Before we get started, let me remind you that, prior to the 2015 season, the Washington Redskins thought it’d be a good idea to hire a defensive coordinator who was part of the 2nd worst team of the last 63 years, and who presided over the 2nd worst defense recorded since the turn of the century.
That defensive coordinator was Joe Barry.
Every Redskins fan remembers that, in the process of hiring Barry. In the process, they actually turned away Wade Phillips — who WANTED to coach for us (because the Redskins also happen to employ his son, Wes, as the tight ends coach) — and instead hired Barry, because the organization reportedly loved the “energy” and “enthusiasm” they thought he would bring.
By that logic, the Redskins should have just hired Richard Simmons, because at this point, he couldn’t be that much worse at coaching this defense than Joe Barry has been.
After yesterday’s loss to the Arizona Cardinals, it should have become as clear as ever: the Redskins simply cannot harbor any aspirations of being one of the better football teams in the NFL with Barry overseeing this defense. Including yesterday’s loss, the Redskins have now allowed 20 or more points this season in 10 of their 11 games. That basically means Barry is walking into his team’s offensive meeting rooms, and telling everyone in there: “unless you score three touchdowns to help bail out my defense, i’ll single-handedly ensure we’re going to lose this week.”
Barry’s defense is consistent in one regard: there is nothing that his unit does well. The Redskins defense is now 21st in points allowed per game, 23rd in total yards allowed per game, 21st in rushing yards allowed per game (and that ranking actually seems really high), and 18th in passing yards allowed per game.
That doesn’t seem so bad, you say? Hold on, i’m not finished.
The Redskins entered the game ranked 25th in total Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA), and 32nd — aka, dead last in the NFL — in rushing defense DVOA. They’ve allowed the most rushing touchdowns in the NFL (17), essentially allowing 1.5 rushing touchdowns to every opponent they play this year. They have the third-worst redzone defense in the NFL; opposing offenses score a touchdown against Washington just under 68% of the time they enter the redzone.
Feeling a bit more nauseous now? Hold on, i’m still not finished.
Washington has given up the third most yards to penalties in the NFL (which includes the mind-boggling number of flags thrown at Josh Norman). They’ve allowed the offenses they face to accumulate the second most first downs in the NFL. They’re dead last in the NFL in 3rd down percentage. Arizona converted 10 of 16 third down attempts yesterday, including successful conversions on 3rd and 8, 3rd and nine, 3rd and 11, and twice on 3rd and 12. Entering the game, the Redskins allowed opponents to convert 3rd and nine or more at 39.2%; put another way: one out of every three times the opponent facing the Redskins faces third and long, they’re guaranteed a conversion. And even when Washington does stop them on 3rd down, opponents have converted over 54% of their fourth down attempts this season against Washington. Arizona thought little enough of the Redskins defense that they ran the ball on 4th and 1 — on their OWN 34 yard line — and running back David Johnson exploded through the left side of the line almost untouched for the first half of his 14 yard run.
It’s getting to the point that when when — or if — the Redskins defense actually forces the opponent to punt the football, we should be as excited to see the opposing punter as we would be for a topless photo of Kate Upton.
It’s been said that the genius of Bill Belichick is his practice of identifying the strength of an opposing team, devising a defensive scheme to completely eliminate that aspect, and then forcing the opponent to beat him with their “Plan B.” Yes, it’s sacrilege, heresy, and comedy at the highest levels to compare Belichick with an absolute nincompoop like Barry. Still, you’d think that if you’re playing the 2016 Dallas Cowboys, who feature a record-setting rookie running back (Ezekiel Elliott) who could very well end up as the NFL MVP this season, your game plan would probably be hyper-focused on limiting the damage Elliott inflicts. But instead, Barry’s defense allowed Elliott to run roughshod through the Redskins defense on Thanksgiving Day, racking up 120 combined yards and two touchdowns.
Coming into yesterday’s game, the entire world knew that the Cardinals game plan has basically devolved into force-feeding the ball into Johnson’s and Larry Fitzgerald’s hands. Everyone, that is, except for our friend Joe Barry. Johnson still finished the game with 175 combined yards and two touchdowns, while Fitzgerald caught 10 passes for 78 yards.
