Matt LaFleur Goes Out on a Limb with the Hiring Joe Barry

Joe Barry

Matt LaFleur and the Green Bay Packers appear to have their new defensive coordinator. On Saturday, news broke that Joe Barry will be replacing former defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. For some Packers fans, it came as a surprise. While it also drew the ire of some Packers fans as well. No matter the case, Matt LaFleur is entrusting Joe Barry to take the Packers defense to the next level.

Joe Barry Becomes the Second Defensive Coordinator under Matt LaFleur

Matt LaFleur and the Packers cast a wide net in their search for a new defensive coordinator. Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com reported at least nine candidates interviewed for the job that went to Joe Barry. He also reported that Barry wasn’t LaFleur’s top choice.

As we recently wrote, University of Wisconsin defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard seemed like the best fit for the position. If Demovsky’s report is right, LaFleur and the Packers agreed. Leonhard was offered the job but turned it down. Instead, Leonhard delighted Badgers fans and will be staying put in Madison.

With Leonhard out of the picture, LaFleur and the Packers settled on Joe Barry. LaFleur now will entrust Barry to take over a Packers defense that didn’t match their potential.

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All Speculation Until the Packers take the Field

When it comes to hiring a coordinator or even head coach, there is a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking that goes on. In reality, you never know what is going to happen when you hire a new head or assistant coach. Many Packers fans weren’t pleased with Mark Murphy when he hired LaFleur as the Packers head coach. But that decision turned out to be a good one by the Packers.

So, until Joe Barry and the Packers defense take the field in 2021, it is all talk. However, what fans can take a look at is the resume of the coach. Unfortunately for Joe Barry, his resume isn’t overly impressive.

Uneven Resume

Joe Barry has been an assistant coach for six different NFL teams. He was a part of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers coaching staff from 2001-2006. He worked on Tony Dungy‘s staff as the linebackers coach in 2001. When Dungy was let go, he was retained by new coach Jon Gruden. He was a part of Gruden’s staff that won Super Bowl XXXVII in 2002.

In 2007, then Detroit Lions head coach (and Barry’s father in law) Rod Marinelli hired him to be the Lions defensive coordinator. He held that position from 2007-2008. In 2008, he was a part of a Lions team that finished 0-16. As Demovsky pointed out, the Lions defense finished up ranked 28th and 32nd in yards allowed during his tenure. Barry and the rest of the Lions staff were fired after the 2008 season.

After being fired, Barry served as linebackers coach for the Buccaneers, USC, and then the San Diego Chargers from 2009-2014. During his tenure with those teams, their records were a combined 44-49.

Barry received his second chance as a defensive coordinator in 2015 when he was hired as the Washington Football Team’s defensive coordinator. He held that position from 2015-2016. Under Barry, their defense ranked 17th and 18th in points allowed. Washington’s record combined for those two seasons was 17-14-1. Barry was let go after the 2016 season.

Joe Barry And His Ties to LaFleur

As a defensive coordinator, Joe Barry doesn’t have an impressive track record. However, it seems like when it comes to being hired as an assistant coach, it is more about who you know (or who you related to) than what you have done. That might have worked in Barry’s case when getting the Packers defensive coordinator position.

After being let go by Washington, he was hired by the Los Angeles Rams as their assistant head coach/linebackers coach in 2017. He was hired by the same staff that Sean McVay hired LaFleur as the Rams offensive coordinator for. LaFleur and Barry worked together for 2017 before LaFleur departed to the Tennessee Titans to call plays as their offensive coordinator.

Barry worked under defensive coordinator Wade Phillips from 2017-2019. When McVay parted ways with Phillips after the 2019 season, he bypassed Barry for the defensive coordinator position and instead hired Brandon Staley. Barry continued to hold that position under Staley this past season. Staley led an impressive Rams defense this past season. His work led him to be hired by the Chargers as their head coach this off-season.

Barry was expected to join Staley with the Chargers as their defensive pass coordinator/linebackers coach until the Packers came calling. It appears that the connection of working with LaFleur that one year Los Angeles, along with a recommendation of McVay, was enough to land him the Packers defensive coordinator position.

Still, it is difficult to get past the less than impressive resume Barry brings as a defensive coordinator. For the Packers, and their chances of getting back to the Super Bowl, they are banking on LaFleur being right on his hiring decision.

Questions will Follow LaFleur

If the Packers would have hired Leonhard as their defensive coordinator, there would have been questions. Leonhard has only been a defensive coordinator at the college level, something he has done for only four seasons. He has never held a coaching position at the NFL level.

However, the case can be made that hiring Joe Barry is an even bigger risk. While Leonhard has never coordinated an NFL defense, Barry has and has been unimpressive doing it. LaFleur is going out on a limb with this hire. If Barry fails, many will question LaFleur’s decision.

LaFleur will also face some other questions. Many will wonder why secondary coach Jerry Gray didn’t get the job. Gray helped star cornerback Jaire Alexander become one of the best cover cornerbacks in the NFL. He also helped guide Darnell Savage Jr. to a very productive season in just his second year. It will be interesting to see how Gray handles being bypassed for the job.

Out of the supposed nine interviews, LaFleur conducted, it appears that none of them were with any defensive assistants from the Buccaneers. The Buccaneers defense not only caused the Packers offense to struggle this season but also helped the Buccaneers to win this year’s Super Bowl. Inside linebackers coach Mike Caldwell and defensive line coach Kacy Rodgers both seemed like good prospects to receive interviews but never did.

Fortunately for Barry, he is inheriting a Packers defense that is littered with talent. Along with Alexander and Savage, the Packers have star players like Za’Darius Smith, Kenny Clark, and upcoming player Rashan Gary. Barry will have the talent, but the question is if he has the capability to get more than Pettine did.

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