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Packers coach Matt LaFleur not yet ready to make final decision on Joe Barry’s future

Matt LaFleur met with the media Monday morning to close out the 2023 season. Before the first question could be asked, in his opening comments, LaFleur let it be known that no decision was made about Joe Barry’s future with the Green Bay Packers.

In fact, the process that is involved in making that decision hadn’t yet begun.

“I know there’s going to be a lot of long-term, big picture questions,” said LaFleur. “I’m not there yet, fellas. We’re just, like I said, we’re just starting the process. I gave everybody off yesterday. I came in yesterday and watched the tape, all three phases, but we’re just getting into the evaluation portion right now.

“So, probably not going to have many answers for you guys, haven’t met with any of our coaches yet. That’ll start this afternoon.”

From Week 17 on, the Packers defense did make improvements. However, that also coincides with when LaFleur said he needed to be more “present,” as he put it, on that side of the ball.

It’s not only in those final games that we saw improved play by the defense, but we also saw different approaches from the Packers. There was less rigidity in sticking with their standard shell defense.

At various times, the Packers would not only blitz more but with multiple or different players, like Keisean Nixon. The Packers utilized different fronts, including Karl Brooks at defensive end and Lukas Van Ness with his hand in the dirt. There was also a heavy dose of disguised coverages against Dallas, and overall, the communication was much improved.

So how much of that was Barry, and how much of that was LaFleur? We can only guess and will probably never know the answer.

“I think it was all the above,” said LaFleur when asked whether it was scheme or better play that led to the improvement. “That’s going to be part of the conversation.”

How much LaFleur was involved in the game plan to end the season is going to be a huge factor in the decision. If he was even somewhat heavily involved, then it’s simply time to find a new defensive coordinator.

As the head coach, there needs to be trust that the coordinators can put together a well-crafted game plan and get the position coaches to buy into it so they can help get the players to execute on it. If that trust isn’t there, then it’s time to move on.

The amount of time in the day is also a factor. If LaFleur was more involved with the defense over the last five games, can that be sustained over the course of an entire season? My guess is no, which, again, would be another reason to move on.

Matt Schneidman of The Athletic reported that Barry is under contract for the 2024 season, meaning that the team would have to fire him rather than simply moving on if his contract were up.

The Packers laid a solid foundation in 2023 and have a tremendous jumping-off point heading into 2024, where a new contention window could be wide open. Anywhere that the team can get incrementally better to maximize the potential opportunity ahead needs to be made.

Looking back at the loss to San Francisco, we all saw how small the margin for error is in the playoffs. One play here or there is the difference between a win and a loss.

If the Packers feel they can get even four percent better on defense, what does that look like over the course of the season when those incremental improvements to the game plan, or how things are taught or the execution build upon each other? Does Saturday’s loss become a win?

As far as when a decision – either way – will be made, LaFleur said he will go through the process at “his own pace.” For what it’s worth, it was about a full week after the season ended that he moved on from special teams coordinators Shawn Mennenga and Maurice Drayton.

We are probably still too close to Saturday’s loss for a decision of this magnitude to be made. As LaFleur said Monday, the disappointment still stings. Ultimately, this decision shouldn’t come down to the Packers’ performance against the 49ers or even how the last month-plus of the season ended. There is a body of work of three seasons for LaFleur to evaluate.

“Like I said,” added LaFleur, “that’s going to be the next step, is to kind of go through and figure out how we can be a little bit more consistent. And it’s not just on defense. It’s in every phase, right?

“We certainly had our moments on teams and on offense as well where there was, there’s always going to be moments of struggle, but how can we be a little bit more consistent. Looking at what we do well. How can we best put our players in position to have success and that’s going to be part of this next process.”

Story originally appeared on Packers Wire