The Green Bay Packers missed out on the playoffs for the first time in Matt LaFleur’s tenure as head coach, and the 43-year-old opened up about his plans for the coaching staff in 2023 and beyond.
It was a disappointing season for the Packers, who finished the year with an 8-9 record that kept them from reaching the postseason. Although they could have snuck in with a win in Week 18, the Detroit Lions played spoiler with a 20-16 upset victory.
On Monday, January 9, LaFleur spoke with the media to answer questions about the team’s offseason plans. When asked about defensive coordinator Joe Barry, LaFleur revealed that he didn’t anticipate making any changes to the coaching staff for the 2023 season.
“I don’t really anticipate a whole lot, if any, staff changes at all,” LaFleur said. “I think that although it wasn’t always pretty, I did think we started to improve as the year went on. I thought we saw more of an identity. I certainly thought we played well enough to win on the defensive side of the ball.”
The Packers were able to turn things around defensively during the final stretch run to put the team in a position to sneak into the playoffs, and that sounds like it might have been enough for Barry to keep his job.
A Strange Defensive Season for the Packers
Packers fans may not be thrilled with Barry’s potential return, especially with the team having ties for former Wisconsin Badgers defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard. However, the late-season stretch may be what keeps Barry in Green Bay.
By traditional measures, the Packers had an average season defensively. They finished 16th in the league with 336.5 yards allowed per game and 17th with 21.8 points allowed. Advanced statistics weren’t as favorable, with Pro Football Focus grading the Packers as the 21st-ranked defense while Football Outsiders had them as the 20th defense by DVOA.
However, that defense turned it on over the last five games of the season, allowing just 16.8 points per contest over that span. The team also saw a big uptick in takeaways during that stretch run thanks to some big plays from the likes of Jaire Alexander, Rasul Douglas, and Kenny Clark.
However, some of the play-calling decisions earlier in the season left a sour taste in the mouths of Packers fans, starting with the team’s season opener against the Minnesota Vikings. The Packers allowed Justin Jefferson to run wild with nine catches for 184 yards and two touchdowns, not allowing their star cornerback in Alexander to shadow the Vikings star.
Barry will be under heavy scrutiny this offseason, but as it stands right now, it appears that the defensive coordinator is staying in Green Bay.
Mental Mistakes Cost the Packers
It’s unclear if it was a coaching issue, but the Packers had too many mental errors in Week 18 that likely cost them a shot at the playoffs.
Rookie linebacker Quay Walker may have had the biggest mental error of the game, shoving a Lions trainer that resulted in him being ejected. LaFleur was less than pleased with the actions of the rookie, while at least one analyst was calling for Walker to be suspended.
Meanwhile, cornerback Rasul Douglas may have had one of the dumbest penalties of the season by retaliating against a Lions player prior to a field goal attempt. The 15-yard penalty gave the Lions a much easier kick to trim Green Bay’s lead to just three points heading into halftime.
Discipline will be a big focus for the Packers this offseason as they reflect on the mistakes that kept them out of the postseason.