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Possible Candidates to Replace Green Bay Packers DC Joe Barry

There is no getting around the Packers' need for change on the defensive side of the ball starting with replacing DC Joe Barry.
Packers Joe Barry

Green Bay Packers fans have seen enough. Against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Packers’ defense once again failed to show up. Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts rushed for 157 yards on just 17 carries. Running back Miles Sanders also chipped in 143 yards on 21 carries with two touchdown carries. On Sunday night, it was the Packers run defense that failed. In other games, it was the pass defense that failed.

The Packer defensive unit, littered with talented players, has been consistently inconsistent throughout the season. They were the same in 2021. There is no getting around it, something needs to change on the defensive side of the ball. That is why we are taking a look at possible candidates to replace Joe Barry this off-season.

Green Bay Packers Have Options to Replace DC Joe Barry

Packers head coach Matt LaFleur continues to defend defensive coordinator Barry. Some might find it admirable that LaFleur is defending his much-criticized defensive coordinator. But enough is enough. Even if LaFleur refuses to make a change this season, the time has come for LaFleur to show Barry the door once the season is complete.

Barry’s hiring before the 2021 season by LaFleur has turned out to be a massive mistake. Keeping him in charge of the defense also looks to be a massive mistake. But that shouldn’t surprise many. Not adjusting has been a consistent issue for LaFleur throughout his tenure.

When LaFleur finally fired former special teams coordinator Shawn Mennenga, which was well overdue, after the 2020 season, he promoted assistant Maurice Drayton. Drayton got the job even after being an assistant under two failed special teams coordinators, Mennenga, and Ron Zook. The 2021 special teams unit was one of the worst special teams in NFL history. LaFleur chose to stand by his assistant and it bit him in the butt. The Pack’s special teams cost them in the 2021 playoffs.

It appears LaFleur hasn’t learned his lesson. Barry should have been fired weeks ago, but LaFleur not only is keeping him, but he is also defending him. The Packers are littered with former first-round draft choices and even several high-priced free-agent signees. The defensive unit was supposed to carry the Packers this season. But under Barry, they haven’t even come close to expectations.

A Solid List of Candidates to Replace Joe Barry

Maybe Matt LaFleur is just bluffing when it comes to defending Barry. For Packers fans, they have to hope that is the case. If it isn’t, then you have to wonder if LaFleur knows what he is doing.

With players like Jaire Alexander, Kenny Clark, Rashan Gary (currently out for the season with an injury), Quay Walker, and De’Vondre Campbell on the roster, Green Bay’s defense should be better. Hell, with all of that talent, they should be at least adequate. When it comes to change, you can’t fire all the players. But what LaFleur can do, is show Barry the door and put someone in charge who knows what they are doing.

If LaFleur does plan to fire Barry, the Packers could get an early start on finding his replacement. There are some very strong candidates for LaFleur to choose from. Candidates who could get the defense to play up to their talent. Here are some names to keep an eye on this off-season.

Jim Leonhard, Wisconsin Defensive Coordinator

When LaFleur fired Mike Pettine after 2020, his top choice to replace him was Jim Leonhard. Leonhard chose to be loyal to his alma mater and turned down the job to stay as the Wisconsin Badgers defensive coordinator.

Unfortunately for Leonhard, his loyalty to Wisconsin wasn’t a two-way street. Leonhard was named interim head coach after athletic director Chris McIntosh fired head coach Paul Chryst. He went 4-3, which was impressive knowing the poor offense the Badgers had. Leonhard was expected to get the full-time gig, but McIntosh didn’t show the same loyalty Leonhard once did. Instead, he hired Luke Fickell to be the Badgers head coach.

It appears Leonhard’s days with the Badgers are numbered. Meaning that he will be a free agent. It would seem logical that LaFleur would circle back to his once top choice. But logical and LaFleur don’t seem to be going hand and hand as of late. Leonhard isn’t just a great college assistant.  He was a 10-year NFL player and was known as a coach on the field during his playing days. He runs an attacking 3-4 NFL style of defense, something that made Wisconsin’s defense one of the best in the nation. The Packers’ defense has the personnel to run his type of defense.

