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.

Dom Capers

Raymond T. Rivard photograph

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

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.

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.