The Green Bay Packers are headed to the NFL Playoffs. In the first year of their “rebuild,” the first year following Aaron Rodgers‘ trade to the New York Jets, the first year of the Jordan Love Era, Green Bay has taken the youngest roster in the NFL and made the postseason. To put in perspective how impressive this is, it must be noted that they are the youngest team to make the playoffs in NFL history.
Of course, it was not an easy journey. At 9-8, Green Bay suffered nearly as many losses as they did wins. A four-game losing streak in October had many calling for both Matt LaFleur and Brian Gutekunst to be fired and Love traded or released. In the second half of the season, defensive coordinator Joe Barry came under fire for his frustrating defensive schemes that allowed the likes of Kenny Pickett, Tommy DeVito, and Bryce Young to have the best games of their careers.
But while Love and the offense started to figure out how to overcome their issues, the defense seemed to spiral. Social media posts by De’Vondre Campbell led many to believe that he was fed up with the play-calling and would no longer play while Barry was employed. Jaire Alexander’s coin-toss antics in Carolina, and his subsequent suspension, led to similar questions.
However, after winning their last two games, both against division opponents, the defense appears to be trending in the right direction, and Preston Smith identified the reason on Sunday night.
Preston Smith Says the Green Bay Packers Defense Is Playing for Joe Barry
The hiring of Barry as the team’s defensive coordinator in 2021 was never a popular hire. The architect of the 0-16 Detroit Lions defense seemed like the last person who should get the job. And while the last two games do not change the fact that this Packers’ defense, as a whole, underperformed in 2023, they do indicate that Barry has a deep understanding of how to stop Green Bay’s divisional opponents.
Over the last two games, the Packers’ defense has given up just one touchdown, and that was a seven-year drive the Minnesota Vikings had following a Samori Toure muffed punt in Week 17. In other words, the defense has been exceptional since the Week 16 fiasco against the Panthers.
Media and fans may never know exactly what went down in that locker room following the Panthers game; but one thing is for sure: the defense has rallied around their defensive coordinator. While fans have been calling for his job, the players have recommitted themselves to winning for him.
After the game, Preston Smith told the media why the defense has been so successful in the last two games:
“Joe B’s been dialing it up. He gets a lot of hell in the media. But we’ve come together. We play for Joe B.”
All season long, communication has been identified as a key issue on defense. When Alexander came back from his suspension, he said communication was what he needed to improve upon the most.
Guess which player was running around pre-snap communicating reads and directing players against the Bears: Alexander.
While Barry’s future in Green Bay is still uncertain, it is noteworthy that the players are speaking so highly of him.
And for many, it is surprising.
Green Bay Packers Fans Are Shocked by Preston Smith’s Comments About Joe Barry
As mentioned, Barry’s hiring was never popular. Many fans have wanted him gone since Day One. The reactions to Smith’s comments indicate that the fanbase’s distaste for Barry runs deep:
— CheeseheadTV 🧀 (@cheeseheadtv) January 8, 2024
He’s staying is he? https://t.co/lxgI6dxxMW
— Noah Clark (@ClarkRigo) January 8, 2024
— malachai (@prmxl) January 8, 2024
— SB 🏈✨🦋 (@BigBro_21) January 8, 2024
This is the most terrifying development to come out of the win over the Bears. https://t.co/dbzSOIeZrv
— Myles Teteak (@MylesTeteak) January 8, 2024
Okay, now I just want us to get absolutely sheeeeelacked by the Cowboys so Barry gets fired. I’m talking 250 yards on the ground, 450 through the air. https://t.co/Y6I1v672Mn
— Dad Nauseam (@kk_waters) January 8, 2024
It’s disappointing that some care more about being right than the team’s success. Barry, as defensive coordinator, is part of the team. He cannot have guaranteed himself a new contract yet, but his success equals team success. Fans should want Barry to be an effective play-caller and defensive coordinator.
That is what is best for the team going into the playoffs.