Dom Capers: Is Packers coach Mike McCarthy giving in to mediocrity?


Dom Capers

Raymond T. Rivard photograph

“I think Dom Capers as an outstanding football coach, and I’m glad he’s on our staff” … those are the words uttered today by Mike McCarthy at his season-ending press conference.

Answering the second question asked, McCarthy gave no indication that Capers wouldn’t be the defensive coordinator next season.

I know that doesn’t sit well with a large percentage of Packers Nation. Many of you out there want him gone yesterday.

But McCarthy, known for his commitment to his coaching staff, isn’t about to fire someone because they have a bad combover.

Mike McCarthy

Raymond T. Rivard photograph

McCarthy understands that it was his defense (one that was also hit hard by injuries) that won a Super Bowl back in 2010. Remember? That was an aggressive, unrelenting defense that forced turnovers and intimidated. What’s happened to those days? The days when they stopped the run, ripped the ball out of running back’s arms and picked off quarterbacks with regular abandon? Blitzers came from surprising angles and hit home on quarterbacks.

Where did that all go?

Has Dom Capers become too predictable? Has he lost something on the coordinating end?

One could argue all of that, but despite  Mike McCarthy’s aversion to statistics and those who take them too literally, they do give us benchmarks from which to evaluate job performance.

McCarthy calls Capers “outstanding,” but I’m not so convinced – at least when looking at the most recent past. To put it bluntly, the Packers of the past few seasons just haven’t gotten it done on defense. One could argue that Capers’ defense hasn’t gotten it done since the Super Bowl season.

We all know that the NFL stands for “Not For Long,” as Jerry Glanville so obnoxiously reminded us. It’s a “what have you done for me today” league.

Here are this season’s defensive stats that Jason Wilde of ESPN Wisconsin reported today:

"The Packers entered the postseason having finished tied for 24th in scoring defense (26.8 points per game), 25th in yards allowed (372.3), 25th in rushing yards allowed (125.0), 24th in passing yards allowed (247.3), tied for eighth in sacks (44) and tied for 20th in takeaways (22)."

These statistics show a mediocre, if not worse, ranking in every one of those categories. The only half decent numbers from this year are in the number of sacks – the Packers tied for eighth overall – otherwise, the Packers are in the bottom quarter of the league in nearly every other category.

Clearly, Capers has had units that have taken the ball away from opponents, have stopped the run, have kept teams from consistently moving the ball, and have sacked quarterbacks. The issue is that over the past three years, his defensive units have fallen deeply into mediocrity (could it be tied to the loss of Nick Collins? That’s the topic for another post).

Here are the statistics Wilde provided for Capers’ first four seasons in Green Bay:

2009 scoring defense: Packers finished seventh (18.6 points per game)

2010 scoring defense: Packers finish second (15.0)

2011 scoring defense: Packers finish 19th (22.4)

Packers defensive linemen, B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett, have questionable futures in Green Bay.

Raymond T. Rivard photograph

2012 scoring defense: Packers finish 11th (21.0)

2009 yards allowed: Packers finished second  (284.4 yards per game)

2010 yards allowed: Packers finished fifth (309.1)

2011 yards allowed: Packers finished 32nd (dead last) (411.6)

2012 yards allowed: Packers finished 11th (336.8)

2009 sacks: Packers tied for 11th (37)

2010 sacks: Packers tied for second (47)

2011 sacks: Packers tied for 27th (29)

2012 sacks: Packers finished fourth (47)

2009 takeaways: Packers led the NFL (40)

2010 takeaways: Packers were sixth (32)

2011 takeaways: Packers tied for first (38)

2012 takeaways: Packers tied for 19th in 2012 (23)

Davon House misses a tackle on Frank Gore – something that seemed to be a habit for the Packers’ cornerback.

Raymond T. Rivard photograph

For a team known for its ability to take the ball away – and in a sense survived because of it – seeing the Packers get just 22 this year and 23 in 2012 is concerning. Watching this team get gashed game after game is concerning. Seeing this team give up an average of nearly 400 yards per game is concerning. Not being able to make the big stop when they need to is concerning.

Is all of that Capers’ fault? Well not directly, but as coordinator, it’s his responsibility.

Maybe the Packers’ talent isn’t as good as we all think. The Packers said as much about Jerron McMillian when they cut him three-quarters of the way through the season. Who’s next?

The Packers have drafted heavily on the defensive side of the ball, but haven’t seen the results in production on the field. Is that because the players just don’t have what it takes or have they not been coached up well enough to allow them to make the leap to the NFL?

Capers isn’t dropping interceptions like Micah Hyde; Capers isn’t missing tackles like Davon House and M.D. Jennings; Capers isn’t failing to maintain gap control so that linebackers can make plays; Capers isn’t failing to put pressure on the quarterback.

But he is responsible for putting players in the right spots to make those plays.

Granted, injuries tend to change everything, but again, this is the NFL and Capers is responsible.

He may be “outstanding,” but look at the statistics. In most of those categories, he’s nothing more than mediocre – at best.

That said, it seems McCarthy is willing to stick with the status quo – a defense that is supposed to bend, but not break.

One thing is for certain, the Packers cannot continue put up mediocre numbers like this if they intend to be a legitimate contender.