Dom Capers Raymond T. Rivard photograph

Trent Dilfer can see this, but Dom Capers can’t?


Is Dom Capers’ defense too complicated for younger players or is he not being flexible enough and utilizing schemes that others use to win?


Yes, Trent Dilfer is a Super Bowl-winning quarterback, but we all know he won on the backs of one of the best defenses ever to step foot on an NFL field – and we know that Dom Capers is a capable, if not a superior defensive coordinator who’s been around the league in various incarnations for years.

But as the “fire Capers” chant grows louder with each passing season, we have to wonder whether the league has passed by not only Capers, but the entire Green Bay Packers leadership.

As a disclaimer, I am not one to think that firing Capers is the answer … at least not at this point.

He has done an incredible job given the number of injuries sustained on his side of the ball. But that said, I feel there were simple things that were missed by management and the coaching staff that could have made a difference, especially with this “Team 93.”

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel longtime writer Bob McGinn says in a blistering, yet brutally honest column today, that the Packers are being passed up by the NFL elite – and his argument is strong. If you haven’t read the entire thing, click on over and check it out – after you finish this, of course.

In a nutshell, McGinn says that the Packers “draft and develop” methodology has served its purpose, but by itself it’s not enough to build the Super Bowl-contending NFL team of today. Packers General Manager Ted Thompson is not utilizing all the tools in his box. His argument is that because of Thompson’s stubborn insistence that his way is right has hampered the entire team, especially the defense.

Dom Capers

Dom Capers

While this topic is an opinion post for another time, I want to get back to Dilfer and Capers … A couple of days ago, Dilfer was asked why the Packers can’t beat San Francisco and their quarterback Colin Kaepernick. He gave two reasons: a simple one and a technical one. First off, the simple reason is that the Packers lack “… some twitch on defense. They lack some dynamic guy who can pursue, close down angles, make it difficult for him to beat them with his legs.”

That guy may be Clay Matthews, but keeping him healthy and on the field has been difficult … and he has been on the field in the first three losses over the past two years to the Niners. He was not on the field last Sunday, but question whether that would have made the difference. Dilfer then offers up the technical reason for which I’ll let him describe in his own words:

“I would challenge people, you can see this on your TV – you don’t need the coaches’ film to see this all the time – one pattern I’ve seen against Colin that is very effective and that the Green Bay Packers hardly ever do is when defenders drop with eyeballs on him.

“As linebackers get depth into their zones, their eyeballs are on the quarterback. They are staring at you. Colin has really struggled against that kind of defensive profile. I don’t know why, but that is a profile defense he has yet to figure out. The Green Bay Packers never play that style of defense in their repertoire. So he doesn’t have to have that discomfort playing against a profile defense he hasn’t quite figured out yet.

“Don’t take my word for it. Watch it. You’ll see a lot of Colin’s bad plays – and Carolina plays a lot of this type of defense – their eyeballs are on him. And they are dropping back. OK, are you throwing it? We’re going to break on the ball. Oh, you’re going to run it? OK, we’re going to come up. I’m seeing you run. So I’m going to come up and I’m going to try and make a play on you. He doesn’t play with the same confidence when he is playing against that style of defense.”

So, the question I have, and the question posed in the headline of this post, is why Trent Dilfer can see this, but Dom Capers can’t? There have been recent reports that indicate Capers’ defense is too complicated … that the young players have difficulty understanding it.

Dom Capers could be fired

Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers. Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports photograph

Given the fact that the Packers injury issues have thrust so many young and inexperienced players onto the field, why hasn’t Capers adjusted for them, if that is indeed the case? And would the addition of a couple of free agent players who can understand the schemes help the situation? We won’t know the answer to the problem, but anyone who watches the games can see that whatever scheme is being employed, it’s not being carried out by the players on the field.

Consider that Capers’ defense has been pathetic against the run – the staple of an elite NFL defense. In yards allowed per-rush, the Packers over the course of the past four years have been ranked 28, 26, 26, and 29. If a team can’t stop the run you might as well pack it up and head home.

