We’re working on replacing Greg. It will not be easy, but we’re going to get to work on that here. He will not be an easy guy to replace.”
That process is already underway for Ohio State now, and Day has surely been prepared for this moment for a while since the plan never really called for Mattison to stick around for long. Filling out his third staff with the Buckeyes represents another critical decision for Day, and Lettermen Row is evaluating the possibilities and what the retirement of Mattison means now.
What Greg Mattison meant to Ohio State
Right away, the hiring of Greg Mattison sent several clear signals about Ryan Day. First of all, he was confident enough to step directly into the rivalry mix and pluck a coach from Michigan. Secondly, he was going to do whatever it took to surround the Buckeyes with an elite staff. And perhaps most impressive, seeking out a veteran to fill out the meeting room proved that the first-time head coach didn’t believe he was already a finished product who couldn’t benefit from having an experienced mentor around to start his career in charge.
But beyond what that meant for Day specifically, Mattison was also just an old-school, damn-good defensive coach. The linebackers who worked closest with Mattison raved about his ability to teach the game, his deep reservoir of schemes and the kind of aggression he brought to the system. He might not have been the most active recruiter, but Ohio State didn’t need him to be. Mattison gave the Buckeyes exactly what they wanted from him over the last two years.
Candidates, options to revamp Buckeyes coaching staff
Ryan Day won’t rush anything until he settles on exactly what he wants from the vacancy on his position, but he’s also not likely to let the process drag out beyond Feb. 1 when Ohio State will ramp up workouts again. There are plenty of options available to him when it comes to the structure of the defensive staff, and thanks to the amount of money freed up and the prestige of working with the Buckeyes, he can hire just about anybody he could possibly want.
The key chess piece that could open up even more flexibility is Matt Barnes. The safeties coach and special teams coordinator has also been a little overlooked for his solid work over the last two years, but Ohio State has been impressed with everything he’s provided — and he has experience working with multiple positions. So, Day might not have to hire somebody to work with the linebackers or the front seven, unless that proves to be the best fit with guys like Tennessee Titans staffer Ryan Crow or SMU assistant Randall Joyner. If Day wants to look for a fresh face in the secondary, that might bring somebody like Minnesota Vikings assistant Roy Anderson into the equation.
Either way, Ohio State will likely want to bring in an older, experienced defensive mind to potentially serve as an analyst and replace some of the veteran know-how Mattison brought to the program.
Evaluating impact of Greg Mattison retiring
The Buckeyes certainly weren’t caught off guard by Greg Mattison’s decision, and if they had won the national championship a year ago, there’s a decent chance it might have happened then. The fact that Mattison was never meant to be a long-term hire certainly shouldn’t diminish his importance to the Buckeyes and what he provided, because he did exactly what they needed from him after leaving the Wolverines. Along those same lines, Ohio State could also potentially benefit from the opportunity to get some new blood on the defensive staff to look at some of the struggles from late in the season and to bolster the recruiting operation. The timing was right for both parties.
Bottom line: Greg Mattison gave Ohio State just about everything it could have wanted over the last two seasons, and now Ryan Day has another massive opportunity to shape the program in his image moving forward.