Searching for scapegoats: the case for keeping Dom Capers
No one liked seeing the San Francisco 49ers shred the Packers defense Saturday night.
Certainly not Dom Capers, the guy who heads the unit up and who is public enemy number one among some Green Bay fans who want his head on a pike.
Too soon. Too easy.
As pointed out in my previous blog, people smarter than me point out that the entire body of Capers work has to be considered, not just the three playoff losses in recent years in which the defense came up wanting. Voice of the Packers Wayne Larrivee reminded Wisconsin's Morning News listeners Monday morning of the Pack's defensive rise from near-bottom in 2011 to 11th overall this past regular season. Then there's that little thing Capers did during the team's march to Super Bowl XLV, forming a rag-tag, injury-riddled unit into one that was able to run the playoff table.
Another big football mind, the Green Bay Press-Gazette's Mike Vandermause, puts it thusly when speaking of last weekend's embarrassment. "Personnel is as much to blame as scheme for the Packers' failures against the 49ers," he writes. "Is is Capers fault that Erik Walden didn't do his job properly on (Colin) Kaepernick's back-breaking 56 yard touchdown romp around right end in the third quarter? Is it Capers' fault that Casey Hayward blew a second quarter blitz and allowed Kaepernick to scramble for 19 yards. Is it Capers' fault that Tramon Williams played poorly against the 49ers?" Vandermause points out that the Niners run a similar defense, one that includes six All-Pros among its 11 starters. The Packers have just one, Clay Matthews, and he was all but invisible Saturday night. I think I heard his name twice.
That, Vandermause says is more of an indictment on GM Ted Thompson, adding that a defensive coordinator is only as good as the talent on the roster. We praise Thompson for his drafts, and he put a lot of effort into replenishing the defense during last spring's cattle call. Injuries happened, though, and some players (Tramon Williams) regressed.
To my eye, the Niners were faster and smarter, harder-hitting and admittedly hungrier. The better team won, and is playing for the NFC Championship Sunday. That team soundly beat the Packers twice this season, and will keep doing it some more until Green Bay gets the right bodies on the defensive side of the ball. Capers should be talked to about his Saturday night game plan and seeming lack of adjustments, but he shouldn't be ash-canned.