Since the Green Bay Packers’ embarrassing exit from the playoffs at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers, there’s been a lot of talk about whether defensive coordinator Dom Capers should lose his job. The Packers’ defense was eviscerated by the Niners, as well as many other opponents, like Adrian Peterson and Eli Manning.
Packers head coach Mike McCarthy responded testily when he he was questioned about Capers’ job security, saying that he was “appalled” that he was having to answer questions about Capers before he had even done his season-ending evaluations. McCarthy was clear that there would be no “knee-jerk reactions” regarding personnel.
Considering McCarthy’s response and Green Bay’s historical approach, I would be quite surprised if they did indeed part ways with Capers. The Packers are an organization that tends to be very patient with both players and coaches they believe in. Green Bay has a lot of faith in Capers, who put together a piecemeal defense from an injury-ravaged team that went on to be fifth in yards allowed and second in points allowed during the 2010 Super Bowl season.
There are mitigating factors with this year’s defense, mostly injuries, which again struck hard this season, and the talent level of the available players.
The primary charge against Capers is that he is not able to make in-game adjustments when his unit is struggling, but the truth is he did make changes in the 49ers’ game – they just didn’t work. He did employ a spy on Colin Kaepernick at different points in the game, but Kaepernick’s ability to throw the ball allowed San Francisco to beat the Packers through the air rather than on the ground.
The Packers should hang on to Capers, who has shown himself to be very creative in his schemes, but that doesn’t give the defense – or Capers – a pass on what went down in 2011 and 2012. It’s easy to lay the problems at the feet of the defensive coordinator, just as the head coach is often held responsible for his team’s overall play, or the quarterback is held responsible for poor offensive play. Because these players and coaches are the most visible, they often get the glory, as well as the blame.
Frankly, I’d look more to the position coaches – Kevin Greene for outside linebackers, Winston Moss for inside linebackers, and Mike Trgovac for defensive line. I believe that the Packers’ failures have been a result of the players’ execution more so than scheme and that’s more of a reflection on the position coaches than the coordinator (though there have no doubt been problems with the scheme).
Though players like linebacker Desmond Bishop have backed up Capers, veteran safety Charles Woodson has been critical of Capers more than once. Woodson was not a fan of the way Capers employed outside linebacker Clay Matthews – Green Bay’s best, and seemingly only, pass rusher – last year, and called for Capers to make use of Matthews’ versatility in lining him up in various positions. After the loss to the 49ers, Woodson had this to say:
I think it’s the right defense [schematically], I just think when the game is going the way it is, you’ve got to try something different. It’s hard to just continue to do the same thing over and over again and continue to get burned. That’s what I was talking about going forward. We need to figure out, could we have done something differently as far as our game plan was concerned?
I put a lot of stock in what a 15-year veteran and former Defensive Player of the Year has to say, but I also trust that the Packers organization is not blind to the weaknesses within the team – and where they come from.
Coach Greene pointed out several instances where the criticism of Capers or a particular player was inaccurate as those outside the locker room are not aware of which players have which assignments on a particular play. Those people who laid all the blame on Capers “really don’t understand football.” Greene said he understood the criticism, but admitted,“It does kind of ruffle me a little bit because we know as coaches.”
Asked for his own opinion on if Capers should be retained as defensive coordinator, Greene replied, “Does a fat baby fart? Big time. Absolutely. No doubt about it.”
Can’t beat that endorsement.