Green Bay Packers

It's Time For A Full Defensive Overhaul In Green Bay

Photo Credit: Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel-USA TODAY NETWORK

The Green Bay Packers believed their defense could be the team’s strength as the offense rebuilds itself following a host of changes this offseason.

That hasn’t exactly worked out.

The Packers keep losing games, and the team is in an uncommon position for this stage of the season. Rather than preparing for the playoffs, they are probably looking to the draft and beyond, as their season is just about over. No part of this team is doing particularly well, but the defense, the “strength” of the team, has the least room for excuses.

Considering all of the draft capital and cap space devoted to the defense, they should be much better than they are. And the problem starts at the top. It’s clear that Joe Barry isn’t the answer in Green Bay, despite a few moments when everything goes right. Barry’s time in Wisconsin should be about over, but don’t expect changes before the end of the season. This is Green Bay, after all, and Barry’s replacement isn’t on the roster.

Last Thursday, the Tennessee Titans entered Lambeau Field as one of the league’s least-efficient offenses. They left with a win and put up 27 points and 408 yards. Ryan Tannehill and a mediocre receiving corps sliced through Green Bay’s purportedly elite secondary like soft butter. It was very sad.

Sure, the defense isn’t entirely Barry’s fault. The offense can’t stay on the field, leading to a gassed defense. Almost every role player from last season is performing below their usual standards, and coaching only goes so far if your players aren’t executing. The position coaches have to have their players ready to go. And Brian Gutekunst has done a poor job keeping pass-rushers on hand.

But the scheme isn’t working, the unit lacks energy, and no one ever looks prepared. Everything in the league starts from the top, and Barry has done nothing to show he’s the man for the job. Barry’s previous stints as DC were always discouraging. But LaFleur wanted to believe Barry had improved since then.

Outside the NFL, it’s easy to root for someone to learn from their past mistakes. But the NFL is a results-based industry, and Barry hasn’t improved. There’s a reason re-treads often don’t work out.

But even if Barry isn’t the future in Green Bay, don’t expect the Packers to deviate from their modus operandi and jump into the future before the season ends. The Packers will almost certainly wait until the season is officially over to make any changes.

And that’s honestly fine because the next coordinator needs to come from outside of the building.

Our own Wendell Ferreira advocated that the Packers could release Barry and give defensive backs/passing game coordinator Jerry Gray a chance as interim DC. Grey, a former DC with the Buffalo Bills and Tennessee, could get an audition to see what he could do with the same group while keeping the core scheme and coaching staff intact.

While the idea had merit, the past few weeks have made it abundantly clear that a full makeover is necessary. Gray’s past stints as a DC were better than Barry’s, but Gray’s secondary is performing far below expectations despite having most of its preferred starters available.

Pass-breakups are a rarity this season, miscommunications happen on a weekly basis, and coverages are constantly blown. Nothing Gray has done this season should keep his job safe, let alone earn a promotion.

Twice under LaFleur, the Packers kept the core of an underperforming coaching staff intact, believing a leadership change was the key. It didn’t work when he promoted Maurice Drayton, and it’s not working with Barry. The Packers can’t make the same mistake and hand the big job to Gray. There’s a reason Gray wasn’t offered the job in the first place.

Modern organizational theory is based on systems theory, excellently summarized by Chron as “the principle that all of an organization’s components interrelate nonlinearly, therefore making a small change in one variable impact many others.” The entire system of the defense hasn’t worked, and it isn’t entirely due to the leadership.

Many of the problems of Barry’s reign were core tenets of the Pettine regime. The defense lacks physicality, aggressiveness, and grit. It constantly makes things harder than it needs to be. Cutting the head off of the hydra isn’t enough.

What the Packers need is a fresh start on defense. Not only a new coordinator but new position coaches and new philosophies in place. And there should be plenty of options available. Brandon Staley could be available if the Los Angeles Chargers don’t improve and if LaFleur wants to keep a similar scheme. Vic Fangio and Brian Flores are other names to consider in the “former HC but better DC” category. And those are just the fairly obvious big names.

Whatever LaFleur seeks, he’ll have his options, and firing Barry now doesn’t change anything. LaFleur must learn from his past mistakes and nail the decision this time around. It’s clear Green Bay’s defense needs a total revamp, but nothing can be done before the season’s end.

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Photo Credit: Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel-USA TODAY NETWORK

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