So, what’s the problem here? Is it the fact that Ted Thompson refuses to utilize free agency to bring in solid, knowledgeable players (especially on the defensive side of the ball); Is it because Mike McCarthy allows Capers free rein to run his defense as he pleases and then publicly calls his efforts “outstanding?” Is it because the Packers management is being left behind and are not adapting to the methods that build winning football teams?

Nobody’s going to argue that drafting talented, young players to restock the base of a football team isn’t good strategy. But it can’t be the only strategy. And just like Capers, who doesn’t seem to be seeing the entire picture and utilizing schemes that actually work against specific personnel, the Packers seem to be falling behind the rest of the league.

Because if Trent Dilfer can spot something as simple as described above and a seasoned, experienced, Super Bowl-winning coordinator can’t, then there’s something wrong with this picture.

Next Packers Game View full schedule »
Friday, Aug 2222 Aug7:00Oakland RaidersBuy Tickets

Tags: Dom Capers Green Bay Packers

  • Taryn Miller

    Packers lack “… some twitch on defense. They lack some dynamic guy who can pursue, close down angles, make it difficult for him to beat them with his legs.”

    “As linebackers get depth into their zones, their eyeballs are on the quarterback. They are staring at you.”

    But…but….we have Nick Perry and Mike Neal !

  • Daniel Henkelman

    Come On. Capers defense has failed the Pack for three consistent years. All the same problems, and basically some of the worst defense in the league. It pains me to watch the defense let ANY team go down the field as easily as any of them have for THREE years, that’s 42+ games he has had to ADJUST and fix, and he has really failed in the games that count. Capers needs to go, as does Thompson if he wants Capers to stick around…

    • Peter Maiz

      Correct, that’s why we’re one and out.

  • TapDogsDad


    Should we hire Rivard as defensive coordinator – or perhaps Trent Dilfer? Does anyone think that McCarthy’s opinion of Capers is devoid of the collective opinions of Kevin Greene and the other coaches?

    McCarthy’s a very smart guy – so is Thompson.

    Wake up! The real strength of our Packers is in our leadership. They have proven to be more than capable of fielding a great team.

    These guys were smart enough to realize that Favre’s time was about over, and that Rogers’ was here – over a large outcry from these same people who continue to tell them how to run this team.

    As an “Owner,” I like the guys we pay to field a winning team.

    • Larry

      McCarthy is also smart enough not to publicly say Capers is on the edge. We don’t know what’s going on in the offices and I’d hope there are some very tough discussions going on that we don’t know about. I know if our 2013 performance at work had us in the bottom quartile in every statistic that there would be some sweating going on in the offices right now.

      • Peter Maiz

        You know Larry, I agree with you profusely. But seeing is believing, and I don’t see Capers going anywhere.

    • RayRivard

      Hahahahahaha! Sure, go ahead and hire me, though Trent would probably do better. You hit it right on the head, TapDogsDad … leadership is key, especially in today’s NFL. It appears to me that the Packers have some hustling to do to catch up with the rest of the NFL. Aaron Rodgers can carry this team only so far and it appears that’s only one game into the playoffs. You can say they lost only by three points to the Niners. A loss is a loss, whether it’s by 3 or 300. Injuries have been key the past few years for the Packers as they lead the league in that category. Is it just dumb luck or is there something within leadership that is at the heart. I just don’t know. Like I said, I am not a proponent in firing Capers. He deserves a shot with a team devoid of injuries, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Let’s hope we see that next year.

    • Peter Maiz

      Which winning team are you referring to?

  • nicholas starling

    It’s hard to judge Capers with all the injuries, but bottom line, he’s just not getting the job done. I think the talent fits a 4-3 better and would like to see a switch back to that. Looks like Capers will get another year to right the ship. I’m hoping he can get it done this time.

