The Lass Word: What Joe Barry Had To Work With in Detroit and Washington

A more thorough look at the circumstances of his first two DC opportunities.

It seems most of the criticism of Matt LaFleur’s hiring of Joe Barry as Green Bay’s Defensive Coordinator is centered around his team’s dismal defensive statistics from his previous two DC performances.  Did he get a fair shot at success in those opportunities?  Let’s take a closer look into those teams. 

 

2007 Detroit 

Head coach Rod Marinelli hires his son-in-law, Joe Barry, as his DC, Barry’s first such job in the NFL or anywhere.  He inherits a unit that finished 28th in total defense the previous year.  He runs a 4-3 alignment.  According to Pro Football Reference, his starters on the defensive line were Jared Devries, Shaun Rogers, Corey Redding and DeWayne White.  His starting linebackers are Boss Bailey, Paris Lenon, and Ernie Sims.  The defensive backs are Fernando Bryant, Travis Fisher, Kenoy Kennedy and Gerald Alexander. 

 

Only one of these players would ever be selected to a Pro Bowl.  Rogers had made it in 2004 and ‘05 with Detroit, and would be a Pro Bowler again in 2008 with Cleveland.   

  

In Barry’s first year as DC the unit would rank 32nd in points allowed and yards allowed.  The offense didn’t help much.  It ranked 31st in average time of possession.   The team had a good first half of the season, going 6-2.  During that time Barry’s defense actually played pretty well.  They held the Bears and the Broncos to just seven points each, the Buccaneers and Giants to 16 points each, and the Vikings to 17.  Things began to unravel with a six game losing streak beginning in week nine, which included yielding 31 to Arizona, 37 to Green Bay, 42 to Minnesota, and 51 to San Diego. 

 

The Lions finished 7-9, third in the NFC North.   The Barry defense gave up 444 points, while the offense  scored just 346. 

 

2008 Detroit 

Due to player departures and injuries, the Lions had to make major personnel changes in 2008.  Gone from Barry’s starting line up were Rogers, Bailey, Bryant, Fisher, Kennedy and Alexander.  Four of them were replaced with undrafted free agents in Chartric Darby, Ryan Nece, Leigh Bodden and Kalvin Pearson.  Combined with the returning Lenon, that meant five of Barry’s eleven starters were UDFA’s.  No player on this defense ever achieved a Pro Bowl before, during, or after this season.   

 

The bottom fell out.  That Detroit team made history by going 0-16.  Barry’s defense held opponents under 31 points just five times, and under 25 points just once, a 12 to 10 loss to the Vikings.  Again, the unit finished 32nd in yards and points allowed.  Again, the offense wasn’t much help, ranking 27th in points, 30th in yards, and 31st in time of possession.    

 

General Manager Matt Millen was fired after Week Three.  Marinelli, Barry, and the rest of the staff followed after the season. 

 

2015 Washington 

After the Detroit debacle, Barry returned to being a linebackers coach with Tampa Bay and San Diego for five years, with one year in college at USC.   In 2015 he was hired by head coach Jay Gruden for his second shot at Defensive Coordinator.  Barry inherited a defense that finished 29th in points allowed and 20th in yards allowed the previous season.  Washington lost four starters from that 2014 squad, including three of the four starting defensive backs.  Among the departures were two time Pro Bowler Brandon Meriweather, Pro Bowler Ryan Clark, and David Amerson, all from the secondary, along with Jarvis Jenkins from the defensive line. 

 

Barry’s cupboard was not completely bare.  Three of his 2015 starters had made a Pro Bowl in the past.  OLB Ryan Kerrigan had been selected in 2012.  DT Jason Hatcher was selected in 2013 while with Dallas,  but by 2015 Hatcher was bothered with a knee injury and, in his 9th year, was past his prime.   Washington had signed DB Dashon Goldson in an effort to help replenish the secondary.  Goldson was first team All Pro in 2012 with the 49ers, but here again, he was in his 9th year and his play had begun to decline. 

