Can Packers DC Joe Barry save his job after all?
After begin written off for months, Packers DC Joe Barry has rebounded and transformed the defense. What else must he do to save his job?
For months, the decision felt inevitable.
Joe Barry, the Green Bay Packers' embattled defensive coordinator, would lose his job at the conclusion of the 2022 season, the result of seemingly weekly implosions and poorly conceived game plans for a unit that entered the year with high expectations.
Barry's season began in about as rocky a fashion as possible. The Packers looked wholly unprepared for the Minnesota Vikings and their superstar receiver, Justin Jefferson. The likely All-Pro wideout tore through the Green Bay defense, breaking off huge plays seemingly at will. Jefferson finished the game with nine catches for 184 yards and two touchdowns, easily his finest performance up to that point.
More weeks passed without Barry righting the ship. The Packers needed overtime to escape a loss to a mediocre New England Patriots squad that opened the game with Brian Hoyer at quarterback and finished with fourth-round rookie Bailey Zappe under center. Following that startling performance, Green Bay embarked on a five-game losing streak in which the defense struggled to contain Daniel Jones, Zach Wilson, Taylor Heinicke, and Jared Goff, hardly a murders' row of signal-callers. Over that stretch, Barry's unit allowed an average of nearly 24 points and ranked 20th in Football Outsiders' DVOA.
By Thanksgiving, the notion that Barry would lose his job had crystallized. The Packers barely registered a pulse during a 27-17 defeat to the Tennessee Titans. Barry sold out to stop Derrick Henry and, in doing so, allowed Ryan Tannehill to deliver his most prolific and efficient outing of the season. Wideout Treylon Burks, a rookie who barely factored into the Titans offense to that point in the year, went off for his first career 100-yard game.
"I thought our defense battled hard but certainly couldn't get off the grass in the first half," head coach Matt LaFleur lamented in his postgame press conference. "I think offensively outside of the two-minute (drill), I think there were three possessions. Obviously, they scored right there at the end of the half and kicked the ball back. Was there like 28 seconds left when we got the ball back?
"It was just a bad night all in all."
At that point, Barry's job performance had become the topic du jour in Green Bay. The Packers had invested considerable resources into the defense during the offseason, including spending both of their first-round picks on front-seven players and spending to retain starting corner Rasul Douglas and All-Pro linebacker De'Vondre Campbell. Add in the weight of the window closing fast on the Aaron Rodgers era, and a change in defensive leadership seemed like the only justifiable outcome.
But then, after being written off for months, Barry and his defense began an inconceivable revival.