Report: Packers hire Rams' Joe Barry as defensive coordinator after Wisconsin's Jim Leonhard rebuffs offer

Nick Bromberg
·2-min read

The Green Bay Packers have reportedly hired their next defensive coordinator, and it looks like they didn’t get their first choice.

Wisconsin defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard said Saturday he is staying with the Badgers after interviewing with the Packers this week. Leonhard told the Wisconsin State Journal that he had talked with coach Matt LaFleur over Zoom during the week and told the paper that he was “about out the door.”

From the State Journal:

“It was me choosing UW," Leonhard said. "I want to stay at UW. I want to be at this level right now. Extremely flattered. Awesome opportunity. But it was not the right time for me to go back to the NFL.”

After being turned down by Leonhard, the Packers hired Los Angeles Rams linebackers coach and assistant head coach Joe Barry, according to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky.

The Packers did not retain defensive coordinator Mike Pettine after the team lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home in the NFC championship. The Bucs asserted control of the game with seconds left in the second quarter after Tampa Bay receiver Scotty Miller beat Kevin King in single coverage for a 39-yard TD.

Another Rams defensive coach exits

One of the NFL’s most effective units this season is getting its top minds poached, a feeling Rams head coach Sean McVay is becoming familiar with.

Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley was hired as the next head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers last month. A week later, Rams cornerbacks coach Aubrey Pleasant was hired by the Detroit Lions as defensive backs coach and passing game coordinator.

Now, Barry, the only Rams’ defensive assistant with the assistant head coach label, is heading out as well. That’s what happens when a defense leads in the NFL in both total defense and points allowed, like the Rams did in the 2020 season.

Leonhard is a Wisconsin native

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 07: Defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard of the Wisconsin Badgers looks on against the Ohio State Buckeyes during the Big Ten Football Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 7, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Ohio State defeated Wisconsin 34-21. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Wisconsin defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard said he turned down the chance to go to the Packers. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Leonhard grew up in Wisconsin and was a three-time All-American with the Badgers from 2002-2004. He played for seven teams across 10 seasons in the NFL and had 14 interceptions and over 400 tackles.

He came back to Wisconsin in 2016 as the team’s defensive backs coach and was promoted to defensive coordinator a season later. And Wisconsin’s defense has been very good under his watch.

The Badgers have given up fewer than 20 points per game in three of Leonhard’s four seasons with the team and has given up five or fewer yards per play in three of four seasons. Wisconsin gave up just 17.4 points per game in 2020 and ranked ninth in the country in scoring defense.

Green Bay was 13th in the NFL in points allowed per game in 2020 and opposing offenses averaged 5.5 yards per play.

More from Yahoo Sports: