Skip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.
Edit
Having grown from ‘scars’ of previous failed coaching stints, Joe Barry aims to take Packers defense to new heights
0 Comments
topical alert
PACKERS

Having grown from ‘scars’ of previous failed coaching stints, Joe Barry aims to take Packers defense to new heights

  • 0

GREEN BAY — Joe Barry has been in Wisconsin for all of two weeks, and yet the Green Bay Packers new defensive coordinator has already taken part in one of the state’s time-honored winter traditions.

He went ice fishing.

“I didn’t catch anything,” Barry said about his weekend excursion during an introductory Zoom call with reporters Tuesday afternoon. “But I stared at a hole in the ice for 5 hours — and had a blast.”

Hired by coach Matt LaFleur on Feb. 8 — and one of nine candidates LaFleur interviewed during an exhaustive process that included University of Wisconsin defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard, his first choice — Barry came off as likeable and engaging during his 20-minute Q&A session.

And he didn’t shy away from the question he clearly knew was coming: Why his stint with the Packers will be different than his past coordinating experiences running the defenses of Detroit (2008, 2009) and Washington (2015, 2016).

The Lions finished dead last in the 32-team NFL both of those seasons in both total defense and scoring defense, including the 2008 team going 0-16 under coach Rod Marinelli, Barry’s father-in-law. Washington’s defenses under Barry finished 28th in total defense each of those two years, with the 2015 defense ranking No. 17 in scoring defense and the 2016 unit ranking No. 19.

Those aren’t exactly impressive numbers that indicate Barry will be a significant upgrade over his oft-criticized predecessor, Mike Pettine.

Hired by previous head coach Mike McCarthy and retained by LaFleur, Pettine’s third and final Packers defense finished 2020 ranked ninth in the NFL in total defense (334 yards per game) and tied for 13th in scoring defense (23.1 points per game). Pettine and LaFleur parted ways after Pettine’s contract expired following the 31-26 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game on Jan. 24.

Barry was self-aware enough Tuesday to acknowledge no amount of folksy ice fishing stories will make those numbers more palatable, but he insisted those statistically dismal years have made him a better coach and coordinator.

“I’m really proud of my scars. I really am,” Barry said. “I think you’re hardened in life by tough experiences. Now, don’t get me wrong, I think you can learn a lot from having success and being in a good place. But I think when true growth takes place, I think it’s when things are really, really hard. And I’m not (just) talking football. I talk to my kids about this all the time. I don’t want things to be easy for them. I want it to be challenging, I want it to be tough. Because again, I think that’s when true growth takes place.”

Like Barry, LaFleur was acutely aware those numbers mean Barry has much to prove as he inherits a defense with a talented core (cornerback Jaire Alexander, defensive tackle Kenny Clark, outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith and safeties Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage) and one whose primary job is to hold opponents to few enough points to give three-time NFL MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the offense a chance to win.

But LaFleur also knows what Barry’s coaching style is (having worked together with the Los Angeles Rams in 2017) and believes the Vic Fangio-style scheme Barry plans to run will be a welcome change from Pettine’s system, which LaFleur didn’t seem to believe was aggressive enough at times.

“As coaches, you’re always growing, you’re learning,” LaFleur replied when asked why Detroit’s and Washington’s poor statistical rankings didn’t deter him from hiring Barry. “Obviously, that’s something that we looked at when going through this process.

“I got a chance to work with Joe in L.A. I know what type of communicator, I know the energy that he brings. I think he’s learned a lot from those previous experiences. I don’t think he’d ever hide from those. The bottom line is we are going to get judged on what we do moving forward and not from our past experiences. I just felt really comfortable with the person, his ability to communicate, the energy he’s going to bring, the scheme that he’s bringing with him in order to get the most out of our players.”

In addition to his coordinator stints, Barry worked as the linebackers coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2001-’06, ’09), San Diego Chargers (2011-’14) and the Rams (2017-’20).

When Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley was hired as the head coach of the now-Los Angeles Chargers on Jan. 18, he hired Barry to be his linebackers coach and defensive passing-game coordinator. The Rams, meanwhile, opted to hire former Atlanta Falcons interim head coach Raheem Morris to replace Staley as defensive coordinator rather than promote Barry.

