Did the Redskins make proper call hiring Joe Barry over Wade Phillips?

Part of the Redskins offseason overhaul involved changing defensive coordinators. Chris Russell ponders whether Washington made the right choice.

The Redskins hired Joe Barry to replace Jim Haslett as their new Defensive Coordinator, after a lengthy search last winter. It was a very unpopular decision for various reasons, some dumb and one very valid.  

The same media and fan base that shredded Haslett on a regular basis despite him barely having a ham sandwich and two nickels to rub together for a sustainable defense over five years, slammed the choice of his replacement. Barry previously had coordinating experience on the NFL level in Detroit. His two-year run with the Lions following the winless 2008 season.

By the way, in terms of outrage, that’s the top dumb reason. 

What Joe Barry did or didn’t do with one legitimate NFL player over two years coaching for a horrible organization is not a valid concern or criticism. That’s where the “track-record” believers become so stubborn that they can’t see anything besides what is in front of them. 

Every situation is different. Talent varies and sometimes dramtically from team to team. Same with schemes. Organizations and surroundings can and often are vastly different. 

I felt that Barry would be more than a fine choice as Defensive Coordinator for one main reason: I knew he would have a LOT more talent to work with in Washington than he did in Detroit. 

As you may know, that’s what mostly matters in my mind. You can’t cook dinner if you don’t have any groceries to cook it with. 

The valid reason why Redskins fans were understandably unhappy with the decision to choose Barry to run the defense, was because Wade Phillips was available and very much wanted the job. Vic Fangio was high on the Redskins wish list and eventually did interview after not getting the 49ers head coaching position, but chose Chicago and John Fox over Washington and Jay Gruden. 

Phillips visited Redskins Park and met with Redskins officials. He was out of football in all of 2014 after being let go by the Texans. Phillips was Gary Kubiak’s coordinator in Houston, before Kubiak was fired in 2013. 

Phillips had a long track-record of success in previous stops along the way as a coordinator and even as a head coach which many do not remember and for some reason scoff at. 

He also had one pretty darn good connection on the Redskins coaching staff. His son. Wes Phillips was on his Dad’s staff in Dallas and joined Jay Gruden as his tight ends coach as the Redskins head man was building his staff. 


The elder Phillips attended  several Redskins' games in persons in 2014 to support his son and presumably the Redskins. He was more than familiar with the Redskins personnel and coached Jason Hatcher with the Cowboys. 

In talking to sources behind the scenes, the one common issue that kept coming up was that they wanted someone with fire and energy. Sources were careful not to say it was age-related when it came to Phillips but that was the strong sense that I consistently got. 

Phillips is 68. Barry is 45. 

The son of Bum has some cranky energy. Barry drinks ten cups of coffee before most people get out of bed. 

Phillips ultimately went to Denver when (go figure) Gary Kubiak was hired as their new head coach. Phillips was once a head coach with the Broncos, so essentially he went home. 

The real problem now for the Redskins from a perception standpoint is that Phillips is leading a defense that is a huge reason why the Broncos are (7-0) and completely shut down the high octane passing attack of the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night. 

Barry and the Redskins defense were mostly terrific the first two weeks of the season before things slowly started getting off the track against the Giants and Eagles. 

Then came the Atlanta Falcons who blew some big opportunities in the passing game but ran the ball all over the Redskins in an overtime loss for Washington. 

The Jets were up next and many thought (including myself) the Redskins would be better against a more between the tackles type runner in Chris Ivory. They weren’t because Ivory and the Jets ran more to off tackle and to the edges to attack the Redskins weak spots. 

Tampa was next and Doug Martin had a field day, with some contributions from Charles Sims. 

There’s no other way to say it – the Redskins run defense has been putrid the last three weeks. 

The Broncos defense has been lights out for Phillips. The decision looks bad right now for Jay Gruden and the Redskins. 

That perception doesn’t mean it is a reality. 

Wade Phillips inherited Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib and Chris Harris. The first two are and have been always been elite edge pass rushers. The latter are two of the best corners in the game. Period. 

The Redskins and Joe Barry have nobody that anyone would consider to be better than those four players Phillips inherited. 

When it comes to Harris and Talib, the Redskins tried to upgrade their corner position but it hasn’t worked out yet because of injury. Chris Culliver? No. DeAngelo Hall? No. Bashaud Breeland? Not yet. 

If Junior Galette were healthy and Ryan Kerrigan was not somewhat slow in recovering from off-season knee surgery and now a fractured hand, maybe an argument could have been made for the Redskins having two edge pass rushers that are possibly comparable to Ware and Miller. 

Of course, that isn’t the case and therefore you can’t even begin to make a fair comparison. 

This isn’t me saying this as fact. This is what scouts and league analysts know. This is what the numbers prove. The Broncos are the # 1 defense in the NFL in yards-per-game and per-play. They’re # 1 in passing yards-per-game and per play allowed and # 1 in sacks-per-pass-attempt. 

The heat will certainly crank up this Sunday if and when Barry’s defense gets shredded by Tom Brady and friends in Foxboro. Especially if Phillips and company continue their march towards Santa Clara. 

That’s fine, but realize this. You are not comparing apples to apples. This is comparing Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse to Old Country Buffet when it comes to talent and health. 

That’s the real difference between Phillips and Barry right now. 

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