COLUMBUS – Silence has never been Kerry Coombs’ style.
So it was no surprise that he chose to talk publicly this week about having the final say on making Ohio State’s defensive play calls taken away from him after OSU’s loss to Oregon four weeks ago.
Coombs said head football coach Ryan Day’s decision to remove those duties from him and give them to defensive backs coach Matt Barnes was “the hardest thing that has happened to me professionally.”
But he also said no matter how much it hurt he was determined not to let it affect his job.
“That can’t last. You pick yourself up, dust yourself off and go back to work,” Coombs said.
“You can be sad for a day. I’m not going to tell you I was kicking my heels up and jumping for joy. I made a conscious decision every day, even that day, to make sure that I wasn’t going to paint that picture for everybody else. Your guts can be turning inside out and upside down but you don’t have to show that to everybody else.”
Coombs retained his title as defensive coordinator, a position he has held the last two seasons. He is in his seventh season overall at OSU. He spent five years at Ohio State from 2013-2017, then was an assistant coach with the Tennessee Titans for two years before Day brought him back to Columbus.
He also was a very successful high school coach at Colerain and was an assistant at the University of Cincinnati for five years.
“Ryan responded in the way that he thought was best for the Ohio State Buckeyes and that is 100 percent the head coach’s prerogative. I’ve been in that job. I understand it. When you’re part of a team, whether everything is going the way you want it to or not, you’re still part of that team,” Coombs said.
“The handling of it is a work in progress. I would also tell you that handling it in a different fashion, picking up your ball and going home, kicking the can down the road, quitting, packing your stuff up, being a miserable human being – if I had done those things that would make me a liar to every one of those young men I’ve coached along the way who had tough times, that got replaced on a Saturday afternoon or a Friday night or a Sunday afternoon.
“We talk about the brotherhood around here an awful lot. It’s easy to be a brother when it’s 66-17 on a Saturday afternoon. It’s hard to be a brother when you face adversity. I’m going to be here. I’m going to be fighting and battling and scratching and clawing for the remainder of this season to help us win every Saturday. Whether I like everything or how everything went, that’s got nothing to do with it. You’ve got a job to do,” he said.
Coombs said NFL coaches like Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel and retired Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau reached out to him after his reassignment.
“I don’t have any lack of confidence in my ability to do the job. I feel very comfortable about who I am and how I do my business,” Coombs said.
Day awarded Coombs a game ball after last Saturday’s 66-17 win over Maryland.
Asked about that honor, he said, “Undeserving would be the first word that comes to mind. I was shocked. Ryan was standing up there talking about it and I thought ‘Who is he talking about?’ ”