Ejiro Evero, Broncos Defensive Coordinator

Former Packers offensive coordinator and current Denver Broncos head coach, Nathaniel Hackett is on a very hot seat. The Broncos are a complete mess, well, offensively. If Hackett is fired, which is expected, it actually might turn out to be a gift for LaFleur in his search for a defensive coordinator.

While the Broncos’ offense has been a complete dumpster fire, you can’t say the same for the defense. Broncos defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero has molded the Denver defense into a top-five defense in the NFL. If Hackett were to get fired, it would mean Evero would be in search of a job.

After Leonhard turned down LaFleur, the two finalists to replace Pettine came down to Barry and Evero. Unfortunately, LaFleur made the wrong choice. If Evero is available, LaFleur could, and probably should look at Evero. With a year under his belt, and an impressive year at that, LaFleur could right a wrong and hire Evero to replace Barry.

Vic Fangio, Former Broncos Head Coach

When LaFleur hired Barry, it was expected that he would run a style of defense that former Broncos head coach and long-time defensive coordinator Vic Fangio once ran. However, LaFleur missed the fact that Barry never coached under Fangio. He coached under Brandon Staley, who was a disciple of Fangio.

If LaFleur fires Barry, he could get the guy whose scheme he wanted in the first place. Fangio is currently a defensive consultant for the Eagles. But it is expected that he will be available after the season. Fangio might have flamed out as the Broncos’ head coach, but he has the chops as an NFL defensive coordinator. As a one-time former assistant coach of the year, he would be a massive upgrade over Barry. At this point, anyone would.

Mike Zimmer, Former  Minnesota Vikings Head Coach

When Mike Zimmer was the Minnesota Vikings’ head coach and defensive play caller, his defenses always gave Aaron Rodgers fits. He ran primarily a 4-3 defense, but he does have some experience running a 3-4.

Zimmer is a hard-edge coach and doesn’t put up with mental mistakes. That personality is what caused him to lose his job with the Vikings. But that personality is maybe something the Green Bay Packers defense needs. Barry is a big rah-rah guy and has over-the-top energy. That hasn’t worked in Green Bay. Maybe a no-nonsense coach is exactly what the Packers need right about now.

Chris Hewitt, Baltimore Ravens, Secondary Coach/Pass Game Coordinator

During John Harbaugh‘s tenure as the Baltimore Ravens’ head coach, one thing has been consistent.  They have always fielded an attacking defense. They might be having a little bump this season, but the Packers would beg to have their current defense.

Chris Hewitt has been with the team for 13 seasons.  He worked under well-respected former defensive coordinator Don Martindale and learned a lot from him. When Martindale departed after 2021, it was surprising that Hewitt didn’t get the call to replace him.

Milt Hendrickson, Packers director-football operations, spent many years with the Ravens. He knows Hewitt well and could put in a good word for him.

No Replacement for Joe Barry on Packers’ Staff

Many have wondered if LaFleur would replace Barry with current secondary coach/pass game coordinator Jerry Gray. Gray has defensive coordinator experience, even with the Packers. But with how much the secondary has struggled this season, it has pretty much eliminated Gray for replacing Barry.

It might be best for LaFleur to dump all of his defensive staff and start over. Gray isn’t the only defensive position coach who has seen a slump in their units. Jerry Montgomery, defensive line coach/run game coordinator, has overseen a unit that has struggled mightily. Just look at what the Eagles did rushing the ball last Sunday.

The same can be said for safeties coach Ryan Downard and inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti. Adrian Amos has taken a step back and former first-round draft pick Darnell Savage has been downright awful. It is curious that Olivadotti still has a job. Excluding the way Campbell played last season, the inside linebackers haven’t been overwhelming under Olivadotti. The only defensive assistant that might be worth keeping is first-year outside linebackers coach Jason Rebrovich. The outside linebackers have been the only productive position on the defense.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. It’s something LaFleur needs to remember once this season finally concludes. Staying with Barry, and even the rest of the defensive staff would be pure insanity.

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