 

 This time Barry ran a 3-4 alignment.  The other starters were DL’s Terrance Knighton and Chris Baker, LB’s Trent Murphy, Keenan Robinson and Perry Riley, along with Kerrigan.  The DB’s were Bashaud Breeland, Will Blackmon, Trent Robinson and Goldson.   

 

Led by quarterback Kirk Cousins, who threw for over 4,000 yards and 29 touchdowns, Washington finished 9-7, winning the NFC East.  They went on to defeat Dallas in the Wild Card round, before losing 35-18 to the Packers in the Divisional round.   Barry’s defensive unit improved one notch from 2014 to 28th in yards allowed, and improved three places to 17th in points allowed.   His offensive support was good, finishing 17th in yards, 10th in points and  4th in time of possession. 

 

Barry’s defense gave up over 30 points five times in 18 games.  It held the opposition to 20 or less six times.  The big drop off was against the run, where Washington slipped from 12th to 26th. 

 

2016 Washington 

Washington made a concerted effort to overhaul its defense in 2016.  On the defensive line, gone were Knighton and Hatcher, replaced by Ricky Jean-Francois and Evander Hood, who had been a first round pick by the Steelers in 2009.  At linebacker, Murphy, Robinson and Riley were replaced by Preston Smith, William Compton and Mason Foster.  They joined Kerrigan.  Washington made a splash in the free agent market by signing defensive back Josh Norman, who was coming off a first team All Pro year in Carolina.  Veteran Donte Whitner and UDFA Duke Ihenacho combined with Breeland to round out the secondary. 

 

Three of the players in this line up had been to a Pro Bowl, Kerrigan, Norman and Whitner who had been there twice.  Washington finished the season 8-7-1, good for third place in the NFC East.  Barry’s defense dropped two notches to 19th in points allowed and stayed at 28th in yards allowed.  Kerrigan went to the Pro Bowl, as he did the following two seasons as well.  The offense slipped from 10th to 12th in points scored, but soared to 3rd in yards.   Yet it was 22nd in time of possession, meaning Barry’s defense was still on the field a lot. 

 

Barry’s unit allowed more than 30 points three times, and held opponents to 20 or under also three times.  After the season, Gruden replaced Barry with Greg Manusky.  In the next season, the Washington defense got worse in points allowed, going from 19th under Barry to 27th under Manusky.   The unit did improve in yards allowed from 28th to 21st. 

 

So what can be gathered from this?  It seems safe to say Joe Barry never had a reasonable shot at success in Detroit.  Terrible drafting by Millen, combined with injuries and player departures left him bereft of talent.   That being said, it also appears that his players did not significantly develop and improve under his leadership.  

 

On paper, at least, he appears to have had decent, not great, talent in Washington and a better offense to protect him.  His defense probably under achieved a bit.  Statistically, his units moved up a little in some categories, and slipped a little in others, and, on the whole, remained roughly the same as when he arrived.   

  

In Green Bay, Barry inherits a defense that ranks much better statistically than he had in Detroit or Washington.  In 2020 the Packers finished 13th in points allowed and 9th in yards allowed.  He will also have one of the league’s top offenses to protect him.    Green Bay was number one in time of possession in 2020,  He will have three Pro Bowlers in Kenny Clark, Za’darius Smith and Jaire Alexander, all of whom are in their prime.  Plus young, ascending players like Darnell Savage, Krys Barnes and Rashan Gary.  

 

No excuses this time.  Expectations will be high.  This is his chance, in all likelihood his last chance, to prove he can handle it. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ken Lass is a former Green Bay television sports anchor and 43 year media veteran, a lifelong Packers fan, and a shareholder.

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10 points

Comments (42)

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Bearmeat's picture

February 11, 2021 at 05:11 pm

It's an underwhelming hire on paper, and no one can fairly say differently.

It's not who I wanted, but I didn't want MLF either, and that's turned out really well, so what do I know? Either the defense will be measurably better immediately in 2021, or Barry won't last more than 2 years.

