The writing was on the wall for Joe Barry.
Tom Pelissero of NFL Network reported that Matt LaFleur and the Green Bay Packers made the decision to part ways with Barry on Wednesday.
Given how LaFleur’s season-ending press conference played out on Monday, it felt like this was the path that the Packers were going to go down.
LaFleur began the press conference by trying to get in front of questions, letting the media know that he still hadn’t met with his coaching staff. LaFleur would also heap praise on to other coaches like Adam Stenavich and Tom Clements, while not mentioning Barry’s name.
Then via an open-ended question that provided LaFleur the opportunity to give Barry credit for how the defense performed at the end of the season, he again didn’t mention Barry’s name, and responded with “all the above,” referencing the play of the defenders and the scheme as the reason why.
The Packers defense began to turn things around following the team’s Week 16 performance against Carolina, where they were picked apart by Bryce Young. This also coincides with when LaFleur said he was going to take on a larger role on the defensive side of the ball.
In these last few games, the Packers saw better communication as well as a different approach from the defense as a whole, which included more blitzing from different defenders, a variety of coverage looks, and different alignments along the defensive front.
How much LaFleur had a factor in all of that we will never know, but the timing of it all says that he played a somewhat significant role. And if that’s the case, that means the trust was gone, and at that point, a move had to be made.
Throughout Barry’s tenure, there were stretches of solid football from this defense, but nothing that ever lasted. His general approach was passive and there appeared to be a disconnect between what Barry wanted and the execution of it on the field. Somewhere along the line, whether it was from Barry to his assistant coaches, the assistant coaches to the players, there was a breakdown, which ultimately resulted in poor play.
After three years as defensive coordinator, two very important questions couldn’t be answered: What does this unit consistently do well and who has significantly improved under Barry? By DVOA, Barry’s defenses had finished in the bottom third in the NFL all three seasons.
The Packers find themselves on the cusp of being in a Super Bowl window. As we saw against San Francisco, the margin for error is very small, so getting even incrementally better from a game-planning standpoint, a coaching standpoint, and an execution standpoint and having those elements build off each other over an entire season could be the difference between a win and a loss in January.
As far as who the next defensive coordinator will be for the Packers, that remains to be seen. My hope is that we see LaFleur bring in a different style of defense. Barry was asked to run the Vic Fangio-style system because that’s what LaFleur wanted. But if you look around the NFL, those types of defenses largely aren’t finding consistent success. Instead, it’s the defensive units that are causing chaos around the line of scrimmage.
I also believe there is value in having different thoughts and ideas within the building around offensive and defensive philosophies. That is often when true growth and innovation occurs.