A Change of Thought Regarding Dom Capers

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.

You can follow John on twitter at jrehor or email him at [email protected]


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23 thoughts on “A Change of Thought Regarding Dom Capers

  1. Pretty good article. However Ted can’t be blamed for two impact playmakers out for essentially the season and being so thin at some positions by season’s end that rookies had to play out of position at times in a playoff game.

    I don’t begin to know why the prevalence of injuries is so high for Green Bay. I wish I did. It’s been a huge negative for Team 93.

    1. The injury plague needs to be investigated in depth this off season. Part of the issue may be bad luck, but the number of injuries every single season is absurd. I refuse to believe that any one team is this unlucky.

      Is it a strength and conditioning issue? The field the Packers practice on to blame? Did someone put a curse on the Packers? Who knows? But it’s crazy, and doesn’t seem to ever get any better.

  2. I agree that Capers doesn’t have the guys at Safety and LB generally, and especially ILB, he needs to succeed. Those positional groups have been issues to varying degrees for the entirety of his tenure in GB. So the Packers can either A) Keep trying to fix the same issues and expect different results this time B) fire TT to keep Capers or C) find a DC can make better use of quality CBs and good DL depth.

    “A” seems like the classic definition of insanity as the old cliche goes. “B” would ignore that TT’s successes far outweigh his failures, IMO. That leaves “C”.

  3. I’m finding the “Problems with Ted” articles today to be hilarious only because I’m not the only fan that has been posting this since October and getting skewered by the Twitterverse.

    Capers is a problem because he can’t make the scheme work with the players he’s given, but Ted is a bigger problem because he simply refuses to spend real money on players he didn’t draft and develop. This is nothing but arrogance. He appears to believe that he is the only GM in the league who can evaluate talent. Market forces inevitably mean that talent gets paid. Let’s not go all Redskins in this, but it is quite possible that if you want a Reggie White or Charles Woodson, they might come from another team and they might need to be paid.

    1. Just a hunch, but getting AR and CMIII nailed down and then keeping some cap space around to deal with 20 free agents in 2014 might have been a bigger front office priority than shooting craps in the FA market.

  4. Let’s don’t leave out our first round pick Dante Jones. Another Thompson bust as a pick. He was supposed to be an all-pro type impact player. One Sack! I guess the qb fell down.

    1. Can’t put the bust label on Jones after one season, but his impact was minimal. Granted he was injured in preseason, but there were games he was nowhere to be found. Part of that was his limited playing time, but when he was on field, he was invisible far too often.

      Jones needs to get a lot bigger (finished the season at 285 lbs) and a lot stronger to make the impact he was expected to make his rookie season.

  5. First round picks are expected to be starters and make an impact the first year!!! Dan te Jones is a bust and not worthy of a first round pick! WHY WAS HE A FIRST ROUND PICK?! What is wrong with Thompson that he continually blows first round defensive picks?! REMEMBER JUSTIN HARRELL ONE OF THE WORST FIRST ROUND PICKS IN NFL HISTORY? Thompson doesn’t know what he is doing when it comes to first round defensive picks. If DaNTE jONES DOESN’T FIT THE SCHEME THOMPSON SHOULD HAVE FIGURED THAT OUT BEFORE HE DRAFTED HIM!

    1. I completely agree with your last sentence. But I will resist putting the bust tag on Jones for now, with the right to change my answer at a later date if necessary.

  6. I think injuries have been the biggest factor with the defense. Never being able to replace Nick Collins, not have an impact player to replace Woodson, an oft-injured Mathews, and Perry not living up to his draft status/potential have combined to leave the defense defenseless!

    Here’s a question I think is worth asking. Was Thompson too quick to give Mathews his contract? He has yet to make it through a season uninjured and will only get older as the contract goes. Time to trade him and load up on picks? Just asking.

    1. Was TT too quick on signing Matthews to an extension? In my opinion, no. He was going to command a king’s ransom of a contract at some point, and Thompson did the smart thing to sign him long term (although they may have saved some $ by waiting due to his broken thumb which resulted in decreased production from him).

      As far as trading him, that won’t happpen. First his remaining contract is far too much for any team to take on. And the compensation Thompson would want back would be absurd. CM3 is worth at minimum a first and third round pick, at minimum. That’s a lot of talent to just give up on. And they would have to find a 3-4 team to trade with, since he is a 3-4 OLB who would be willing to pick up his salary AND part with those draft picks. Both are extremely unlikely.

  7. I agree. You don’t want to trade the ONLY DEFENSIVE PLAYER MAKING AN IMPACT! the defense is already putrid.

    1. Agree he is a playmaker. One of the best. But they have tied up an enormous amount of salary cap in a player that just missed half the season. So did Rodgers but that was his first one. Matthews has been injured every year of his career so far. Just thinking that they could get top dollar for him now.

  8. Do not expect anything to change with the Packer organization until Rodgers nears the end of his career. Ted will provide us with mediocre
    talent year after year, sign his own guys, stay away from free agents,and still get a pass as long as the Packers are somewhat competitive. When Rodgers is no longer able to carry the team, Thompson
    will probably retire.

    1. Interesting comment, one that bears watching as time goes on. I hope you are wrong, but you may very well be 100% correct.

  9. this article is not written if micah hyde catches that ball, game of inches, luck and bad or non calls by the ref’s. Referee’s are a problem, Seattle defense seems to get the non calls and GBP gets called on everything

    1. Actually you’re wrong-it would have been written regardless. It has nothing to do with whether Hyde catches the ball or not. It is a change in my perception of what the problem is on defense.

      As far as Seattle getting all the calls…that’s your opinion which you are more than welcome to have.

  10. Good perceptive article… and I tend to agree John Rehor… I liked Bob McGinn’s article on Green Bay complacency… did you/hope you did read it…

    Not sure there IS a quick fix… and we’ll be an average team for a long time… unfortunately…

    1. Did I read McGinn’s article? Oh yeah, I read it. I don’t think there is anyone who hasn’t read it at this point. Think he brought up a lot of good points in it, but disagreed with some of what he said. That’s an article still be written.

      Average team? If by that you mean good enough to get into the playoffs but never advance too far, I might agree to some degree. But average teams are 8-8, and this team is better than 8-8, provided Rodgers stays healthy.

  11. Every team in the NFL had weakness but year after year TT thinks he has the next great player like AR falling to him in the draft and it just doesn’t work that way.Every team in the playoffs this weekend has a mix of drafts and FA.Maybe TT show look at these teams and say hey I need some FA help.If he is to stupid to realize that then maybe it’s time for a change.I do feel that most GM’s get too comfortable in their positions and that goes for coaches as well.I see were 2 coaches the packers now have are looking to move on does that give us an indication that TT is a jerk to work for.For what it’s worth he was fired in Seattle.

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