Joe Barry, 'scars' and all, has more to work with as Packers defensive coordinator

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Stephen A. acts surprised that Packers don't plan to make a splash in free agency (1:51)

Stephen A. Smith sounds off after hearing the Packers aren't planning to surround Aaron Rodgers with help in free agency. (1:51)

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Joe Barry mentioned nearly a dozen different coaches who have influenced him during his 20-year NFL coaching career.

Tony Dungy, Jon Gruden, Monte Kiffin, Rod Marinelli, Mike Tomlin, Raheem Morris, Rich Bisaccia, Wade Phillips, Vic Fangio, Sean McVay and Brandon Staley.

So who, exactly, is the Green Bay Packers' new defensive coordinator, and what kind of system will he implement?

If you ask coach Matt LaFleur, who hired Barry last month, it doesn't sound like he's getting the same coach who coordinated statistically poor defenses in Detroit and Washington. In two-year stints as the coordinator in each spot, Barry's units ranked between 28th and 32nd in yards.

"Just knowing a little bit about those previous situations, obviously I was in Washington prior to his arrival there, and then just going through the process, as coaches you're always growing, you're learning," LaFleur said this week. "And obviously that's something that we looked at when going through this process."

If LaFleur looked at the rosters in both places, here's what he would find:

  • Detroit's defenses not only had no players selected to the Pro Bowl in Barry's two seasons (2007 and 2008), they had only two players (Shaun Rogers on the 2007 team and Cliff Avril on the 2008 team) who had ever been selected to the Pro Bowl at any point in their careers.

  • In Washington, only one player (Ryan Kerrigan in 2016) made the Pro Bowl in Barry's two seasons (2015 and 2016). The 2015 unit had four players who had been selected as Pro Bowlers at some point in their careers, while the 2016 defense had just two.

"I'm really proud of my scars," Barry, 50, said when asked about his previous two defensive coordinator jobs. "I really am. I think in life, you're hardened in life by tough experiences. Now don't get me wrong, I think you can learn a lot from having success and being in a good place. But I think when true growth takes place, I think it's when things are really, really hard."

In Green Bay, Barry inherits a group that had two Pro Bowlers last season (Jaire Alexander and Za'Darius Smith) plus another (Kenny Clark) from the previous season. They're also strong at safety with Adrian Amos and budding star Darnell Savage. They'll need another cornerback to pair with Alexander plus help for Clark up front.

Barry was one of nine candidates LaFleur interviewed after he decided to move on from Mike Pettine, who in three years with the Packers had defenses that ranked 18th, 18th and ninth. If not for a miscommunication between LaFleur and Pettine on a call in the final seconds of the first half in the NFC Championship Game, when Tom Brady hit Scotty Miller for a 39-yard touchdown, then perhaps Pettine would have gotten the chance to return to his top-10 defense.

It's no wonder that LaFleur mentioned either communication or Barry's skills as a communicator no fewer than five times in this week's news conference to introduce the newest members of his coaching staff, including special-teams coordinator Maurice Drayton.

"I got a chance to work with Joe in L.A.," LaFleur said of their one season together (2017) with the Rams. "I know what type of communicator, I know the energy that he brings and then I think he's learned a lot from those previous experiences. I don't think he'd ever hide from those. I think, you know, the bottom line is we are going to get judged on what we do moving forward, and not from our past experiences. And we understand what's at stake each and every week when we go out there on the field. We've got to perform.

"But I just felt really comfortable with again, the person, his ability to communicate, the energy he's going to bring, the scheme that he's bringing with him in order to get the most out of our players."

The scheme, Barry said, will be a 3-4 base, just like Pettine ran. He has 4-3 in his background, but his most recent work under Staley, who ran a version of Fangio's system, is what was attractive to LaFleur.

"It was one of the more difficult schemes to scheme against as we were getting prepared for that game," LaFleur said referring to the divisional playoff game against the Rams. "But I think all great coaches, you've got to be able to adapt to your personnel and put guys in the right positions in order to have success, and I think it's multiple enough for us to do that."

Said Barry: "I was a 4-3 guy for a long time, I was a Tampa-2 guy for a long time. Getting hired by Tony Dungy, and then Coach Gruden came in and kept our staff intact in Tampa. And then I changed gears and I jumped in the 3-4. I jumped in Wade's [Phillips] system [with the Rams] as a 3-4 coach.

"And then working with Brandon Staley last year. … Brandon had come from Vic, but I really would call it more the stamp that I got put on me as of late, I'd really say that's Brandon Staley's system. I think it's a benefit to me because I've been able to be a part of so many different defenses and so many different philosophies, and I formulated my own."

Barry and LaFleur kept the rest of the defensive staff intact, promoting Jerry Gray to defensive passing game coordinator in addition to his role as secondary coach. Gray was one of the nine LaFleur interviewed, but it came down to University of Wisconsin defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard and Barry.

After Leonhard turned down LaFleur, he quickly turned to Barry for his third shot a running a defense.

"I would hope to think that 36-, 37-year-old Joe Barry is a lot different than 50-year-old Joe Barry," Barry said.