Darren Perry begins his eighth season with the Packers in 2016 as secondary – safeties coach, his 15th season coaching in the NFL.
Named to his position by Head Coach Mike McCarthy on Feb. 3, 2009, Perry has coached defensive backs in the NFL for the past 14 years and has tutored a Pro Bowl player in six of the last 12 seasons.
Perry oversaw the further development of second-year S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in 2015 as he led the team with a career-high 117 tackles (97 solo), while adding three sacks and two interceptions in 16 starts. His three sacks last season tied for No. 3 in the NFL among safeties. Despite missing five games due to injury, Morgan Burnett still ranked tied for fourth on the team with 74 tackles (55 solo) as he helped Perry’s safeties contribute to the defense’s No. 7 ranking in the NFL in opponent passer rating (80.1) last season.
The 2014 season saw Burnett (125) and Clinton-Dix (95) finish first and second on the team in tackles. Burnett, who had ranked second on the Packers during the 2012 and 2013 seasons, registered over 100 tackles for four straight seasons (2011-14). Clinton-Dix was named to PFWA’s All-Rookie team after starting 10 of 16 games played, the most starts by a Green Bay rookie safety since Nick Collins opened all 16 contests in 2005.
In 2013, Perry guided Burnett as he recorded 106 tackles and led the defense with a career-high three fumble recoveries. Perry also helped acclimate M.D. Jennings to his role as the full-time starter opposite Burnett, seeing the third-year man post a career-best 79 tackles (60 solo).
The 2012 season was one of marked improvement for the Packers’ pass defense, as the unit climbed all the way to a No. 11 ranking in the league by season’s end and posted an 81-yard improvement per game from 2011. The defense finished the season allowing an average of 218.3 passing yards per game, while also ranking fourth in the league in opponent passer rating at 76.8.
Perry’s safeties were an integral part of that progression, led by Burnett, who started all 16 games for the second consecutive year, and according to NFL participation statistics, was one of only four non-offensive linemen in the league to not miss a single snap the entire season. Burnett’s availability allowed him to record a career-high 137 tackles (97 solo), while also leading the secondary with a career-best two sacks.
In addition to developing Burnett, Perry also oversaw the transition of veteran Charles Woodson, who made the switch to safety after playing 14 seasons as a standout cornerback. Woodson appeared to be settling into his new role on the back end when he suffered a broken collarbone at St. Louis in Week 7, an injury that would sideline him for the remainder of the regular season.
In 2011, Perry was faced with a different series of challenges, starting with the task of helping Burnett return to live action after he had suffered a season-ending knee injury in the fourth game of his rookie campaign in 2010. While Burnett picked up close to where he had left off upon returning to the field in training camp, the group lost Pro Bowl free safety Nick Collins to a career-ending neck injury at Carolina in Week 2.
With Collins sidelined, Burnett shifted to free safety and veteran Charlie Peprah was thrust into the starting lineup at strong safety for the second season in a row. The tandem went on to start the final 14 games in the defensive backfield and combined for 203 tackles (163 solo), eight INTs, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. As a unit, the Packers intercepted an NFL-best 31 passes, the most by the franchise since 1962, and helped contribute to the team’s takeaway total of 38, which was tied for No. 1 in the league.
Burnett led the secondary with 107 tackles (83 solo), tallied 14 passes defensed and joined Woodson as the only players on the team to record a sack, an INT, a fumble recovery and a forced fumble during the season. Peprah set new career highs in every major statistical category, including tackles (96), interceptions (five), INT return yardage (147), and passes defensed (14). His five INTs were tied for third among NFL safeties and his return yardage ranked fourth in the league among all players.
In 2010, a healthy Collins earned the aforementioned Pro Bowl recognition for the third straight season, becoming the first Green Bay safety since LeRoy Butler (1996-98) to accomplish that feat. After Burnett went down with the season-ending knee injury, Peprah moved into the starting lineup and registered 64 tackles, two interceptions and seven passes defensed.
