After yet another early playoff exit for the Packers, the blame game is in full effect for the green and gold faithful.
Three seasons following the magical ride which culminated in winning Super Bowl XLV, the Packers playoff record has been less than stellar-and that is putting it mildly.
A 1-3 playoff record since 2010, with the only victory a 24-10 victory over a Joe Webb led Vikings squad, has led to much hand wringing and second guessing by fans everywhere.
The most common target of their ire has been much maligned Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers.
And for good reason.
Since being hired in 2009, Capers’ defense has gone from really good to pretty good to somewhere between bad and downright pitiful.
The points per game allowed by the Packers has skyrocketed in his five seasons on the job.
The yards per game allowed ranks among the worst in the league.
Something has happened to the Packers, and someone has to be blamed, right?
It makes sense on the surface to blame Capers.
After all, three of the playoff losses since he was hired have been embarrassing.
51 points allowed against the Cardinals in 2009.
37-20 loss at Lambeau Field against the Giants in 2011, after going 15-1 in the regular season.
45-31 loss to the 49ers, during which Colin Kaepernick literally ran all over, around, and through the Packers.
It makes perfect sense to blame Capers-but is it correct?
Before sparking the torches and sharpening the pitchforks against Dom, let’s look at two positions on the field and what Capers had to work with.
Morgan Burnett was expected to make a huge jump in play in his fourth season. After signing a 4 year/$24.75 million extension in the offseason, Burnett responded with a pedestrian season-and that is being kind. Zero interceptions, zero sacks, zero forced fumbles, and five passes defended. That is what nearly $25 million brought Capers.
Pair the ho hum season Burnett turned in with the quartet of MD Jennings, Chris Banjo, Sean Richardson, and Jerron McMillian, and the woes in the secondary become very apparent.
Morgan Burnett is not the next coming of Nick Collins. And the jury is out on whether any of the others are even starting caliber players in the NFL. But this is what Capers was forced to work with for an entire season.
Also worth looking at is the group of inside linebackers, in particular the starters.
AJ Hawk is not a playmaker. He has never been a playmaker. Not in the 4-3 scheme that was operated in Green Bay before Capers arrived, not in the 3-4 Capers implements. Hawk is a solid player, that is it.
Next to Hawk resides Brad Jones, who after one half a season of being forced into action at ILB was rewarded with a 3 year/$11.25 million contract. His first full season as a starter on the inside resulted in 84 tackles, 3 sacks, zero interceptions, zero passes defended, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery.
Similar to Hawk, Brad Jones is a nice player, but he is not a playmaker. He was not a playmaker when he played OLB, and he is not a playmaker as an ILB. But much like the Safety position, this is what Capers was forced to work with.
Coaches have the responsibility to teach players how to play in the specific scheme they are going to use. The players have been adamant about defending Capers and his teaching of the scheme. The hope is that players will improve as they become proficient in the scheme.
The sad reality is that many of the players on the Packers defense are just players-nothing flashy, not too special, just players.
In an attacking defense that Head Coach Mike McCarthy likes and Capers would like to utilize, he is being forced to adapt his scheme to the players that he is given.
That falls squarely on the shoulders of Ted Thompson. He is the one responsible for staffing the roster.
Filling a roster with a group of players who are not playmakers and expecting Capers to work miracles with them is unfair and unrealistic.
That is not to say that Capers should escape blame for the shortcomings of the defense. For someone with the resume Capers carries, he should be expected to make players perform at a higher level. But it is also possible that he has done this, that the players he has have maxed their potential, and he is doing the best he can with what he has.
Should Capers be fired for the team’s struggles on defense? Perhaps. After all, it is his job. He is employed to scheme a defense that will put the Packers in position to compete for a Super Bowl every season.
Does Ted Thompson deserve criticism for failing to provide Capers with enough playmakers on defense? Definitely.
A year ago I said I was done with Dom Capers and the mediocre play of the defense he runs. The truth is that I am growing increasingly frustrated with Ted Thompson stocking the defense with mediocre players for Capers to work with.
Hopefully this gets fixed this offseason. Hopefully.
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.