Mike Vandermause column: Capers should stay

Jan. 14, 2013
Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers. File/Press-Gazette Media
Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers. File/Press-Gazette Media

The Green Bay Packers would be making a big mistake if they fire defensive coordinator Dom Capers.

Some talk radio squawkers and social media loudmouths are calling for Capers’ head in light of the Packers’ poor defensive performance in a 45-31 playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Saturday night.

Yes, the Packers gave up an astounding 579 total yards to the 49ers. They couldn’t stop quarterback Colin Kaepernick to save their lives. This marks the third time in four years the Packers defense has come up woefully short in the playoffs.

But this is no time for an emotional, knee-jerk over-reaction.

Capers should be judged by his large body of work, not a handful of games.

This is the same defensive coordinator who played a major role two years ago in the Packers’ Super Bowl championship by coaching up a patchwork, injury-plagued unit.

“Coach Capers is a great coach,” linebacker Desmond Bishop said. “You can’t have a great defense and win the Super Bowl one year and then be kicked out the next year, or a year or two later. I don’t think it should work like that at all.”

Capers was handed players off the street in the middle of the 2010 season and integrated them into a defense that ranked No. 2 in the regular season in points allowed and was especially effective in the playoffs.

How quickly the naysayers forget. It’s as if they believe Capers has turned into a defensive dunce in two short years.

To suggest the game has passed the 62-year-old Capers by, as some have done, is sheer poppycock.

Of course Capers should be held accountable for the Packers’ struggles over the past two seasons, particularly Saturday’s debacle, and I trust coach Mike McCarthy will have some serious conversations with his defensive coordinator about ways for the defense to adjust and improve.

But I can’t imagine the level-headed McCarthy giving any consideration to dumping Capers.

We live in a “what have you done for me lately” world, and the Packers’ defensive pratfall against the 49ers has some impatient souls pointing fingers and demanding a scapegoat.

When adversity hits hard, the easy thing to do is to go into hysterics and call for reckless action.

What the Packers need more than ever is for cooler heads to prevail. Now is not the time to panic.

Personnel is as much to blame as scheme for the Packers’ failures against the 49ers.

Is it Capers’ fault that Erik Walden didn’t do his job properly on Kaepernick’s back-breaking 56-yard touchdown romp around right end in the third quarter?

Is it Capers’ fault that Casey Hayward blew an easy sack on a second-quarter blitz and allowed Kaepernick to scramble for 19 yards?

Is it Capers’ fault that Tramon Williams played poorly against the 49ers?

San Francisco defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who worked under Capers and runs a similar defense, has been praised for his unit’s solid play this season, and rightly so. But it should be noted the 49ers boast six All-Pro players among their 11 defensive starters. The Packers, meanwhile, have just one All-Pro defensive player on their roster, Clay Matthews.

That’s more an indictment of general manager Ted Thompson than it is Capers. A defensive coordinator can’t be expected to work miracles and is often only as good as the talent on the roster.

In that regard, Capers deserves credit, not derision. He took a defensive group this season that included six regular rookie contributors and generated a major upgrade in production.

The Packers catapulted from No. 32 in total yards allowed last year to No. 11 this season. For that impressive upgrade Capers should get a raise, not a pink slip.

Since Capers was hired in 2009, the Packers defense ranks among the best in the NFL in total takeaways and opponent passer rating.

There is no question the Packers must improve on defense if they want to return to the Super Bowl. To do that, they first and foremost need to add better players. Blaming Capers for their troubles is a convenient and misguided excuse.

mvandermause@greenbaypressgazette.com and follow him on Twitter @MikeVandermause.

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