- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 5, 2017

It was just on Monday that Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden had pointed out that he hand-picked defensive coordinator Joe Barry.

“I was the main reason we brought him in here,” Gruden said.

He was answering a question then about how much say he will have in Barry’s possible retainment or dismissal. The Redskins finished with the third-ranked offense in the NFL and the 28th-ranked defense. Barry was a clear option to take the heat for the defensive failings.

“Ultimately I would think it is my call – our call,” Gruden said. “Bruce [Allen] will have some input, Dan [Snyder] will have some input, Scot [McCloughan] will have some input, but from a staff standpoint, I like to think I have a lot of pull on that one.”

Gruden made his decision. Barry was fired Thursday, as was defensive line coach Robb Akey, strength coach Mike Clark and defensive backs coach Perry Fewell.

When Barry was hired in 2015, he came to Washington at Gruden’s behest and with a spotty record as a defensive coordinator. During his two seasons as defensive coordinator of the Detroit Lions from 2007-08, Barry’s units finished last in total defense each season.

His time at Redskins Park did not improve his resume much. Instead of residing last among the league’s 32 teams in defense, the Redskins were 28th in both seasons under Barry. They could not stop the run or pass, countering their ability to move the ball on offense.

Barry notably started this season by not using pricy cornerback Josh Norman to cover the opposition’s best receiver. Following an 0-2 start, and the opposite cornerback. Bashaud Breeland, often being beaten by the other team’s best receiver, Barry defended his decision to leave Norman on one side of the field.

“It’s easy for you to get lined up but the other guys, it’s difficult and that’s why most of the time, people get talked out of it, especially with offenses that move their guy around,” Barry said.

He later changed his mind.

There were also odd instances during the season when aggravated players would look and shout toward the sideline. Substitutions and play calls were late at times. Defensive lineman Chris Baker had to be restrained when yelling at Barry during the Week 3 game in against the New York Giants.

Pointing out why the Redskins played better this season against the Green Bay Packers, defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois said they were not unnecessarily substituting like they did during last season’s playoff game against the Green Bay Packers. He said that caused Washington to be in a poor position to stop Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Before Barry was fired, the players also took responsibility for the failings of the defense.

“Unfortunately for coach Barry, that’s kind of the way it is, comes back on him,” Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said Monday. “But I’ve always been of the belief it’s players making plays. Coaches can only do so much. There’s no perfect call for every play an offense is going to run. We have to make a call good. We have to make the call — whatever coach Barry calls — right. That’s my belief. It ultimately comes down to us making plays.”

“At the end of the day, players play and coaches coach,” Baker said Monday. “I’ve never seen a coach miss a tackle. We’ve got to do better as players making the plays we’re supposed to make and getting off the field when we’re supposed to get off the field.”

Those two things rarely happened in 2016, which is why Barry and multiple members of his staff are no longer employed by the Redskins.

Barry also was not provided with a bevy of talent. Beyond the massive investment to make Norman the highest-paid cornerback in league history, Washington spent little on defense. It started the season with two older players at safety, DeAngelo Hall and David Bruton. Each suffered a season-ending injury. By the end of the season, even safety Donte Whitner, who was signed in the middle of the season, was out for the year.

Only Norman and Kerrigan have been to the Pro Bowl. Rookie Kendall Fuller was placed into one of the league’s most crucial spots, nickel cornerback, and struggled. The preseason injury to linebacker Junior Galette forced second-year linebacker Preston Smith onto the field. His production fluctuated, leading to a decline from 8 sacks in his rookie season, to 4.5 this season. Defensive lineman Ziggy Hood was out of football for most of 2015, but became a starter for Washington last season.

Firing Fewell eliminates a possible in-house replacement for Barry. Fewell has previously been the defensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills and New York Giants. Like Barry, Akey was hired in 2015. Removing Fewell and Akey suggests the Redskins have an idea of who will replace Barry and that the new defensive coordinator has specific targets for line and defensive backs coaches.

Right now, they only have four fresh vacancies.

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