The Dallas Cowboys announced Joe Baker as assistant secondary coach on February 13, 2012, then he became the safeties coach in 2014. He was promoted as the secondary coach following the departure of Jerome Henderson and will oversee the entire unit in 2016.
Baker arrived in Dallas after spending three seasons (2009-11) as an assistant with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He has 20 years of NFL coaching experience and three years at the collegiate level.
In charge of the squad’s safeties once again in 2015, Baker began the season with Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox as the two starters. Church finished second on the defense with 136 stops - his third consecutive season with 100+ tackles - and Wilcox added 69 tackles. One of Baker’s primary tasks for the season was bringing 2015 first round draft choice Byron Jones up to speed at the position. The rookie from UConn saw action at various positions in the secondary at the beginning of the season before settling into a starting spot at free safety ahead of Wilcox by Week 7. Jones finished his first pro season fifth on the team with 76 tackles while his team-high 12 pass breakups allowed him to become the first rookie to lead the team in that category since Derek Ross in 2002. In total, he became the only rookie to record 75-plus tackles and lead the team in breakups in franchise history. Jeff Heath, one of the club’s top backups at safety and core special teams player, picked off a career-best two interceptions to lead the team.
Baker’s third season assisting with the Dallas secondary saw him take on a new role in charge of the safeties. The unit was led once more by Church, who for the second consecutive season had a team-high 110 tackles to become the first Dallas defender to lead the defense in tackles in back-to-back years since Bradie James (2005-10). The 2014 season also saw the rise of second-year safety Wilcox, who finished fourth on the team with 89 tackles and three interceptions - second on the team.
Baker again worked closely with secondary coach Jerome Henderson in 2013 as the defense made the switch back to the 4-3 scheme. The starting defensive backfield saw the return of Church, who missed the majority of 2012 with an Achilles tear, as the former rookie free agent safety started all 16 games for the first time in his career and led the defense with a career-best 147 tackles. The season started with third round draft pick Wilcox starting at strong safety (five games) before rookie free agent Heath took over (nine). In his second year in Dallas, Brandon Carr was fourth on the team with 74 tackles and second with three interceptions. Morris Claiborne struggled in his second pro season, tallying 31 tackles (14th) as Orlando Scandrick stepped in to start 15 games and finish with 70 tackles - a career-high.
In his first season with the Cowboys, Baker helped integrate two new starting corners in first round draft choice Claiborne and veteran free agent Carr. Carr led the team in interceptions with three - returning one for a touchdown - while Claiborne picked off one pass and had a fumble returned for a touchdown.
In 2009 Baker was the defensive backs coach in Tampa Bay, and from 2010-11, he coached Buccaneers linebackers. Baker’s 2009 defensive backfield helped Tampa Bay finish 10th in the league in pass defense as his unit accounted for 15 of the team’s 19 interceptions. Safety Tanard Jackson and cornerback Aqib Talib tied for the team lead with five interceptions.
Prior to landing with the Buccaneers, Baker spent two seasons (2007-08) with the Denver Broncos, first as the club’s linebackers coach and then as an offensive assistant. In his first season with Denver, Baker worked with a linebacking corps that was highlighted by D.J. Williams, who was making the transition to middle linebacker. Under Baker’s tutelage, Williams finished the season second in the NFL with an AFC-best 141 tackles. Baker crossed over to the offensive side in 2008 as an offensive assistant and helped the unit finish second in the league in total offense (395.8 yards-per-game).
Baker was with the St. Louis Rams in 2006 (defensive quality control/linebackers) where he helped guide St. Louis to 32 takeaways - seventh in the league - with a league-best nine red zone takeaways. Baker spent 2005 with the Green Bay Packers (secondary/safeties) and worked with a defensive backfield that led the league in pass defense, allowing 165.7 yards-per-game - the club’s lowest total in 27 seasons.
Baker spent five seasons (2000-04) coaching various defensive positions with the New Orleans Saints. In his time with the club, New Orleans was fifth in the league in takeaways (163) over five seasons. He started with the Saints as an assistant defensive backfield/assistant special teams coach (2000-01), then was the team’s secondary assistant (2002) and finally the secondary coach (2003-04).
Baker made his NFL coaching debut in 1995 as the assistant special teams coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars, a position he held through the 1998 season. He first landed with the Jaguars in 1994 as the club’s manager of football operations leading into its inaugural season.
In 1999 Baker returned to coach college ball at the University of Wisconsin as the school’s outside linebackers/special teams coach. He coached running backs and wide receivers at Samford in 1993 after spending one season as the player personnel coordinator for the Birmingham Fire of the World League of American Football. Baker got his start coaching as a graduate assistant/defensive backs at East Stroudsburg University in 1991.
Baker played wide receiver four years (1987-1990) at Princeton University where he caught passes from Cowboys Head Coach Jason Garrett for two years (1987-88). He was part of Princeton’s 1989 Ivy League co-championship squad then earned his degree in history in 1991.
Baker lives in Southlake with his wife, Jill, and two children - Mia and Joey.