The larger point, and perhaps this is hijacking the thread a bit, and for that I apologize: We've choked 9x in the 2nd/3rd round of the playoffs since 1995. All 9 are games we could/should have won. We didn't.

What's going to get us over the hump? Luck? Well, we've had great injury luck the last 2 years. Turnovers? I guess. Coaching? Salary cap management? What is missing? What would cause the shut down D?

I don't know the answer to that question, and just like in 2017, I'm starting to feel once again that ARod will be in the Dan Marino and BLF boat: Great individual QB talents whose teams never lived up to their potential.

14 points
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KenEllis's picture

February 11, 2021 at 04:14 pm

You did hijack the thread ... but you are still 100% correct regarding the bigger picture.

Over the past 15 years we've had Bob Sanders, Dom, Pettine, and Barry coordinating the defense and Stock, Slocum, Zook, and Mennenga coordinating Special Teams and now Barry & Drayton.

After all this time we are still waiting on the Packers to come up with top 10 defensive and Special Teams units (other than Dom's D in years 1 & 2 of his time as coordinator) and in the case of STs heck we'd be thrilled with top 1/2.

Watching Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers and the offense carry the rest of the organization to the playoffs but short of Super Bowls (other than in 2010) got old a long, long time ago.

5 points
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Bearmeat's picture

February 11, 2021 at 05:10 pm

Yes, but you could also say the BLF and ACR routinely played their worst when the lights were the brightest too. If you butter your bread as a high flying offense, you need to do that, even against the best defenses.

That said, I'm by no means defending the Packers defense and special teams. Apart from 2010, the defense has been atrocious since 2008. No excuses.

3 points
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dobber's picture

February 11, 2021 at 03:31 pm

Bottom line is that it's up to a coordinator to make his unit stronger than the sum of its parts. Maybe he didn't have a chance in Detroit, but he did in Washington...and by your own admission, you felt he underachieved there.

6 points
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Bearmeat's picture

February 11, 2021 at 05:06 pm

He did underachieve in WAS in a highly dysfunctional situation. But Kyle Shanahan and our own MLF did not underachieve in the same situation on the other side of the ball. On the face of it, this is a terrible hire.

As Nagler said yesterday, it' now all on MLF.

3 points
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Guam's picture

February 11, 2021 at 05:29 pm

Detroit I can forgive, but the Washington part of his resume is deeply concerning. He had some decent players and apparently did little with them. We can but wait and see, but this is not what I'd hoped for.

3 points
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Stroh's picture

February 11, 2021 at 07:40 pm

You don't win on D with decent players. Defense isn't really where you can scheme guys to make them better. On offense you can scheme more and win with slightly less. On D it simply requires the talent level to be high.

Not thrilled with the hire, but the talent is trending towards a possible dominant unit with one or 2 additions and continued development.

The issue I see is if takes a year or 2 to learn the scheme like it did with LaFleur offense.

2 points
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splitpea1's picture

February 11, 2021 at 08:59 pm

That's a pretty good summary. Trying to skate by with too many lower draft picks and UDFA's doesn't get it done. That continued development needs to include better tackling--I hope it's a new point of emphasis going forward.

1 points
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murf7777's picture

February 12, 2021 at 07:48 am

You can scheme defense, just ask the master of scheming Bill Belicheck. He did more with less.

2 points
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splitpea1's picture

February 12, 2021 at 11:24 am

He may have done more, but I don't know if it was with less. Just take a look at all the Pro Bowlers on defense with his Super Bowl teams; a lot of them were drafted in rounds 1-3.

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Guam's picture

February 12, 2021 at 08:28 am

Bad defensive schemes can lose games - see Kevin King in man coverage and no help over the top with 8 seconds to go before half time in the NFCCG. Good defensive schemes can protect weaker players (like giving help over the top).

I agree that better players are a big factor, but scheme and motivation are important on defense too. Belichek has made a pretty good living with decent players and great scheme.

1 points
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Coldworld's picture

February 11, 2021 at 06:27 pm

Couldn’t the same be said about Bill Bellichek going to the Patriots?

