On January 14th, when NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported the Redskins had hired Joe Barry as Defensive Coordinator, I was upset as were many other fans. Then, when the Redskins continued interviewing other candidates, including Vic Fangio, I was relieved thinking the team had come to its senses.
Fast forward six days and the Redskins actually did end up signing Barry. After being rejected by Fangio, who went to the Bears, the Redskins acted like a school girl would, picking the person nobody wanted, rather than being left alone on Prom Night.
After adding Scot McCloughan as General Manager and Bill Callahan as the Offensive Line Coach, you had to know the team would return to its way. Two steps forward, three steps back. A Super-Bowl caliber GM tied with a defensive coordinator from one of the worst teams in NFL History, the 0-16 2008 Detroit Lions. This seemed to be another good ol’ boy hire for Bruce Allen and Jay Gruden.
Hearing Gruden gush about the hire would make any Redskins fan pause. Gruden said, “I like what he’s done in his career — how he’s progressed as a football coach: going to USC and now he’s in the 3-4 system with San Diego.”
What exactly has Barry done in his career that makes him a better hire than Wade Phillips would have been? Barry “progressed” from being the defensive coordinator of the worst-ranked defense in the NFL to going to USC. Since when is going from an NFL Defensive Coordinator to a Linebackers Coach in college called progressing? When you are a part of one of the worst teams in NFL History, I guess almost anything can be considered progression.
After returning to the NFL, Barry did have some success as the Linebackers Coach with the Chargers. While with San Diego, Barry was able to help Takeo Spikes remain productive in his final years in the league. Donald Butler and Manti Te’o have also shown signs of growth under Barry’s tutelage. Jarrett Johnson, another veteran LB with the Chargers was another player who learned a lot under Barry.
Johnson said, “I learned a whole different side of football and techniques and ways to play the game. It really gave me a boost in my career and another jolt of energy because he’s so intense.”
Despite any progression that Barry might have made, the 0-16 Lions team remains a permanent stain on his record. It is hard for anyone to forget his previous failure as a defensive coordinator.
What most detractors don’t point out, however, is the lack of talent the Lions’ defense had. The 2008 team featured seven defensive starters who were out of the league within two years. Despite those limitations, Barry’s Lions were tied for second in fumbles recovered in 2008. In the previous season, the Lions forced the third most turnovers in the league. Even after Barry was fired, the Lions’ defensive struggles continued as the team again gave up the most points and most yards in the league.
So why is the Barry hire a win-win? On one hand, if he has learned from his mistakes and improved his skills, then the Redskins might have made a smart hire. Many top defensive coordinators stunk it up early in their career. Dick LeBeau and Vic Fangio, both well-known coordinators, have led last-place defenses in their career.
On the other hand, if his performance is similar to that which he had in Detroit, then not only will he be fired, but Gruden and most likely Allen will be gone. This would be the end of the Tampa Bay experiment in D.C and the team would finally be able to move on, with McCloughan leading the rebuild.
The ball really is in Barry’s court.