The Green Bay Packers gave up 363 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns against the Philadelphia Eagles on the national stage on Sunday night and it couldn’t have been worse timing for defensive coordinator Joe Barry. Barry was offered the Packers’ coordinator job in 2021 after then-Wisconsin defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard turned it down, leading to Barry getting his third chance to call defenses in the NFL.
Earlier on Sunday, Leonhard — at the time the Badgers’ interim head coach — was passed up for Wisconsin’s head coaching vacancy that ended up going to former Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell. This led Packers fans to fixate on the potential of Leonhard replacing Barry just hours before Green Bay’s defense had its worst defensive performance of the season. Despite having the second-largest payroll in the league on the defensive side of the ball, the Packers have performed below average in 2022 and aren’t getting any better down the stretch.
Head coach Matt LaFleur was asked about his struggling defense and the status of the defensive staff on Monday. LaFleur claimed that the team had the Packers players down for over 20 missed tackles against the Eagles, which was the most in a game since he’s been in Green Bay.
“Are there things that I think that we can do schematically to help put our players in a better position? Absolutely. Are there things we have to execute better? Absolutely,” said LaFleur, initially. He later walked that back, as he stated that players were put in the right place by the scheme “in most of those instances,” referencing the missed tackles.
When the idea of changing the defensive play-caller came up, the head coach completely shut the question down: “We’re not going to go down that road.” He would then reiterate, “If I thought there was an issue there, then I would certainly make the change. We work as a staff and collectively we’re all in this sucker together.”
At least as of now, LaFleur is sticking to his guns and going to bat for Barry. Maybe that changes when the Packers are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs or once the offseason hits, but his tone came across like a coach who was serious about protecting his coordinator.
Per Benjamin Worgull, who covers the Wisconsin Badgers for Rivals, Fickell met with Leonhard on Sunday and will meet with him again on Wednesday to see if Leonhard might be a fit to be retained on Fickell’s Wisconsin staff. If Green Bay is going to stick with Barry through the end of the year, they might have to start making a list of non-Leonhard options to hire in the offseason.