Don't blame Dom--heads need not roll in Green Bay
Dom Capers didn't suddenly grow stupid.
Yes, the Packers defense got pushed around and had issues getting off the field, never more so than in the closing minutes of Sunday's playoff loss against the Niners. For five painful minutes, San Francisco crammed the ball down Green Bay's neck, culminating in game-winning field goal in the closing seconds that ended the campaign and signaled the start of Open Season On The Defensive Coordinator.
There is the school of thought that says Capers is old, his system solved, his methods questionable and his time over. Then there are others who say the blame is further up the food chain, that GM Ted Thompson didn't give Capers what he needs to field a competitive unit.
Here are the issues: the Packers had no pass rush from the defensive line. BJ Raji vanished most of the season. Clay Matthews broke a thumb, then re-injured it. In between, he was a shadow of his former self. The secondary was plagued with miscommunications and admitted personnel deficiencies that only get exacerbated when there's no heat on the opposing QB. Mike Neal can't stay on the field. AJ Hawk can't cover. The unit as a whole can't tackle.
Did I leave anything out?
Coach Mike McCarthy has to decide how much of this is on Capers. This is a scheme that won a Super Bowl not very long ago but it was peopled with different players. Nick Collins and Cullen Jenkins are gone but, more importantly, their vacancies weren't adequately filled. Is that on the defensive coordinator?
We keep hearing what a beast Neal is but he's always hurt. Do you blame Capers? Hawk was great in pursuit and a sure tackler--one of the few on the unit--but gets exposed when he has to cover someone. Can Capers find a way to mask his vulnerabilities?
Traymon Williams bemoaned the lack of veterans as he cleaned out his locker Monday morning, as per the Journal/Sentinel story the following day: "You're challenged with young guys. Talented, young guys get played, but the game is still fast for them because they don't understand what teams are trying to do, they don't understand the scheme fully, they don't understand what the scheme can do for them, if they understand."
Again, is that on Capers? Is this a message to Thompson from the locker room, a suggestion from the rank and file about what's needed come Sunday?
A wise friend of mine who knows more about football than I ever will has often complained to me over beers bout Ted's penchant for fielding the NFL's youngest team, which they were from 2006-2009. They were sixth this year, then fifth, second and fifth in the years in between. There's no prize given out for that, no award. "Next man up" is a nice mantra, but there's bound to be a drop off in quality the deeper you get into the depth chart. Guys aren't that interchangeable. There's a reason some players start and others watch or play special teams.
The Packers of the 90's were a blend of free agents and solid draft picks, plus one whopper of a trade that brought the unit a Hall of Fame QB. Reggie White's are in short supply, but some folks with a little gray in the beard might serve this defense better than a kid who's in over his skis.
Heads don't need to roll in Green Bay, but maybe some habits do.