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Packers defensive coordinator Barry under pressure as season heads into home stretch

Joe Barry
Posted at 11:07 AM, Dec 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-22 12:07:52-05

GREEN BAY (AP) — Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Joe Barry understands just what’s at stake for him during these last few games as he deals with speculation about his job security.

The Packers (6-8) are coming off a 34-20 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in which they allowed Baker Mayfield to have a perfect 158.3 passer rating.

Packers coach Matt LaFleur was asked after the game about whether he’d consider removing Barry before the end of the season.

LaFleur said Monday he was keeping Barry in place, but that hasn’t quieted the criticism that has dominated Wisconsin sports talk radio this week as the Packers prepare to visit Carolina (2-12).

“I read what you guys write,” said Barry, who is in his third season in this role. “I hear what you guys say. But I think that’s again, that’s the great thing about our league. That’s the great thing about the National Football League. It is the top of the top, the best of the best and I think that’s not only an every-year thing, that’s an every-week thing.”

Barry acknowledged that this week has been tougher than most while acknowledging he’s responsible for the defense’s struggles.

“It was hard on me, hard on my family,” Barry said. “But this is the National Football League. This is what you sign up for, so what’s the saying: No crying in spilled milk or over spilled milk. You deal with it. We had a bad game. I have to be better for our guys, completely, and I put that on me all the time. Anytime we don’t go play well, it’s on me. But yeah, this week was, in particular, hard to be honest with you.”

As Green Bay’s young offense has improved after a slow start, its veteran defense has come under scrutiny. The Packers rank 23rd in yards allowed per game and 24th in yards allowed per play while having a defense that includes eight first-round picks in Kenny Clark (2016), Jaire Alexander (2018), Rashan Gary (2019), Darnell Savage (2019), Eric Stokes (2021), Quay Walker (2022), Devonte Wyatt (2022) and Lukas Van Ness (2023).

Injuries have hindered Green Bay’s defense.

Alexander has missed the Packers’ past six games with a shoulder injury. Stokes played his first defensive snaps of the season Sunday. Savage has missed six games this season and Walker sat out three games.

The Packers had no answers Sunday for Mayfield, who went 22 of 28 for 381 yards with four touchdowns. Green Bay played zone coverage for much of the game as Mayfield picked the Packers apart.

Barry said Thursday the zone coverage was used to try to limit four-time Pro Bowl receiver Mike Evans as much as possible. Evans had four catches for 57 yards and a touchdown, while Chris Godwin had 10 catches for 155 yards and David Moore had two receptions for 68 yards and a score.

“When you go into a game plan like that and you have to deploy of that attention to an elite guy like that, you’ve got to make up for the other things,” Barry said. “To their credit, they did a great job.”

LaFleur said this week he would take a bigger role on defense than he’s had in the past, but added that Barry wouldn’t lose any of his responsibilities. LaFleur blamed much of the defense’s problems against Tampa Bay on communication issues.

“I’ve got to be more present with those guys in making sure that we’re all on the same page,” LaFleur said. “If you don’t have all 11 on the same page, it obviously starts with our staff making sure all our coaches are in lock step, but if you don’t have all 11 on the same page, it takes one guy and then everything goes (bad) after that and you get exposed. Unfortunately we got exposed in a really bad way (Sunday).”

The Packers still have a chance of reaching the playoffs even after losing their past two games, but their defense must play much better.

That’s what has Barry’s attention right know and keeps him from dwelling on his own future.

“I’ve learned a long time ago being in this league as long as I have been, control what you can control,” Barry said. “Worry about what you can worry about. It’s no business of mine what you or anybody else thinks of me, so I try to control what I can control all the time when things are going well, obviously, and then also when things are going bad.”