At the NFL Annual Meetings, San Diego Chargers head coach Mike McCoy took some time to talk about Washington Redskins defensive coordinator Joe Barry, who coached linebackers in San Diego the past four seasons.
All great coaches possess the ability to motivate their players, and Washington Redskins defensive coordinator Joe Barry certainly has that skill on his coaching résumé.
Barry’s coaching career saw a re-birth following his stint as the defensive coordinator of the Detroit Lions from 2007-08. After coaching linebackers for three different teams from 2009-2014, Barry now returns to the coordinator position in Washington.
At the NFL Combine in Indianapolis this past February, San Diego’s general manager Tom Telesco, who joined the franchise in 2013, spoke very highly of Barry’s ability to connect with his players.
“[Barry] did a great job with a good group, coached both inside and outside linebackers,” Telesco told Redskins.com. “Brings a great passion to the game, and you’ll see that in practice from the first day you’re out there with him. Players love to play for him.”
At the NFL Annual Meetings in Arizona this week, Barry’s former boss and current Chargers head coach Mike McCoy reinforced that opinion.
“Everybody loves the guy,” McCoy told CSNWashington.com's Tarik El-Bashir. “He really cares about you as a person, not just a player. If you ask anybody on the defensive side of the ball, or even some of the guys he was close with on the offensive side, he’s a great guy. Very positive. A good motivator.”
Barry inherits a young defensive unit that ranked 20th overall in 2014, allowing an average of 357 yards per game. The 44-year-old coach dealt with his fair share of youth on that side of the ball, and has also had to configure his defensive lineup as various players were lost due to injury.
In the 2013 season, injuries disrupted the continuity of the Chargers’ linebacking corp, only allowing Barry to start the same four linebackers in consecutive weeks just twice. Throughout the season, he relied on the youth of fourth-year linebacker Donald Butler and rookie linebacker Manti Te’o to lead the depleted unit.
And while Barry can certainly be emotional in his demeanor, McCoy believes that it’s all positive.
His passion for the game stems from his time playing linebacker for the University of Michigan (1989-90) and the University of Southern California (1992-93). After his collegiate career, he served as a graduate assistant for the Trojans for two seasons.
Now more than 20 years later, his intensity, enthusiasm and joy for the game lives on, and that emotion is fuel for his players on the field.
“He loves the game,” McCoy said. “He’s like a little kid on the sidelines… and I think the players feed off of that.”
It’s that kind of emotion that attracted Gruden to hire Barry back in January.
“What I liked about Joe, I liked his energy. I liked his passion,” Gruden said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “His knowledge, X’s and O’s, not just the linebacker position, but up front and the secondary, I think he’s got a good overall grasp of defensive football and he’s very passionate.”