I’m skeptical if this hire. However, it can mean one if two things: LaFleur isn’t a good judge of leadership beneath him or that LaFleur sees something we don’t, either in these roles or in the years since. Coaches can evolve. Barry has had to be adaptable.

So far LaFleur hasn’t given me any reason to support him being a horrible judge of coaching talent. For that reason I’m going to try to give him the benefit of the doubt and let Barry show us he is more now than he was then. This choice took some guts from LaFleur, let’s hope he had good reasons to step out in this limb.

5 points
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Lphill's picture

February 11, 2021 at 03:44 pm

Should have chose Jerry Gray .

6 points
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stockholder's picture

February 11, 2021 at 04:16 pm

Ernie Sims taken after AJ Hawk. But the real prize was Nagata in 2006. It took TT 3 more years to get Raji. and fix the DL. Got It! The one who fixes the DL Wins. So don't expect anything until Gute drafts his DL.

7 points
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Razer's picture

February 11, 2021 at 04:23 pm

Fundamentally agree. Get some talent beside Kenny Clark and a stud linebacker and this defense jumps ahead. This may be Gutekunst most important draft. Let's just hope that he doesn't get distracted by a bright shiney quarterback :o)

8 points
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Stroh's picture

February 11, 2021 at 07:51 pm

Get a stud DL opposite Clark and the LB on hand are good enough to dominate. The DL makes the LB much better, but ILB can't make the DL dominant.

2 points
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Razer's picture

February 11, 2021 at 04:20 pm

Thanks Ken for the leg-work. Very little to be impressed about with this resume. Looks like he has an excuse. I am suspicious about his stint with the Rams and being passed over twice for the DC position. Sean McVay missed out twice. Hmmmm?

8 points
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Lare's picture

February 11, 2021 at 04:25 pm

The pressure is on Barry. As they say, three times and you're out.

Hope Gutekunst gives him some players to work with.

3 points
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Coldworld's picture

February 11, 2021 at 11:41 pm

I also hope that Barry will appreciate run stopping DLs and provide an environment where our ILBs have a better chance. Pettine clearly tried not to use heavier lines. I suspect that played into draft priorities as Gute appears to listen to the coaching staff.

2 points
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Bruiser's picture

February 11, 2021 at 05:51 pm

A good coordinator is capable of elevating the play of the defense and Barry has been underwhelming. A poor hire in my opinion and articles like this won't change my mind.

0 points
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Stroh's picture

February 11, 2021 at 08:06 pm

Not so much on D. On offense you can scheme production alot more. On D its almost entirely a matter of having the talent necessary to become dominant.

2 points
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JQ's picture

February 12, 2021 at 10:33 am

I didn't get the impression the writer's purpose is to 'change our minds.'

0 points
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Swisch's picture

February 11, 2021 at 06:07 pm

Draft stoutly at inside lineman and inside linebacker and let's see what happens.

3 points
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Stroh's picture

February 11, 2021 at 08:10 pm

A stud interior DL to pair with Clark and the ILB on the roster become MUCH better. A great DL improves the ILB quite a bit. But great ILB don't make the DL better. Look at Dallas, great ILB but a crap DL and the overall D is poor. DL elevate the ILB, the opposite is NOT true

3 points
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Ferrari-Driver's picture

February 11, 2021 at 06:53 pm

As I mentioned in a different thread some days back, I am opposed to the Barry hire, but I have been wrong in the past all too often. What I do hope is that during the past few years he has learned a lot and that Matt LaFleur has worked with him close enough in Los Angeles and his talent and knowledge is not obvious to others, but in reality is off the charts.

3 points
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Swisch's picture

February 11, 2021 at 07:15 pm

Let's hope that in Joe Barry we're a step ahead in finding the next great defensive coordinator, or at least one who is very good.
If he can impart individual tackling skills, energy for team tackling, awareness of assignments, and a good measure of dash and daring . . .

1 points
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Starrbrite's picture

February 11, 2021 at 07:04 pm

Al Davis believed that you should build your defense with superior D-Backs. It appears to me however that great defense begins with an excellent D-Line. The Packers of the 60’s, Steelers of the 70’s, the Cowboys, Ravens, the Giants, last year’s 49’rs, and Tampa this year. Let’s build a D-Line!!

