There has been no bigger fan of Dom Capers during his tenure in Green Bay than Mike McCarthy.
McCarthy has always stood by his defensive coordinator through good and bad times, and it has mostly been bad since the Super Bowl championship in 2010. He has often disregarded questions about Capers’ job security like firing him was not even a discussion.
McCarthy has stuck by Capers again this offseason, but he has become more outspoken about wanting changes in the defense. Despite proclaiming that Capers is still the right man for the job, he admitted that their end of the year conversation was different than most seasons.
“Our conversation was harder than other years, a lot of hard topics that we had to talk about,”said McCarthy via Rob Demovsky of ESPN. “But as far as approach and belief and how we go about it, I never questioned the direction we were moving forward. So we spent the time, diligently, going over all the things we need to improve on, and I think we’ve made excellent steps so far with building our 2014 defense.”
The fact that that they had this tough conversation and that McCarthy has talked so much about change might mean that Capers is really under fire this season. McCarthy has always let Capers do his own job in the past, but now he is talking about being more multiple, using different personal groupings and decreasing the volume of the playbook.
That is telling and it probably means he is really unsatisfied with the defense. Why wouldn’t he be? Capers’ defense has finished 32nd, 11th and 25th in yards allowed per game the last three seasons and 19th, 11th and 24th in points allowed per game.
Despite the struggles, McCarthy has always let Capers stay the course. The scheme never changed much and the Packers kept starting guys like Brad Jones and M.D. Jennings last season despite their major struggles. Now, he is being more proactive and showing a greater sense of urgency for change.
The defensive struggles haven’t all been Capers’ fault. Injuries and not having enough playmakers at linebacker and safety have been an issue, but even when healthy the defense has never been great other than in 2010.
With the defense being as poor as it has been, it has to be a scheme or a talent problem. Is Capers not using the players right or is Ted Thompson not drafting good enough players? That is a debate that has gone on for a long time and will continue to.
McCarthy’s actions this offseason indicate that Capers will not be able to survive another defensive disaster. With the addition of Julius Peppers, the Packers now have six former first-round picks, a second round pick and a breakout fourth-round pick among their front seven. Peppers, Clay Matthews, B.J. Raji, Nick Perry, Datone Jones, Mike Neal and Mike Daniels is plenty of pass rushing talent.
The Packers also have very good cover corners in Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Casey Heyward, Davon House and Micah Hyde. They need help at safety and inside linebacker, but Thompson still has the draft to take care of that.
The offense appears to be championship ready with one of the best quarterbacks in the game and a potential star in the making at running back. How good this upcoming season is will depend on how much the defense improves, which makes this a make or break year for Capers.