    • muku

      The Packers linebackers dont suit the 4-3… it would force Mattews to become a strong-side LB in a 4-3… it would only work if GB used the same system as Denver…

    • Mark Lampitoc

      It all starts with TT, I don’t think Capers defense isn’t equipped w/ the right personnel. Wish TT would draft bigger names coming out of college instead of these smaller names from small schools; simultaneously wish our luck could change with injuries. Heres to hoping for a prosperous draft and a healthier season next year! GPG

      • TapDogsDad

        Let’ remember Donald Driver from Alcorn State

  • Rick Giovengo

    Raymond I love your posts, mainly because I agree with what you are saying. I have said this before and I will say this again, the Packers are in denial about their defense. Managing a sports teams is no different that managing a corporation, and the Packers have become the “Blackberry” of elite football teams. At one time they were on the edge, but past success does not equal current success. I was just reading a blog this morning about the current elite teams that are in the playoffs (49′s, Patriots, Seattle, Denver), they have evolved as NFL football evolves.

    The Packers did make some adjustment by readjusting their running game. But the defense is as dull as a knife blade; they are predictable. Do you know why Colin Kapernick ran against the Packers so well, because he knew he could. We currently have an unfeared defense. We have no one on defense that strikes fear in the opposing teams,. Someone who telegraphs that if you come into my area I am going to knock the skin off you. The Packers have spent numerous 1 round draft picks on defense to no avail, so the draft and develop is not working. There is no intensity on defense whatsoever. And name me a job where you can go down in success every year, yet keep your job- well Capers is keeping his job.

    And if I hear one more person say that Capers is defensive genius and I going to puke. And if I hear that you can’t rely on the stats…Granted I will give you that one stat taken out of context can be misleading, but stats taken in totality paints a more complete picture. Look at the Packer’s stats on defense and you will see the picture.

    In the end the entire circumstances of the current Packers rests completely on the coaching staff. The NFL is about coaching. Every team has great players due to the salary cap and drafting system, therefore it is coaching that makes a team (i.e. Patriots). If Capers is back next year I will predict that very little will change and other teams will evolve and pass the Packers. Aaron Rodgers deserves better.

    Thanks again Raymond for your column.

    • TapDogsDad

      Players not plays. Did capers coach our defender to take that inside route that allowed Kapernick to escape? I don’t think so – and without that first down it might have been Green Bay at Carolina on Sunday.

  • Robert Cutlip

    Hi Ray,
    How do all the Packers faithful feel about our defense after the brutal cold last second loss to the 49ers at home 23-20 after the balmy 49ers win against the 12-4 Carolina Panthers with a vaunted defense at 23-10? I want to know.
    It seems to me we were one defensive play from playing in Carolina today. Hate Ted, Dom, and Mike all you want but what you see does not lie.
    A couple of tweaks and more luck with injuries and we would have had a great chance at retribution against the Fail Mary game.
    Lets not give up so quickly on our front office and players. I am predicting a fine season next year and another NFC North title.
    Robert Cutlip

    • Larry

      But we’re one play away, year after year after year… plus, 8-7-1 does not put us among elite teams.

      • TapDogsDad

        Without the Rogers injury, this team would have had 10+ wins – and the without the Cobb loss ??

        Bad luck was our biggest opponent this season. I’m looking forward with happy thoughts.

  • Bob Hing

    Great article. I still believe GB needs a new defensive coordinator. Alabama has a good one. Lets get him. Dump Capers.

  • Peter Maiz

    I like Bob McGinn’s column. Where the fans saw it glaringly was in the quarterback debacle. And the organization still wants to develop Tolzien, how silly and foolish. Either Capers comes down to earth or let him be gone. It’s a thing of beauty seeing Seattle, San Francisco, Carolina and a host of others with powerful defenses. Yet the Packers can’t stop the run, much less the Kaepernick run. What I clearly see is the “old buddy network” at Green Bay, McCarthy, Capers, Ted Thompson and their boss not willing to move an iota in the right direction. I see the same problems come 2014 as we had in 2013. If the defense keeps on being a mediocrity for 2014, I clearly see my not being a fan henceforth.