Each passing day in Wisconsin is becoming a little cooler; a little shorter. Some homes will be cranking the heat on. Other homes may not need to spend so much on heat if this season continues down the route it suddenly veered into last weekend. Specifically, Mike McCarthy and Dom Capers are speeding up toward the dreaded hot seat with each clunker the Packers post. The last thing they’re going to need is any more heat, especially come the coldest months of the year.
When one of the key components of Aaron Rodgers’s golden arm snapped last week, the sense of job security for several other key figures in the Packers’ organization undoubtedly snapped as well. Mike McCarthy, the longtime head ball coach, has a record that leaves much to be desired when a Hall of Fame quarterback is not in his starting offense. This latest outing versus the Saints continued the string of subpar results for a McCarthy squad not piloted by an all-time great QB.
What does Bill Belichick do? He assesses the team’s situation each week and plans accordingly so his players are in a position with the highest probability of success. When Tom Brady was suspended for the first four games last season, all they did was go 3-1. Patriots fans were incensed at the suspension, but did they panic about their chances of victory? Not really. Belichick has earned their confidence, and then some. Mike McCarthy’s opportunity to earn the confidence of Packer Nation is now. Thus far, it has been a stumble out of the gate. The 2-4-1 record sans Rodgers in 2013 was the first swing and a miss.
There is still over half a season to right the ship for Mike McCarthy. Several critics clamored during this last contest to open up the book for Brett Hundley a little more. Though the playcalling was conservative, the Packers had their best running game in years. Aaron Jones continues to perform like he’s the real deal. When the starting QB is down and a young runner is churning up yards, it’s a no-brainer to keep feeding him. The running game was easily the most promising takeaway from this week. If McCarthy can muster up a competent aerial attack with a sustained running game, then his job security bumps up a at least a few rungs.
Then, there’s Dom Capers. He has had a top tier defense in Green Bay before. All he needed to succeed was:
- Charles Woodson as the league’s Defensive Player of the Year
- Clay Matthews playing lights out football in his first two seasons (and getting jobbed out of Defensive POY in 2010)
- Nick Collins quickly becoming the next LeRoy Butler until he broke his neck on a man’s ass.
- Cullen Jenkins playing at an all-pro level
- Tramon Williams playing at an all-pro level
- Sam Shields posting the best season of any undrafted rookie free agent in recent memory
- Desmond Bishop making Nick Barnett an afterthought
- B.J. Raji tossing opponents around like rag dolls
So, when at least eight players on his defense are performing at elite or Hall of Fame type of levels, he produces a top 5 defense (5th in 2010). Now, let’s see how the Packers have finished in total defense since their Super Bowl year in 2010:
A couple years there were sort of close to a ranking in the single digits. So, Capers has that going for him, which is nice.
If someone in Green Bay should be shown the door first, it should be Capers. He is well into his 7th straight year of producing a defense that’s either abhorrent or mediocre at best. This year’s squad has a lot of talent. Each level on defense has a player or two who are brimming with talent. Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark are anchors on the line that would start on virtually any team. Ditto to Nick Perry, Clay Matthews, and even Blake Martinez if he can keep up his current performance. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix would cement his role on any other team. The problem is their talent isn’t being utilized. The Capers strategy from 2009-2010 was deciphered years ago by the rest of the league, and he has never adjusted. On almost any other team, he would’ve been shown the door 3-4 years ago.
If there’s a silver lining to losing Aaron Rodgers for half a season, it’s exposing the stink that his play has covered up for far too long now. Perhaps this year will fully expose some longtime personnel whose shortcomings have been covered up for years by his brilliant play. If losing Aaron to injury and mortgaging half a season results in much-needed changes for the final years of his prime, then that would be a worthwhile trade off.
________________John Piotrowski is a UW-Eau Claire alum, spending most of his life in western WI. He makes the trek east to Lambeau whenever possible. Follow him on twitter at @piosGBP.