Collins and Peprah were members of a secondary that helped the Packers rank No. 1 in the league in opponent passer rating (67.2) in 2010, the best mark by a Green Bay defense since 1997 (59.0). The Packers also ranked No. 5 in the league in pass defense, allowing their opponents just 194.2 yards per game.
In 2009, Collins was named to the Pro Bowl and earned second-team All-Pro honors from The Associated Press after finishing third among NFL safeties with six interceptions. SS Atari Bigby picked off four passes in ’09 despite missing three games due to injury, giving the Packers their first safety tandem with four-plus interceptions each since 2002 (Darren Sharper, Marques Anderson).
Collins and Bigby helped the Packers lead the NFL in both takeaways (40) and interceptions (30), the first time since 1965 that Green Bay led the league in interceptions. Perry was a member of a staff that guided the Packers defense to a No. 2 overall ranking in the league, the highest ranking since the ’96 team finished as the No. 1 defense.
Perry came to Green Bay from Oakland, where he coached the Raiders’ defensive backs for two seasons (2007-08). Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha earned his second Pro Bowl selection and All-Pro honors from AP under Perry’s tutelage in ’08, and the Raiders ranked in the top 10 both of those years in passing yards allowed. In 2008, Oakland allowed opponents to complete only 56.5 percent of their passes, which was tied for fourth best in the league.
Perry spent the previous four seasons coaching defensive backs in Pittsburgh under Bill Cowher, the team and coach for whom he played the majority of his career. Perry was the Steelers’ assistant defensive backs coach in 2003 and was promoted to defensive backs coach in 2004, when the Steelers finished fourth in the league in both passing yards allowed (177.2 per game) and opponents’ completion percentage (55.6). In 2005, Pittsburgh won Super Bowl XL.
Perry was credited for helping the rapid development of Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu, who earned the first of five straight Pro Bowl selections in 2004, just his second season. The versatile Polamalu also was an AP All-Pro pick twice (2004, 2005) with Perry as his position coach.
Perry broke into the NFL coaching ranks in 2002, coaching safeties for the Cincinnati Bengals under head coach Dick LeBeau, one of the most respected defensive minds in the game, who also coached defensive backs for the Packers for four seasons (1976-79).
Drafted by the Steelers in the eighth round (203rd overall) of the 1992 NFL Draft – the team’s first draft under Cowher – Perry became an immediate starter at free safety for current Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers. Perry played seven seasons in Pittsburgh (1992-98) and started the first 110 games of his career, including postseason. He missed only two of a possible 123 games with the Steelers, both in 1998 due to a groin injury.
Perry was the Steelers’ starting free safety in Super Bowl XXX and posted 32 career interceptions, tied for seventh in team history. His seven interceptions in 1994 marked his career high.
Perry went on to sign with the San Diego Chargers in 1999 but did not play due to a neck injury, and he concluded his playing career as the starting free safety for the New Orleans Saints in 2000, McCarthy’s first season as the offensive coordinator there. Playing in all 16 games plus two postseason contests, Perry had three interceptions that season, giving him 35 for his career.
A standout in college at Penn State, Perry intercepted 15 passes in his career, tying him for second in school history. He returned three interceptions for TDs and compiled 299 return yards, both school records. As a junior in 1990, Perry intercepted seven passes and returned one for a TD. His senior year, he had six interceptions and two scores.
Perry was an all-district and second-team all-state selection at quarterback for Deep Creek (Va.) High, where he threw for 2,790 yards and 23 touchdowns in his career, and rushed for 1,167 yards and 14 scores. He was a team captain for the football, basketball and tennis teams.
Born Dec. 29, 1968, in Norfolk, Va., Perry lives in Green Bay with his wife, Errika, and their four children: Danielle, Dominique, Dedriana and Devan. He also enjoys playing golf and bass guitar, and he is on the board of directors of the Chesapeake Care Free Clinic in Virginia, which provides health care to individuals without insurance or the necessary resources. Through the clinic, Perry sponsors the Intercept for Care program, which raises donations based on the number of interceptions recorded by Perry’s team in a given season.