Asked to describe what his vision of the Packers defense looks like, Barry said it will be a base 3-4 defense but it will incorporate concepts from other schemes he’s coached and the defense will be in sub packages with extra defensive backs on the field roughly 80% of the time.

“Defensive football — bottom line — is about guys killing blocks and getting off blocks. It’s about tackling. It’s about taking the ball away. It’s about playing with not effort but relentless effort,” Barry said. “I’m not making a bunch of promises, but I promise you the guys will tackle. I promise you they’ll get off blocks. I promise you we’re going to do everything humanly possible to take the ball away and get the ball in 12’s hands, and we’re going to play fast and furious.”

And, he hopes, better than those Detroit and Washington units.

“When you do get those scars, shoot, if you learn from it and you grow from it and you expand, you don’t have to wear sleeves and cover them up. You can wear them and say, ‘Yeah, that was a tough experience. That was brutal. That one hurt. But I learned from it, I got better. I grew,’” Barry said. “And I would hope that 36-, 37-year-old Joe Barry is a lot different than 50-year-old Joe Barry.”


Photos: Packers’ 2020 season in pictures

Photos: Packers' 2020 season in pictures

Check out photo galleries from every game of 2020 through the end of the regular season and the playoffs.

topical
  • 0

Wisconsin State Journal photographer Steve Apps captured all the action from Lambeau Field as the Green Bay Packers fell to the Tampa Bay Bucc…

alert topical
  • 0

Wisconsin State Journal photographer Steve Apps captured all the action from Lambeau Field as the Green Bay Packers defeated the Los Angeles R…

topical
  • 0

The Green Bay Packers took care of business Sunday, securing the top seed in the NFC playoffs and a first-round bye with a 35-16 victory over …

topical
  • 0

The Green Bay Packers jumped out to an early lead and didn't let up en route to a 40-14 victory over the Tennessee Titans Sunday night at a sn…

topical
  • 0

The Green Bay Packers withstood a late challenge from the Carolina Panthers to hold on for a 24-16 victory Saturday night at Lambeau Field in …

topical
  • 0

It wasn't always smooth sailing Sunday at Ford Field, but the Green Bay Packers held on for a 31-24 victory over the Detroit Lions to clinch t…

topical
  • 0

Wisconsin State Journal photographer Steve Apps captured all the action from Lambeau Field Sunday as Aaron Rodgers turned in another MVP worth…

topical
  • 0

The Green Bay Packers were in control from start to finish Sunday night at Lambeau Field as they dispatched the Chicago Bears 41-25 to earn th…

topical
  • 0

The Green Bay Packers' 14-point halftime lead vanished quickly as the Indianapolis Colts stormed back in the second half to take control en ro…

topical
  • 0

Wisconsin State Journal photographer Steve Apps captured all the action from Lambeau Field as the Green Bay Packers defeated the Jacksonville …

topical
  • 0

The Green Bay Packers jumped out to an early lead and didn't let up Thursday night as they cruised to a 34-17 victory over the San Francisco 4…

alert topical
  • 0

Wisconsin State Journal photographer Steve Apps captured all the action from a wind-swept Lambeau Field Sunday afternoon as the Minnesota Viki…

topical
  • 0

Coming off their first loss of the season, the Green Bay Packers returned to early season form Sunday as quarterback Aaron Rodgers and wide re…

topical
  • 0

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw two interceptions within a three-pass span of the second quarter as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers…

topical
  • 0

Despite missing a few offensive weapons, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers continued his outstanding early season play as the undefe…

topical
  • 0

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw for 283 yards and three touchdowns as Green Bay defeated the New Orleans Saints 37-30 on Sun…

topical top story
  • 0

Wisconsin State Journal photographer Steve Apps captured all the action as the Green Bay Packers came back from an early 11-point deficit to b…

topical
  • 0

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was in top form Sunday as the Green Bay Packers defeated the Minnesota Vikings, 43-34, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minne…

alert topical
  • 0

From a controversial trade up the draft board to acquire Utah State quarterback Jordan Love in the first round to the addition of some much-ne…

0 Comments

Be the first to know

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.

Topics

News Alerts

Badger Sports

Breaking News

Crime

Politics