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Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Joe Barry understands the questions about his track record.
Barry had porous defenses in his two previous stints as a coordinator with Detroit and Washington. He followed that up with a successful four-year stint as the Los Angeles Rams’ linebackers coach.
He believes the lessons from Detroit and Washington will help this time around.
“I’m really proud of my scars,” Barry said Tuesday. “I really am. I think in life, 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.”
Packers coach Matt LaFleur, who worked with Barry as a Rams assistant in 2017, said he interviewed nine candidates before making his selection.
The Packers announced less than a week after their NFC championship game loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that Mike Pettine wouldn’t return for a third season as defensive coordinator.
“I got a chance to work with Joe in L.A.,” LaFleur said. “I know what type of communicator (he is). I know the energy that he brings. And then 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.”
Barry was a defensive coordinator with Detroit from 2007-08 and Washington from 2015-16.
The Lions ranked last of 32 NFL teams in total defense and scoring defense in both 2007 and 2008. And the 2008 Lions were the first team in NFL history to finish 0-16.
Washington's 2015 team ranked 28th in yards allowed per game and yards allowed per play. The next year, Washington remained 28th in yards allowed per game but improved to 24th in yards allowed per play.
“I think just like anything in life, if you do something long enough, you’re going to experience the highest of highs and you’re also going to experience the lowest of lows,” Barry said.
“I think the No. 1 thing, when you do experience those lows, 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.’ And I would hope to think that 36-37-year-old Joe Barry is a lot different than 50-year-old Joe Barry.”
Barry also has enjoyed plenty of success in two decades as an NFL assistant. He was a linebackers coach on the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that won a Super Bowl. During Barry’s four years on the Rams’ staff, the Rams ranked second among all teams in sacks (192) and tied for second in takeaways (104).
He’s taking over a Green Bay defense that features much more talent than he had at Detroit and Washington.
The Packers ranked ninth in total defense and 15th in scoring defense this past season. They ranked 14th in yards allowed per play (5.49).
Barry said the Packers would have a 3-4 base defense while acknowledging that teams generally are out of their base to use at least five defensive backs about 80% of the time.
“I’m not making a bunch of promises, but I promise you the guys will tackle,” Barry said. “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 (quarterback Aaron Rodgers’) hands, and we’re going to play fast and furious.”
NOTES: General manager Brian Gutekunst said the Packers “have a lot of moves to make still” as they work to get under the salary cap, though they already cleared about $10 million by releasing linebacker Christian Kirksey and offensive tackle Rick Wagner. ... The Packers remain more than $11 million over a projected $180.5 million salary cap according to overthecap.com. But Gutekunst said the Packers still might be able to sign a top free agent. “We won’t be able to do a lot, and there will certainly be some restrictions, but if the right guy’s there, I think we’d be able to do what we need to do,” Gutekunst said. ... Gutekunst didn’t rule out the possibility of using the franchise tag on Pro Bowl running back and pending free agent Aaron Jones.
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