The Green Bay Packers have been searching for a new defensive coordinator ever since parting ways with Mike Pettine. Pettine’s departure followed the Packers’ second straight loss in the NFC Championship. In both losses, the defense failed to perform up to Super Bowl standards. As a result, Joe Barry is stepping in as the Packers’ new defensive coordinator.
For a few days, it seemed as if Jim Leonhard, the defensive coordinator at Wisconsin, would get the job. Apparently, it was offered to him. However, Leonhard turned it down. It is widely believed that he will succeed Paul Chryst as head coach at Wisconsin in a few years. With Leonhard staying put, Matt LaFleur offered the position to Joe Barry.
Immediate Social Media Reaction to Joe Barry
The immediate reaction of Packers’ fans on social media was, in a word, embarrassing. Some Packers’ so-called fans already have started a FireBarry trend on Twitter. This is a very uneducated response for reasons we will soon go over. However, before we do, here is a message for Packers’ fans (from a Packers’ fan): be better.
The Reason for the Asinine Response
On the surface, the upset Packers’ fans have an argument. After all, Joe Barry was the defensive coordinator of the Detroit Lions team that went 0-16. In four seasons as a DC, Barry’s defenses always ranked near the bottom of the NFL in terms of yards per game given up and points allowed.
The Twenty-First Episode – Packers President comments on Rodgers, Le'Veon cost himself employment, NFC East Breakdown and Predictions – Go Run A Route Podcast
- The Twenty-First Episode – Packers President comments on Rodgers, Le'Veon cost himself employment, NFC East Breakdown and Predictions
- The Twentieth Episode – Julio Jones is a Titan, AFC East Breakdown and Predictions
- The Nineteenth Episode – In celebration of the NBA Playoffs
- The Eighteenth Episode – Julio Jones is on the move, Making fun of fans
- The Seventeenth Episode – 2021 NFL Schedule Release and Speculation
Again, on the surface, this would be a very concerning hire. However, if I have learned anything about sports and, more importantly, reacting to sports, context is important.
The Context of Barry’s Bad Defenses
As mentioned, Joe Berry was the defensive coordinator on some pretty bad Lions teams. The key word there is “teams.” As Detroit has done for oh so long, the front office failed to provide Barry and the rest of the coaches with the talent necessary to put a competent product on the field.
We could sit here and list the players on that 2008 defense, but you would not recognize any of them, and for good reason. The same is true of his stint in Washington from 2015-2016. The Washington front office was, apparently, too busy committing multiple acts of harassment to worry about putting good players on the field.
Why Does Context Matter?
If Joe Barry and his defensive scheme was the problem with these defenses, it stands to reason that they would be better once he was gone. As it turns out, they still sucked. The Lions were last in the NFL in yards allowed per game in 2008, Barry’s last season in Detroit. In 2009, they were last again. In Washington, the defense went from 28th to 21st in yards allowed per game following Barry’s departure. However, they also went from 18th in scoring defense down to 28th.
What does all of this mean? The problem was not the coaching; it was the lack of talent.
So Why Will Barry Be Successful in Green Bay?
As we have established, the teams on which Barry was defensive coordinator before lacked the talented players to make a competitive defensive product. In Green Bay, Barry will have a more talented defense than he has ever had.
Outside of his stints as a defensive coordinator, Barry has primarily worked as a linebacker coach. It is in this role that he has had his greatest professional success. Linebackers have made Pro Bowls, All Pros, and even the Hall of Fame under the tutelage of Joe Berry (see Derrick Brooks).
The Packers do not have the best recent history when it comes to linebackers, especially interior ones. However, they have a good young core with Kamal Martin and Krys Barnes, who were both rookies last season. Under Barry’s guidance, this linebacking core, which has long been the weakest spot of the Packers’ defense, could become its strength.
Is the hiring of Joe Barry an underwhelming move? Absolutely yes. Is it a bad hire? The truth of the matter is that no one really knows for sure. However, to completely write him off is both wrong and idiotic. Don Martindale, the defensive coordinator of the Ravens, was a failure almost everywhere he went until he got to Baltimore. Now he leads one of the best defenses in the NFL. Sometimes finding the right fit makes all the difference.
In any case, Packers, fans, we want Joe Barry to succeed. It is okay to underwhelmed. It is okay to not be thrilled. However, it is dumb to automatically assume the defense won’t be better. In fact, there is just as much evidence, if not more, to suggest it will be better than that it will get worse.