8 points
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Stroh's picture

February 11, 2021 at 08:13 pm

Great DL makes the ILB much better, the opposite in not true. Either way you still need quality coverage in the secondary.

1 points
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nostradanus's picture

February 11, 2021 at 09:10 pm

MLF must be pretty confident in his choice, if this doesn’t work out and two years from now Rodgers never sniffs another Super Bowl it will be MLF head on the chopping block too. Let’s hope he’s the right choice.

2 points
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baldski's picture

February 11, 2021 at 09:40 pm

Starrbrite: I agree, but we will have to draft good and we select at the bottom.

After our loss to TB, I did some research on their team. The Lombardi trophy should go to Jason Licht, their GM. This guy is phenomenal. He put together a great team. The starting defense has 4 first round picks and 4 second round picks. He drafted White and Vea and the entire defensive backfield. He drafted 4 out of the 5 starters on the O line. He came to TB in 2014 so maybe it takes 5 years to build a superbowl team. They are also $29 million under the cap. They will probably get better.

5 points
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murf7777's picture

February 12, 2021 at 07:43 am

Not to dilute his selections too much, but He also drafted inside the top 10.

4 points
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JohnnyLogan's picture

February 12, 2021 at 07:57 am

7, 1, 11, 19, 12, 5, 13. That's where Tampa drafted. The Tampa GM did a great job, but beating the Packers at drafting?... think I might have done that with their picks compared to the Packers'.

21, 30, 27, 30, 18, 12, 26... that's where the Packers picked. Managed to get a Jaire, and missed on T.J. Watt who was just sitting there. But still Tampa had seven drafts with two top 5, six in the top 13, not one pick below 19. Hard to miss too badly.

4 points
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Crankbait's picture

February 12, 2021 at 08:30 am

Deciding not to take TJ Watt was the biggest blunder this organization has made in decades and ranks right up there with ignoring Barry Sanders. I have no confidence in this organization either hiring coaches or drafting defensive players.
I do have confidence in Aaron Rodgers behind a quality offensive line.

4 points
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NickPerry's picture

February 12, 2021 at 06:24 am

Hey...LETS just trust MLF on this. Many thought he was crazy when he replaced James Campen with Adam Stenavich. Personally I think that was a hell of a good hire. The Packers dealt with injuries all season and were one the best O-Lines in football. He hired Justin Outten and in 2 years Big Bob Tonyan SHOULD have been named to the Pro-Bowl (Even Engram my ass!) Hackett has been an excellent OC to blend his knowledge of the west coast offense in with MLF scheme...Results, well we know!

Bottom line is the Packers offensive coaching staff, the SAME coaching staff when they were first hired I was like, WHO THE HELL ARE MOST OF THESE GUYS, have ALL been excellent hires!!! I'm not blaming him for the ST hire since he TRIED to hire Rizzo. He also made Chris Gizzi the strength and conditioning coordinator IIRC and made Lovat the assistant. No matter which way you slice it the injuries have been WAAAAY down in GB the last 2 seasons.

Lets get a few games into the season at least before killing the guy. I'm sure Barry already KNOWS Packers fans thinks he sucks. Lets start supporting the guy.

10 points
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Ferrari-Driver's picture

February 12, 2021 at 08:36 am

A change that I would like to see in our defense may be called "Attitude" or something like that. I always hope that when our defense takes the field the opposing offense will look at them and see a snarling dog that is ready to rip your head off. I always liked that Ray Nitschke look when he took his front teeth out.
https://monkees.coolcherrycream.com/images/head/bluray/w/01202-private.jpg

3 points
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Lare's picture

February 12, 2021 at 10:20 am

The Packers need a DL, J.J. Watt was just released by Houston.

The Packers are around $28 million over the salary cap, they can save around $28 million by releasing P.Smith, Kirksey, Wagner, Lowry & Funchess.

