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Packers DC Joe Barry On The Hot Seat: Potential Replacement Identified

The 2022 Packers’ defense improved in the offseason, with several quality draft picks highlighted by linebacker Quay Walker and edge rusher Devonte Wyatt. The defense, led by defensive coordinator Joe Barry, was projected to be a top-five defense in the NFL this year. Well, it didn’t go as planned; the Packers’ defense currently ranks 16th overall in defense thanks to the pass defense, which still gets exploited from time to time. The pass defense ranks fifth, and the rush defense ranks 30th in the league.

Who Is Jim Leonhard?

Jim Leonhard is currently the defensive coordinator for the Wisconsin Badgers. After not being selected as the next head coach, he has decided to part ways with the program after Wisconsin’s bowl game this year. He had taken over as the interim head coach when the Badgers started the season 2-3. Head coach Paul Chryst was fired after the season’s first five games. Leonhard took over and led the team to a 4-3 record.

He’s been the defensive coordinator at the University of Wisconsin since 2017. From 2017 to 2021, he led the Badgers’ defense to four straight top-five total defense ranks in college football. However, the 2022 season was rougher than usual, as the Badgers went 6-6 and missed the Big Ten Championship. The defense was 13th in the nation this year.

After attending and playing college football at the University of Wisconsin as a defensive back, he was picked up by the Buffalo Bills as an undrafted rookie. Leonhard was in the NFL for ten seasons. He played for the already mentioned Bills, Baltimore Ravens, New York Jets, Denver Broncos, and Cleveland Browns. In his final year in the league, he played for the Browns and combined for 43 tackles and two interceptions in five games. It was only two short years before he transitioned to being a defensive backs coach at the University of Wisconsin in 2016.

After the Guaranteed Rate Bowl between Wisconsin and Oklahoma State, Leonhard will move on. As of today, he hasn’t accepted his next job yet, but he’s piqued several programs’ interest over the last week. Packers fans have already linked Jim to take over Joe Barry’s job even though Joe is still the DC in Green Bay. In addition, Purdue’s Jeff Brohm unexpectedly took another coaching gig, leaving the Purdue Boilermakers without a head coach. Leonhard has reportedly been linked as a possible replacement but has not voiced who he’d like to work for next.

If Joe Gets Fired, Can Jim Turn Things Around For The Packers’ Defense?

One key piece of history that will continue to haunt DC Joe Barry for his entire coaching career is when he was the DC for the Detroit Lions when the team made history for going winless in the 2008 season. Barry has always excelled as a linebackers coach but falls flat on his face whenever he gets a shot as defensive coordinator. The Packers’ defense has had to help mend the gap, with the Packers’ offense being less elite. Barry’s game plans have not worked as planned. Packers head coach Matt LaFleur remains committed to Barry, but for how much longer?

Jim Leonhard could immediately make an impact for the green and gold. He’s been linked to the Packers previously, and it’d be a short drive from Madison, WI, to Green Bay, WI. He has the skillset and plays that would flourish with the current roster. The 2022 season is all but lost, but if chosen, it wouldn’t take long to flip this squad into a top-ten defense. Imagine what he can do at the next level if he can take a college defense to four consecutive top-five finishes.



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