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Who is Joe Barry? Raiders Defensive Coordinator Candidate

Noah Strang
Joe Barry Las Vegas Raiders defensive Coordinator
Dec 1, 2019; Glendale, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Rams assistant head coach/linebackers coach Joe Barry against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Barry has plenty of connections that might prove to be the difference-maker in the job search but the question remains: are they enough to outweigh his poor performance in certain markets?

When the candidates for the Raiders defensive coordinator position started to become clear to the public, much was made about the fact that many of them had previous experience working with coach Jon Gruden. Joe Barry fits that description as he worked under Gruden in Tampa Bay, but since then Barry has traveled around the NFL working in a multitude of different defensive roles.

Joe Barry has further ties to the current staff of the organization as he is the son-in-law of interim defensive coordinator and defensive line coach Rod Marinelli. While these factors do matter and could help him get the job, let’s take a look at how his football career has done so far and how he’s fared in each of his landing spots.

Currently, Barry, current Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, and former Cowboys assistant Kris Richard have all been confirmed as candidates for the open Raiders defensive coordinator role.

Today, we look at Joe Barry.

Working with Jon Gruden in Tampa Bay

Raiders defensive coordinator Joe Barry
Joe Barry was part of Jon Gruden’s staff in Tampa Bay including during the team’s Super Bowl win over the Raiders.

Barry would get his NFL start with the San Francisco 49ers in 2000 but only a year later ended up as part of Gruden’s staff in Tampa Bay as a linebackers coach. The position was a natural fit for Barry as he had played linebacker himself in college and coached the position at the NCAA ranks for Northern Arizona and UNLV.

Joe Barry would help create one of the most feared defensive units in Tampa Bay and in 2003 the team would ride that defense all the way to a Super Bowl victory over the Raiders. However, it was in 2002 where they might’ve actually had a better defense as they ranked first in points allowed, allowing only 196 which was 45 fewer than any other team, and first in yards allowed with only 4044 allowed, 710 fewer than any other team.

The team used the famous Tampa-Two scheme, which involves a linebacker dropping back to cover the middle of the field sandwiched between two defensive backs covering the outside zones during pass plays. This can put lots of responsibility and stress on the linebackers, the position group that Barry was responsible for, but they executed it perfectly and had one of the best defenses of all time.

How much of this was due to Barry’s input on the scheme compared to the work of defensive coordinator of Monte Kiffin, or even just the amazing quantity of talented players, is hard to discern from an outside perspective but the fact remains that he was a part of a dominant defense. It was this success that would get his name circulating in NFL circles and before the 2007 season he was hired to be the defensive coordinator for the Detroit Lions where Rod Marinelli was the head coach.

Joe Barry & His Brief Stint in Detroit

Raiders defensive coordinator Joe Barry
Barry’s time in Detroit was short and the 2007 Lions team made history for futility.

Prior to 2007, the year that Barry joined the Lions organization, the team had experienced six consecutive losing seasons. Barry, alongside Marinelli, brought the Tampa-Two system to Detroit where they tried to implement it hoping to achieve the same results they had in Florida.

The results were disastrous. The team was 6-2 at the halfway mark of the 2007 season before a late season collapse saw them finish 7-9. This run of losses was only a sign of things to come as the team did not win a single game in 2008, accomplishing a feat that has only been accomplished five times since 1944.

The defense was especially atrocious as the defense allowed 517 points over the sixteen games, only sixteen fewer than the all-time record. The players were not talented, nor coached effectively enough, to stop a nosebleed and after this season the franchise moved on from the coaching staff. Overall the Tampa-Two was a failed experiment while Barry was in Detroit as his defenses finished last in yards allowed in both of his seasons.

Moving on from the Lions

During his first two NFL stops, Joe Barry got to see the two extremes of NFL defences, being a part of one of the best of all-time in Tampa Bay and a part of one of the weakest of all-time in Detroit. After two years split between Tampa Bay and USC as their linebacker coaches, he would land in San Diego working the same role.

While Barry was coaching the linebackers in San Diego, defensive coordinator John Pagano had the team running a scheme that was more similar to a 3-4 than the 4-3 base, Tampa-Two Barry had been involved in before. Barry gained a reputation as a great communicator and a coach that players like to play for. Eventually, he got an interview for a new defensive coordinator position and in 2015 was hired to coach the Washington Redskins.

A Second Crack at a DC Position

Las Vegas Raiders Defensive Coordinator Joe Barry
Barry was hired by Jay Gruden to run the Washington defense

Barry was a bit of a surprise hire for the position, but a strong interview and his history with Jay Gruden helped him secure the job and Barry was afforded a second chance at a defensive coordinator position. While the team would manage to win some games this time around, the defense struggled and Barry only lasted two years (2015-16) in the nation’s capital.

Joe Barry ran a more passive cover-three scheme in Washington, yet once again the results that he was looking for avoided him. He didn’t have the personnel to create any pressure without dialling up a few blitzes, something that Barry seemed reluctant to do. If Barry were to be hired by the Raiders, this concern would be pressing as Las Vegas lacks a true pass rush threat.

Moving to Los Angeles

After parting ways with Washington, Joe Barry would once again find himself in a linebacker coach role, only this time with the Los Angeles Rams. He would also receive the title of assistant head coach, displaying the fact that he’ll have some additional responsibilities.

Barry helped the Rams reach the Super Bowl in 2019 but they suffered a close loss against the Patriots and Tom Brady. Still, their defence managed to confuse Brady more than most have and held New England to only thirteen points.

In another note that will be of interest to Raiders fans, it was Barry that was coaching Cory Littleton when he made the Pro Bowl and was named to second team All-Pro in 2018. Littleton struggled this season with the Raiders but perhaps if he was reconnected with his old coach they would be able to rekindle some of that magic.

Would Joe Barry be a Good Fit in Las Vegas?

Barry’s track record as a defensive coordinator is concerning and a red flag if the Raiders were to decide to pursue him. However, it cannot be ignored that he has never had an adequate level of talent on his defensive units and that he has been successful in other stops.

Perhaps Barry is just not meant to be a DC and works best in smaller roles, but on the other hand maybe he needs a situation like the Raiders where they have some young talented players he could use to execute his scheme in his vision.

Whichever way the Raiders go, Gruden has made it clear that he wants the defensive coordinators to be able to empower their position coaches and a strong group of coaches will accomplish more than one individual. While Barry has shown that he can be a part of a strong defensive unit, his track record as a DC is concerning if the Raiders were to hand him the keys.