0 points
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Since'61's picture

February 12, 2021 at 10:52 am

What Barry did as a DC in Detroit 13+ seasons ago is irrelevant. Especially if you consider that Detroit has not won an NFL Championship since 1957. That speaks more of the organization than of Barry. As the Washington they haven’t done much very well since the Joe Gibbs days.

Not making excuses for Barry but it’s quite possible he found himself in a couple of FUBARs.

I’m thinking that MLF is looking for a defense that can get more consistent pressure on opposing QBs and also play more physically and get off the field on 3rd and longs. Over the 4 seasons that Barry was with the Rams they were #2 in sacks in the league over that period. Some of that is due to Barry as the LB coach. Also he was part of the league’s best defense in 2020.

For better or worse Barry brings NFC experience. He appears to be more aggressive and generates pressure. With the Packers defense he will have some talent to work with. Better tackling alone would go a long way towards getting the defense off the field. More consistent pressure on QBs should help generate more turnovers, which means more possessions for Rodgers and the offense.

When Pettine listened to his players and allowed them to play more aggressively the Packers defense improved, at least until the NFCCG, when they allowed 3 long scoring plays, 2 by King.

Another question with Barry is will he keep the current defensive staff or will he make changes to the staff? We could use a coach who can teach our DBs how to hold onto their picks. We seem to drop many more than we catch.
Also it would be good to bring in a tackling coach.

I don’t know if Barry will be a good DC or not but I think MLF knows what he wants/expects from his defense and I think he believes that he can work with Barry to get there. Time will tell. Thanks, Since ‘61

1 points
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JQ's picture

February 12, 2021 at 01:31 pm

Nice deep-dive Ken, into Barry's history as a D-Coordinator. I agree he has a small window to improve the Packer defense and disprove the doubters.

My uninformed opinion leans toward skepticism, but I plan to ignore the 'noise' and see how the Packer defense plays.

I do think Gutey has to bring in some talent via the draft, or free agents who may come available. But all thing being the same, Barry DOES have several solid to excellent players already on his squad. So I think the bar ought to be set fairly high.

In a related topic, I special teams need to make a SOLID jump this year. Too many times this past season opponents had a short field from which to start, either via a crappy JK Scott punt, or a long return.

Stay tuned, film at 11...

-JQ-

3 points
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PatrickGB's picture

February 12, 2021 at 03:44 pm

Matt wanted a DC who could infused enthusiasm and energy into the defense. Perhaps he did not wan an X’s and O’s kind of guy. And maybe he wanted a more enthusiastic sideline coach?

1 points
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flackcatcher's picture

February 12, 2021 at 04:22 pm

I, for one, would like a sideline coach who could call for a TIMEOUT with 8 seconds left in the first half.... (And yes I'm STILL BITTER over the Tampa game. Kicking a damn field goal down by 8. Gutless. {Shakes fist impotently at sky} BRADY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

2 points
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flackcatcher's picture

February 12, 2021 at 04:45 pm

Having seen Barry's defensive at Washington, he had more talent on the field than most in that division at the time. It was quite clear he lost the defense by season half in both years. But to be clear, Washington was an awful mess those years. Both in the locker room and front office. That was not Barry's fault, and it did affect play on the field. If Barry's defense equals Pettine's defense next season, then he will have done his job, and the Packers should be in the hunt for another Superbowl. There are X-factors that Barry can not control, but will be blamed for, like injuries and players not adapting to the scheme. That's where he will earn his paycheck. If he fails, then he is gone, and in all likelihood Lafleur with him. As others have pointed out, this is the best situation Barry has fallen into, and might be his real last chance to advance in the pro football coaching ranks.

0 points
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Rossonero's picture

February 13, 2021 at 04:15 pm

Barry has to be on a short leash. He was just handed the keys to a defense trying to get Aaron Rodgers a ring in the twilight of his career.

Leonhard made sense as a candidate, although I had always thought LaFleur would want someone with more experience.

Don't be shocked if we spend a high pick on a D-lineman or an offensive tackle.

0 points
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