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Packers fire defensive coordinator Joe Barry, per report

A late-season surge to the postseason wasn’t enough to convince head coach Matt LaFleur to keep Barry for another season.

Green Bay Packers v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Practically since his hiring, Green Bay Packers fans have been displeased with defensive coordinator Joe Barry. Matt LaFleur brought Barry on to lead the defense prior to the 2021 season, and in the last three years, the Packers have been a middle of the pack defense overall while consistently fielding one of the worst rushing defenses in the NFL.

To make matters worse, the defense often looks at its worst when facing mediocre quarterbacks. Look no further than a three-game stretch late in the 2023 season for an example of this: the trio of Tommy DeVito, Baker Mayfield, and Bryce Young all gashed the Green Bay defense, with DeVito’s and Mayfield’s teams winning and Mayfield recording a perfect passer rating.

Despite the Packers’ late-season surge, it seems that this sequence was finally enough for head coach Matt LaFleur. And so, on Wednesday morning, news comes that a change is coming on that side of the football:

That’s right — Joe Barry is out, and LaFleur will begin the process to find a new defensive coordinator for the second time in his tenure. Barry reportedly had at least one year left on his contract, making this a firing and not simply a parting of ways amid an expiring contract.

Also notable is that the Packers will have some big personnel decisions to make on defense. Bringing in a new DC now may be ideal timing, as the team will want to pair up players to the new coach’s scheme.

Barry ends his third tenure as a defensive coordinator with seven total seasons in that role, but having finished in the top half of the NFL in points allowed twice (2021 and 2023), while finishing in the top half in yards allowed only once (2021). Barry’s teams have never finished higher than 23rd in yards per rush allowed, and they have just one top-half finish in net yards per pass attempt allowed (2021).

Surely, one of the top candidates will be a man who was reportedly offered the job three years ago: former Wisconsin Badgers defensive coordinator and interim head coach Jim Leonhard. Leonhard was generally seen as the heir apparent to Paul Chryst in Madison, but did not get the job after the 2022 season as the Badgers hired Luke Fickell away from the University of Cincinnati instead. Last season, Leonhard spent the year as an analyst with the University of Illinois, working for former Badgers head coach Bret Bielema, but the time may be right for him to make the jump to the NFL this offseason.

Stay tuned for more on LaFleur’s decision to make a change, and check out this breakdown of several possible DC candidates published here at APC in late December to get a head start on researching some of the possibilities.