Packers defensive overhaul begins with Joe Barry and entire coaching staff

ORCHARD PARK, NEW YORK - AUGUST 28: Defensive Coordinator Joe Barry of the Green Bay Packers looks on during a game against the Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium on August 28, 2021 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)
ORCHARD PARK, NEW YORK - AUGUST 28: Defensive Coordinator Joe Barry of the Green Bay Packers looks on during a game against the Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium on August 28, 2021 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images) /

Three hundred and sixty-three. That is how many rushing yards the Green Bay Packers defense gave up to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night.

As has been the case far too often this season, it was a complete top to bottom failure by the Packers’ defense, beginning with Joe Barry, but also includes the players as well as the position coaches. Given how this season has played out, it is not only Barry who should be fired, but Green Bay needs to clean house on the defensive side of the ball.

Against a run-heavy Eagles offense that rushes the ball on average 33 times per game, the Packers primarily played in their lighter nickel package and were simply bullied by a very good Philadelphia offensive line. Whether it was an overcorrection from last week’s game against Tennessee, where Green Bay was able to slow the run but was picked apart by Ryan Tannehill, Barry was once again way too slow to adjust.

This inability to pivot in a timely fashion has, unfortunately, happened frequently this season for Barry. Early on in the year, there was a reluctance to have Jaire Alexander line up against the opponent’s top receiver or to even put him in the slot at times. Barry would also rarely break away from his two-high shell that he often coupled with soft zone coverages, which made the Packers susceptible to crossers and underneath routes. There was also an unwillingness to blitz for a number of weeks as well.

Even now, there have been games where he has been more aggressive, but eventually, Barry slides back to his old ways. While Barry has made adjustments throughout the course of the season, they often come too late.

As the defensive coordinator, Barry will shoulder much of the blame, but the performance by most of the defenders hasn’t helped things either. In Philadelphia specifically, there were poor run fits, way too many missed tackles, poorly executed stunts, edges not being held, and when Jalen Hurts did throw the ball, breakdowns in coverage.

Who on this Green Bay defense is playing above or even at expectations this season? I’m sure if you squint really hard, you can find a player or two like Rudy Ford or Keisean Nixon in sub-packages, but overall, just about every defender is not living up to expectations.

Barry’s defensive scheme and playcalling certainly haven’t always put his players in the best positions to be successful. However, to varying degrees, there is either a disconnect between Barry and his position coaches and their understanding of what needs to be done each week, a disconnect between the position coaches and the players and how they are relaying that information, or perhaps most likely, both things are true.

Many of the issues against Philadelphia, along with miscommunications in the secondary, are problems that the Packers have dealt with all season long, yet somehow in Week 12, they are still not fixed. In fact, in some instances, Green Bay seems worse off than where they were two months ago.

As the offense went through a transition period, it was supposed to be the defense that not only carried this team this season but also had the potential of being one of the best defensive units in the NFL. Instead, the Packers rank 22nd in points per game allowed, and this defense has, at times, been the worst unit on what is a not-very-good Green Bay football team.

When things go this poorly, and a team underperforms this much, it is not only the defensive coordinator who should be let go but the entire defensive staff. It’s time for a fresh start and for whoever is the next defensive coordinator of the Packers to bring in his own guys.

From a personnel standpoint, the safety position is going to undergo an overhaul as well, with only Darnell Savage and Tariq Carpenter under contract in 2023. Adrian Amos, Dean Lowry, and Jarran Reed are free agents, while if the Packers want to and are willing to take on some dead cap hits, they could get out of Rasul Douglas’ and Preston Smith’s contracts.

I, of course, am not sitting here saying that all of this will happen, but given the expectations for this unit and where the Packers are currently at, there is very little that will be off-limits this offseason. Change begins with moving on from Barry and the rest of the defensive staff, and from there, we will see if Brian Gutekunst wants to run it back with a similar personnel group and hope a new coordinator helps, or he could try to churn the roster and bring in as much new talent as he can.