MOBILE, Ala. — The Washington Redskins hired San Diego Chargers linebackers coach Joe Barry as their defensive coordinator on Tuesday, ending a search that lasted nearly three weeks.
Barry, 44, was the first of seven candidates to interview for the position and, according to coach Jay Gruden, was the only one who was offered the job.
“He brings energy, commitment to being great,” Gruden said Tuesday afternoon following a Senior Bowl practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. “I like what he’s done in his career — how he’s progressed as a football coach.
“I really have a great appreciation for what they’ve done in San Diego. They get the most out of their players, have a good scheme. I know that going against them. I know what kind of guy he is and what kind of energy he’s going to bring to the team.”
Barry will replace Jim Haslett, who spent five seasons with the Redskins before he and the team mutually agreed to part ways late last month.
“We both came to the conclusion that it was best that we move on and part ways and go in a different direction,” Gruden said, addressing Haslett’s departure for the first time since Dec. 31. “That’s it. Nothing against Haz. He had a good run here, five years, and we just had to go a different way.”
Former San Francisco defensive coordinator Vic Fangio was one of Gruden’s top candidates, but Gruden said he never got the sense that Fangio was interested in joining the Redskins.
Fangio, who interviewed with the Chicago Bears on Saturday before interviewing with the Redskins, accepted an offer to become the Bears’ defensive coordinator Tuesday morning.
“We talked to Vic and we knew he had a lot of offers on the table,” Gruden said. “We just wanted to get him in and see what he was all about so he could see our situation, and he chose to go to Chicago. As far as the offer is concerned, we knew it was kind of a long shot him coming anyway. But we just wanted [to speak to him], because obviously he’s a great candidate and great football coach. It would’ve been stupid for us not to reach out and try to get him, but he chose Chicago, and good for him.”
San Francisco defensive backs coach Ed Donatell, longtime defensive coordinator and coach Wade Phillips, former Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, 49ers tight ends coach Eric Mangini, and Redskins defensive backs coach Raheem Morris also interviewed for the opening.
Barry spent the last four years in San Diego, having previously coached in Tampa Bay with Gruden and Morris. He was the Detroit Lions’ defensive coordinator in 2007 and 2008, but his units ranked among the worst in the league and contributed to the Lions’ winless season in 2008.
In 2009, he returned to Tampa Bay to be the Buccaneers’ linebackers coach, then coached at Southern California in 2010 before joining the Chargers.
Part of the allure of hiring Barry, Gruden said, was his experience working with a 3-4 defense, which the Redskins intend to modify. The coach wanted to keep that scheme because he did not want to radically shuffle the team’s defensive personnel, though four players are set to become unrestricted free agents and three others will have salary cap figures that may make their returns impossible.
As for the disastrous 2008 season, when the Lions ranked last in total yards allowed, rushing yards allowed and several other major categories, Gruden wasn’t worried.
“I think it’s molded him,” Gruden said. “One thing we know is he can handle adversity. That’s important. He’s walking into a situation here where we’re going to have some adversity, and I know he can handle it. He’s a tough guy, committed guy, a loyal guy, and I think he’s good fit for us. Other coaches have had some rough patches in their careers, too. It’s not just him. Every guy we interviewed, there’s been a season or two that haven’t been perfect. It’s how you react that makes you a better coach.”
Gruden said the organizations will make decisions on keeping the remaining defensive coaches after the Senior Bowl, which will be played Saturday.
Barry interviewed on Jan. 6 — a session that lasted roughly seven hours.
“It was a long interview,” Gruden said, “just talking ball and scheme and how to develop players and coverages. It was the whole package of what he brought to the table — just a total understanding of not just the front end, but the back end.
“I think his total understanding of the conceptual sight of the entire defense sold me on him, as far as Xs and Os. Every candidate is very versed on the Xs and Os, but it’s more than that with me. It’s how you’re gonna get the most out of David Amerson and Chris Baker and Keenan Robinson and those guys, and I think he’s a great fit for those guys.”