And sure, i’ll concede that the list above includes some of the best players in the NFL, who’d wreak havoc on a lot of defenses. Except, the Redskins defense in particular, under Joe Barry, is like a living, breathing “Get Well Soon” card for any opposing offensive players they face. Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams had over 150 combined yards and two touchdowns against Washington in Week 1, marking only the second time he had put up such numbers in the past three seasons. Browns running back Isaiah Crowell and Ravens running back Terrance West both had the third best game of their respective careers against the Redskins. Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs had the second-highest yardage total of his career against the Redskins. Lions wide receiver Marvin Jones had his highest yardage total in the last 8 weeks was against the Redskins. Packers tight end Jared Cook had 11 catches for 105 yards and a touchdown against the Redskins; in the other five games he’s played in this season, he has five catches for 79 yards combined (and zero touchdowns).
With each passing week of watching this sieve of a Redskins defense, I wish more and more that someone would go and hire two consultants, in the Bob Slydell and Bob Porter mold, and simply ask Joe Barry: “what is that you do each week, when you’re supposed to be devising game plans to actually stop the upcoming opponent?”
The Redskins still have a winning record, and might still be the favorites to grab one of the Wild Card spots in the NFC, but that’s all clearly in spite of the defense’s performance this year. Barry is no different than the guy at your office who is totally incompetent at his job and a general hindrance to getting most things done, but gets to keep his job anyway because the rest of his team understands and compensates for his lack of performance and gets the project done anyway.
Sure, it’s not Barry’s fault that he’s forced to play with a defensive line that features two out of three guys that probably wouldn’t start for about 25 of the 32 NFL teams (Ricky Jean-Francois and Ziggy Hood), probably the worst pair of safeties in the NFL, two castoff inside linebackers, and a talented rookie corner (Kendall Fuller) who’s been forced into playing as the slot cornerback position (which has secretly become one of the most important positions in a league where three-receiver sets are now the norm) even though he never played that position in college.
But your job as defensive coordinator is to make the proverbial chicken dinner out of chicken shit. On the contrary, Barry seems like the type of coordinator who could be handed the best ingredients in the world, and he’ll just overcook, burn, and ruin the meal he’s supposed to make for someone. Why should we believe that going on a free agency spending-binge, or drafting a whole bunch of talented players for the defense in the 2017 draft, will make any difference? Barry has coached defenses in the NFL for the last 15 of the last 16 years (if you count his one-year stint in San Francisco as a quality control coach), and over the last 10 years, he’s produced exactly zero Pro Bowl players from the units he’s coached.
Even though they’re now on the outside looking in as of this Monday, the Redskins can still slip in to the playoffs even with a 3-1 record over their next four games (provided they get a little help, and they beat the New York Giants in Week 17). But we shouldn’t have any delusions of anything past a one-and-done if this team were to make the postseason. I wouldn’t trust Joe Barry to lead a group of raging alcoholics to an open bar, let alone a defense for a playoff team.
As much as this team sorely needs an infusion of talent on defense, hiring someone to run this defense is clearly just as badly a need. As ridiculous as this might sound, Gus Bradley might be painfully overmatched as head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, but he’s a highly-regarded defensive coach — and an upgrade from Joe Barry, at minimum — with ties to Jay Gruden and Bruce Allen. If Todd Bowles is fired in New York (Jets owner Woody Johnson is notoriously fickle and irrational), I would love for the Redskins to try and hire him as their next coordinator; he clearly has ties to the area, so it’s not that far-fetched. Heck, Vic Fangio might be unemployed after the season is over, if the Chicago Bears clean house this offseason; I wonder if he’d reconsider working here, after turning down the job in 2015?
Regardless, one thing is clear: nobody can seriously call the Washington Redskins a true contender, if Joe Barry remains defensive coordinator. Whether it’s today, this week, this month, or this offseason, it’s time for him to hit the road.