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Rodgers led league with 48 TDs in picking up 3rd MVP

Packers going with Joe Barry as defensive coordinator

In this Jan. 16, 2021, file photo, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) runs with the ball during the team's NFL divisional playoff football game against the Los Angeles Rams in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps, File)

By The Associated Press

A pair of Aarons pulled off an NFL hat trick Saturday night.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers earned his third Associated Press Most Valuable Player award, while Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald took his third top defensive player prize at NFL Honors.

Also taking home awards were two members of the Washington Football Team: quarterback Alex Smith was the Comeback Player of the Year in one of the most inspirational stories of 2020, and edge rusher Chase Young got the top defensive rookie.

Titans 2,000-yard rusher Derrick Henry won Offensive Player of the Year, and the offensive rookie honor went to Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert. Cleveland’s Kevin Stefanski was the Coach of the Year, and Buffalo offensive coordinator Brian Daboll earned assistant coach honors.

Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson won the Walter Payton Man of the Year award for his work in the community.

Rodgers had perhaps the best season of his 16-year career, leading Green Bay to a 13-3 regular season, the NFC’s best mark. Just a few months after questions arose about his comfort level with the Packers — and their choosing a quarterback in the first round of April’s draft — Rodgers, who turned 37 in December, tore up the NFL.

Rodgers topped the league with 48 touchdown passes completion rate (70.7 percent), and a 121.5 rating. He was picked off just five times.

“It is really special to have won it in my fourth year as a starter and now to win it in my 13th year as a starter in a new offense is pretty amazing and something I am very proud of,” Rodgers said. “To have sustained success and be able to play your best football at 37 in my 16th season is something I take a lot of pride in.”

The Packers are giving Joe Barry a third chance as an NFL defensive coordinator.

Packers coach Matt LaFleur announced Monday he was making Barry defensive coordinator and Maurice Drayton special teams coordinator. LaFleur already had indicated during a Zoom session with reporters last week he was promoting Drayton to special teams coordinator.

Barry has nearly two decades of experience as an NFL assistant coach. He previously worked as a defensive coordinator with the Detroit Lions (2007-2008) and Washington (2015-16).

He spent the past four seasons on the Los Angeles Rams’ staff, where he was an assistant head coach/linebackers coach. New Los Angeles Chargers defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill had said on Jan. 27 that Barry would be joining the Chargers’ staff under new head coach Brandon Staley, the former Rams defensive coordinator.

Barry now is heading to Green Bay instead.

The Packers were seeking a new defensive coordinator after announcing at the end of the season that Mike Pettine wouldn’t be back in 2021. Pettine had been the Packers’ defensive coordinator each of the past three seasons, preceding LaFleur’s arrival in Green Bay by a year.

“I think if you look at the great defenses around the league, there’s a certain mentality that comes with that,” LaFleur said last week while discussing how he wanted his defense to improve.

“And it’s not necessarily what you’re calling, but how you’re playing every call. I do think that there’s some areas where we can continue to educate our players and be great in those situations so that if it’s a third down and short, that you’re not playing way off. You don’t want to give up any freebies. You want to make people earn every inch out there on grass.”

During Barry’s four years on their staff, the Rams had 192 sacks to rank second among all NFL teams. Their 104 takeaways during that stretch tied for second in the league.

The Lions ranked 32nd in the league in total defense and scoring defense in both 2007 and 2008. Washington was 28th in total defense in 2015 and 2016. Washington ranked 17th in scoring defense in 2015 and 19th in 2016.

Green Bay ranked ninth in total defense and tied for 13th in run defense in 2020 after finishing 18th in total defense and 23rd in run defense a year earlier. But the Packers’ defense struggled when they lost in the NFC championship game each of the past two seasons.

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