Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson has struggled to find impact defensive players in recent drafts. / File/Press-Gazette Media
The Green Bay Packersí defense has been a disappointment this season, but calls for coordinator Dom Capersí head are irrational.
Sacking Capers in midseason, which has been suggested by a portion of the fan base in recent weeks, will not generate better tackling, improved coverage or a more vigorous pass rush.
A coachís job is to put his team in position to succeed, but then itís up to the players to produce on the field.
Is it Capersí fault that Packers defensive backs canít make plays on the ball, and then turn sure interceptions into opponent touchdowns?
Is it Capersí fault that would-be tacklers get juked out of their socks by opposing running backs and turn short gains into long runs?
Is it Capersí fault that he is forced to use below-average talent at one of the safety positions?
Is it Capersí fault that the injury-ravaged linebacker corps has been rendered null and void at times with rookies trying to fill major roles?
When something goes wrong on defense, as it frequently has this season, the easy way out is to blame everything on the coordinator.
Of course, Capers should be held accountable for his role in the operation, and his coaching performance will be evaluated at seasonís end like it is every year.
But the Packersí defensive woes go well beyond Capers. It starts with personnel, and the buck stops at the desk of general manager Ted Thompson.
Letís go back to the much-ballyhooed 2012 draft, when Thompson used his first six selections on defensive players as a way to upgrade a unit that was ranked last in the NFL the previous season.
Five of those six draft picks have done diddly-squat for the Packers this season, so is it any wonder the defense canít seem to perform in crucial situations?
First-round linebacker Nick Perry has missed more games during his career than he has played because of injuries, second-round defensive lineman Jerel Worthy blew out his knee last December and second-round cornerback Casey Hayward has been grounded all season with a bad hamstring.
Fourth-round safety Jerron McMillian hasnít progressed as expected, and fifth-round linebacker Terrell Manning didnít survive the final cutdown this year.
The only defensive player paying dividends from last yearís draft class is lineman Mike Daniels, who leads the team in sacks.
Whether the fault lies with injuries or ineffective play, Thompsonís 1-for-6 batting average (.167) in the 2012 draft is a prime reason the Packersí defense is falling short this season.
Thompson hit the jackpot in 2009 with Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji. But in the four drafts since, he has uncovered precious few impact players on defense.
Safety Morgan Burnett has been a solid everyday starting safety, but beyond that, itís been a case of on-again, off-again contributions from Thompsonís defensive picks.
Mike Neal has been injury prone and cornerback Davon House has flashed potential but has yet to claim a full-time starting gig.
Maybe this yearís first-round pick, defensive lineman Datone Jones, will emerge, but he got off to a slow start. Cornerback Micah Hyde has shown promise, but the other 2013 rookie draft picks are still in the developmental stage.
Thompsonís decision not to draft a safety this year remains a mystery as the Packers struggle to find a reliable starter opposite Burnett.
Based on the first nine games, not a single defensive player is on pace to earn a Pro Bowl berth.
So it should come as no surprise the Packers are ranked in the bottom half of the NFL in total defense (No. 18), passing yards allowed (No. 21), points allowed (No. 17), yards per play (No. 23) and interceptions (No. 32).
Even the Packersí once-solid run defense has fallen off a cliff. The Packers have allowed a whopping 375 yards on the ground in the past two games ó both losses ó and have plummeted to No. 20 in rushing yards allowed per attempt.
The loss of quarterback Aaron Rodgers has created a ripple effect and heaped added pressure on the defense because the Packers no longer can rely on their offense to win shootouts.
A troubling pattern has surfaced in the Packersí four losses, when the defense has failed miserably trying to get off the field in the fourth quarter.
The 49ers chewed up nearly 10 minutes of the final quarter on scoring drives of 76, 80 and 50 yards in the season opener. The Bengals marched 95 yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown, the Bears sealed the Packersí fate with an 18-play, 80-yard field goal drive that consumed 8 minutes 58 seconds, and the Eagles used up the final 9:32 on a 15-play drive.
The Packersí best chance to turn this alarming trend around in the short term is for Matthews, who broke his thumb last month and missed four games, to reach near-100 percent effectiveness. Heís a bona fide difference-maker when at peak efficiency and could provide a spark that elevates his fellow defenders.
Long term, the Packers must hope players like Neal, Perry, Worthy and Hayward can overcome the injury bug and play up to their potential.
Meanwhile, Capers canít be expected to perform miracles with the available talent.
The failure to infuse the defense with impact players through the draft over the past four years is catching up with the Packers, and attempting to blame their problems on Capers is short-sighted.
ó firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @MikeVandermause.