It was not that long ago that many-including myself-were singing the praises of Dom Capers, who had seemingly found his way again after having less than stellar results the past several seasons.
It is amazing what a different tune is being sung these days.
The Packers defense, which was supposed to help carry the team while the Packers were without the services of Aaron Rodgers, has been reduced to a complete laughingstock during their current 0-4-1 streak.
The stats over the past five weeks speak for themselves.
2,199 yards allowed (440 YPG).
926 rushing yards allowed (185 YPG).
147 points allowed (29.4 YPG).
No team is going to win with a defense performing at such a poor level. Period.
The worst thing about the current state of the Packers’ defense is their performance against the Lions this past Thursday.
The Packers entered the game with all eleven starters healthy for the first time in several weeks. And in their first game at full strength, the Packers responded by forcing four turnovers and sacking Matthew Stafford once.
They also allowed 40 points, 241 rushing yards, and 561 total yards.
To say this was an underwhelming performance would be a disservice to the word underwhelming.
It was embarrassing, for the team, and for the man responsible for running the Packers’ defense.
Thursday’s game was an all too familiar sight for Packers fans since Dom Capers became their Defensive Coordinator in 2009.
Surely everyone remembers the defensive collapse against the Cardinals in the Wild Card playoff game in 2009, when the defense allowed 531 yards and 51 points in a loss.
Or how about the Packers’ loss to the Giants at Lambeau Field in the Divisional Round, when Capers and company gave up 420 yards and 37 points to the eventual Super Bowl champions.
And of course, there was the historically poor defensive showing versus the 49ers this past January, a day which saw the Packers defense give up 579 yards, 45 points, and sent the Packers packing after yet another early playoff exit.
With the season on the line Thursday, the defense laid another egg in what has become an all too familiar story line for the Packers.
While the overall performance of the defense depends on the players and their ability to execute on the field, the game plan of how to win defensively ultimately rests on the Defensive Coordinator. This is where Capers has failed repeatedly.
Simply put, Capers does not and cannot adjust in game to what is happening. He has a plan, and sticks with it to the often bitter end.
If he were able to make these in game adjustments, then perhaps the defense would be able to slow down opposing teams. Not even stop them, but at least be able to slow them down.
Case in point: the playoff game against the 49ers.
How could a supposed defensive genius fail to make any sort of change which would have prevented Colin Kaepernick from setting a QB record of 181 rushing yards in a playoff game?
A good answer may be that the game has passed Capers by, as suggested by Greg Bedard following the debacle in Detroit.
“There will be loads of talk in Wisconsin in the coming days—as there has been for weeks—about defensive coordinator Dom Capers and his scheme (and there is something to be said for the waning success of the zone blitz with the rise in quarterback play across the league).”
There may be more truth in this than anyone, especially Capers and Head Coach Mike McCarthy, want to admit.
One has to remember that the rise of the zone blitz scheme in the 1990’s coincided with relatively average quarterback play throughout the league. Yet as the performance of quarterbacks improved over time, Capers has stuck by his scheme year after year after year.
Perhaps this is the reason that Capers’ defenses typically last only a few years before plummeting toward the bottom of the league.
Despite the shortcomings that have followed Capers during his time in Green Bay, a case can be made that the Capers version of the 3-4 is strategically solid. It is often copied, and well respected throughout the league. This was also discussed following the Packers loss to the Lions:
“You talk to other defensive coaches in the league and they rave about Capers’ scheme. Teams copy it. It works. So, yeah, maybe the Packers just don’t have the right players in spots.”
This last comment may very well be the cause of all the Packers issues defensively.
It is very possible that Ted Thompson has done a poor job of stocking the defense for Capers to work his wonders with. Aside from Clay Matthews, there is a massive lack of “playmakers’ that a 3-4 needs to work effectively.
That is not to say that Capers is dealing with average players all over the field. Tramon Williams, BJ Raji, and AJ Hawk are all former Pro Bowlers. Datone Jones, Mike Neal, Casey Hayward, and Jerel Worthy are all first or second round draft picks. So the talent is there for Capers to work with.
Unfortunately for all parties involved, the results are not. And this is where Capers needs to be held accountable.
Time after time, the Packers defense has collapsed at the worst possible times. It is Capers’ responsibility to formulate the game plan which will result in victories for the Packers defense, something he has repeatedly failed to do.
Can the players play better? Absolutely. They are not without blame in this recent swoon.
But at some point, Capers needs to be forced to face the facts that he is failing at the job he was hired to do.
You want to blame someone for what is happening to the Packers right now? Blame Dom Capers. At a time when his defense should have risen to the occasion, they have failed to do so in historically bad fashion. He is responsible for this, and should be forced to accept the consequences, whatever they may be, when the time is appropriate.
John Rehor is a writer at PackersTalk.com.
He can also be heard as one of the Co-Hosts of Cheesehead Radio. ---------------------
He can also be heard as one of the Co-Hosts of Cheesehead Radio.You can follow John on twitter at jrehor or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.