- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 21, 2015

MOBILE, Ala. — Dressed in a dark brown sweater and a pair of black pants, Joe Barry wasn’t like many of the other coaches, scouts and executives observing the Senior Bowl practices at Ladd-Peebles Stadium on Wednesday afternoon.
Then again, a sudden change in allegiances earlier in the week left Barry no time to flip his wardrobe.

Barry was hired by the Washington Redskins on Tuesday to be their defensive coordinator following four seasons with the San Diego Chargers, where he was their linebackers coach.

It’ll be the first time the 44-year-old will oversee a defense since 2008, when he was fired following a two-year stint in that role with the Detroit Lions.
“It’s exciting,” Barry said Wednesday, speaking to reporters for the first time since his hiring. “I’m pinching myself.”

Barry, who will replace Jim Haslett, faces a hefty challenge with his new team. The Redskins‘ defense finished in the bottom half of several major statistical categories this past season, including 20th in total yards allowed and tied for 29th in points surrendered.

Those marks aren’t all too different from what Barry faced six years earlier, when the Lions finished last in 12 of the 18 major statistical categories tracked by the NFL following a winless season.

The hiring of Barry following such a dismal stint seemed like a curious choice by coach Jay Gruden, who interviewed Barry for nearly seven hours on Jan. 6. Barry, though, gave examples of how much he’s developed as a coach and spent considerable time brainstorming schemes and principles, pleasing Gruden with his vision for the Redskins.

“I think the way you grow, the way you get better, it’s not when things are easy and comfortable,” Barry said. “When things are tough, that’s when you learn.

“Those two years that I spent there were hard, but I walked out of there a much better coach than I walked in, and in the seven years since then, being able to go work in San Diego for three years in a 3-4 system, a different scheme, and learn that and be around that, life is all about growth.”

Gruden said Tuesday that Barry was the only one of the seven candidates to be offered the job, but he did admit that former San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who accepted the same role with the Chicago Bears on Tuesday, was the Redskins‘ top candidate.

“He’s walking into a situation here where we’re going to have some adversity, and I know he can handle it,” Gruden said. “He’s a tough guy, committed guy, a loyal guy, and I think he’s good fit for us.”

Barry, meanwhile, said he had no problem with how long it took for the interview process to unfold and when he was offered the job. He was the first candidate to interview, and he accepted the job nearly three weeks after the team parted ways with Haslett.

“There’s never a perfect time as far as how long one of these things should go, so I didn’t even worry about that or get involved with that,” Barry said. “I just went in and tried to do the best job I could in the interview, and I thought it went great. Obviously, it went great.”

In San Diego, Barry was charged with tutoring a trio of young players — outside linebackers Melvin Ingram and Jeremiah Attaochu and inside linebacker Manti Te’o. He now has the opportunity to work with outside linebackers Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Murphy and inside linebackers Keenan Robinson and Perry Riley, all of whom finished last season as starters and are 26 or younger.

Barry’s experience working in a 3-4 defense was one of the main reasons Gruden tabbed him for the job. Aside from a cursory mention of Kerrigan, who he said had “a phenomenal year” with 13.5 sacks, the seventh-most in the league, Barry said addressing specific players without studying their abilities “wouldn’t be fair.”

He also declined to address specifics with the Redskins‘ current assistant coaches, noting only that he would have input on decisions but would defer to Gruden. While Gruden said Tuesday that those choices would be made beginning next week, ESPN 980, the team-owned radio station, reported earlier Wednesday that outside linebackers coach Brian Baker would not return to the Redskins after one season.

After he was fired by the Lions following the 2009 season, Barry served as the linebackers coach at his alma mater, Southern California, for one year. He then joined the Chargers, where he remained on staff during the team’s transition from Norv Turner to Mike McCoy in 2013, all the while never losing hope that he would one day again be a defensive coordinator.

“I knew it was going to happen, and up until [Tuesday], I wanted to be the best linebackers coach in the National Football League,” Barry said. “I knew if I went about my business in that manner, an opportunity would come about — and it did.”

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