Sat. Feb 24th, 2024

Joe Barry is out as the Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator after a turbulent third season on the job that ended with a loss in the NFC divisional round of the playoffs.

“We want to thank Joe for his commitment and contributions to our success the past three seasons,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said Wednesday in a statement announcing the decision. “These decisions are extremely difficult and Joe is one of the best men I’ve had the opportunity to work with in this league.”

Green Bay ranked 10th in points allowed per game (20.6), 17th in yards allowed per game (335.1) and 23rd in yards allowed per play (5.4) during the regular season with a defense featuring eight former first-round draft picks.

That included a brutal three-game stretch late in the season as the Packers allowed 29.3 points per game while going 1-2 against the New York Giants, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers.

LaFleur was asked directly about the possibility of changing coordinators during the season in his news conference following a 34-20 loss to Tampa Bay in which Baker Mayfield posted a perfect passer rating of 158.3. Mayfield and New York’s Tommy DeVito both earned NFC player of the week awards for their performances against the Packers.

One day later, LaFleur said he was keeping Barry but would take an expanded role in the defense. In their next game, the Packers blew a two-touchdown, fourth-quarter lead in a 33-30 victory at Carolina, which didn’t score another point in its final two games of the season and finished with the worst record in the NFL.

The defense performed much better the rest of the season.

The Packers allowed just one touchdown over its final two regular-season games, and that came when the Minnesota Vikings recovered a muffed punt at the Green Bay 7-yard line. The Packers then held the Dallas Cowboys scoreless until the final play of the first half in a 48-32 wild-card victory to become the only road team to pull off an upset so far in the 2024 NFL playoffs.

But the Packers did allow 25 second-half points to the Cowboys and couldn’t protect a fourth-quarter lead in a 24-21 divisional-round loss at San Francisco, as the 49ers drove 69 yards and scored the winning touchdown with 1:07 remaining.

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Injuries hampered the defense for much of the season.

Two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Jaire Alexander played in just seven regular-season games. Linebacker De’Vondre Campbell missed six games, safety Darnell Savage was out for seven and cornerback Eric Stokes appeared in just three. Outside linebacker Rashan Gary didn’t miss any games but was returning from a torn anterior cruciate ligament that ended his 2022 season early.

It’s worth noting that Alexander posted a cryptically captioned Instagram photo series Tuesday thanking Green Bay for six years there. However, it’s unlikely Alexander would be cut or traded instead of returning to the Packers in 2024, as he would carry a salary cap hit of over $27 million as part of the four-year, $84 million contract extension he signed in May 2022.

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The Packers ranked 17th in yards allowed per game and tied for 17th in scoring defense in 2022. They were ninth in total defense and tied for 13th in scoring defense in 2021, Barry’s first season as Green Bay’s defensive coordinator.

Green Bay ranked 11th in run defense in 2021 but slipped to 26th in 2022 and 28th this season, though the Packers’ struggles at stopping the run preceded Barry’s arrival.

This marked Barry’s third stint as an NFL defensive coordinator. He previously filled that role with Detroit in 2007-08 and Washington in 2015-16. Barry and LaFleur had worked together as Los Angeles Rams assistants in 2017.

Reporting by The Associated Press.

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