Chris Baker picked up the phone to call Joe Barry. The Washington Redskins defensive end wasn’t required to do so on a Monday, but he felt the need to express himself again, this time directly to his defensive coordinator.
In the aftermath of a gut-wrenching loss to the Detroit Lions, Baker and Ricky Jean Francois had been critical of Barry’s play-calling on the game’s final drive, asking openly why the team didn’t send more pressure.
Twenty-four hours later, Baker called Barry to apologize.
“I just wanted to make sure we were on the same page, and I didn’t want him to feel like I didn’t trust him as a coach,” Baker said.
The grumbling following the 20-17 loss in Detroit was the third time this season that Redskins defensive players have appeared to be at odds with their coordinator. In Week 3 against the New York Giants, television cameras caught Baker and Barry in a shouting match on the sidelines. The previous week, Jean Francois questioned why the team didn’t make adjustments in a loss to the Dallas Cowboys. So is there a rift between Barry and his players?
“I have no idea where that comes from,” Barry said. “. . . When we were winning on a four-game win streak, there was nothing to say about this. We lose a game, and all of a sudden, there’s a rift. I would challenge anyone with that and say they’re crazy.”
The entire team was searching for answers in Ford Field’s visiting locker room Sunday. Following an impressive drive led by quarterback Kirk Cousins that gave Washington its first lead with 1:05 left, the Redskins couldn’t close out the game. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford drove 75 yards in 49 seconds, culminating with an 18-yard touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin with 16 seconds left.
The Redskins had played well defensively up until the final drive. Barry opted to rush just three linemen and drop eight players in coverage on Boldin’s touchdown reception, a pass that was inches away from being deflected by linebacker Will Compton.
“You lose a football game, especially in the fashion where we lost that game and how we lost that game, it’s emotional,” said Barry, who is in his second season as the Redskins’ defensive coordinator. “It’s devastating. Even though I didn’t appreciate or like what was said, like I told Bake, I understand that.
“We’re competitors. We want to win. Fifteen or 20 minutes after the final tick goes off the clock and you get a microphone in your face, you’re going to say things. I appreciated the fact that at least 24 hours later, he picked up the phone and called me Monday night and said, ‘Coach, I apologize.’ ”
Jean Francois said Barry explained to the team Monday why he made certain calls on the drive and what he saw from the Lions’ offense, although Redskins Coach Jay Gruden said he, too, would have liked to have seen more pressure on Stafford on his touchdown pass. Jean Francois said that Barry, by sharing his perspective with players, has kept the entire defense in unison.
Asked whether there’s a fissure in their relationship, Jean Francois said, “No. We’re around each other a lot, so we’re going to have disagreements. We came in there Monday, and he made us understand why he made certain calls. That’s why not only just in games but in practice, everything he calls, I want to be on the same page as him. I want to understand why he’s calling this. That’s how I feel more comfortable.
“At times, we’re going to have our disagreements. He’s going to see it his way, and I’m going to see it my way. And that’s cool. But at the same time, we as players have to get on the same page as Joe Barry because if we don’t, it’s going to be a disaster.”
Barry, Baker and Jean Francois had all moved on Thursday, following the team’s final practice in Ashburn before departing for London to face the Cincinnati Bengals. Baker’s and Barry’s wives remain good friends. Jean Francois still appreciates Barry’s affinity for Air Jordans, and he still laughs at Barry’s tattoo on his left calf as he did on a daily basis during training camp.
Barry, a Southern Cal alum, said it’s a Trojan. Jean Francois disagrees, claiming it looks like a Spartan.
“I told Ricky and all the other players, it looked better 25 years ago when I got it than it does now,” Barry said. “I was young and dumb as an 18-year-old freshman at USC.”
On that, at least, the entire family agrees.