Defensive coordinator Dom Capers is not the reason the Green Bay Packersí defense fell to No. 25 in the NFL this season. And he is not the reason the Packers were eliminated in the wild-card round of the playoffs.
Those misguided enough to think firing Capers will get the Packers back to the Super Bowl need to step back and take a deep breath.
The impulse to make a change for changeís sake isnít rational. When assessing the Packersí 2013 season, coaching is not why they fell short. The real reason stems from a lack of quality personnel on defense.
Capers deserves a raise, not a pink slip, for somehow mixing and matching a motley collection of players and holding the explosive San Francisco 49ers to just 23 points in their wild-card game.
In effect, Capers was in a street fight with one hand tied behind his back. Losing major contributors Clay Matthews, Johnny Jolly, Sam Shields, Mike Neal and Casey Hayward was simply too much to overcome, yet the Packers almost pulled off an upset.
The Packers donít need a new coordinator. What they really must have is an infusion of defensive talent, and that responsibility lands at the feet of general manager Ted Thompson.
Injuries were part of the problem, but Thompson also didnít give his defensive coaches enough resources to work with.
In Press-Gazette Mediaís annual Packers report card, not a single defensive player received an A, while four offensive players achieved that status ó Aaron Rodgers, Eddie Lacy, Jordy Nelson and Josh Sitton.
Despite losing Rodgers, Jermichael Finley and Randall Cobb for a combined 29 games because of injuries, the Packersí offense ranked No. 3 in the NFL. Thatís because the Packers are loaded with playmakers on that side of the ball and were able to compensate for injuries.
The defense, on the other hand, had no such luxury. Matthews, cornerbacks Tramon Williams and Shields, and defensive lineman Mike Daniels were graded in the B-range among the starters or significant contributors. But after that, the Packers were stuck with a lot of average to below-average players.
Capers has proven he can take talented players and mold them into a productive unit. But heís not a miracle worker, and thatís pretty much what was needed this season.
Thompson must accept the blame for that. He lives and dies with his draft-and-develop philosophy. And when his draft picks donít pan out, the product on the field is bound to suffer.
The much-ballyhooed 2012 draft, in which Thompson selected defensive players with his first six picks, had virtually no impact this season other than Daniels.
First-rounder Nick Perry was injury prone and inconsistent; second-rounder Jerel Worthy is coming off major knee surgery but was no great shakes last season before he got hurt; second-rounder Hayward was a nonfactor because of a hamstring injury; and fourth-rounder Jerron McMillian and fifth-rounder Terrell Manning werenít good enough to keep.
To add to the Packersí woes, 2013 first-rounder Datone Jones was a disappointment and played only in defensive line subpackages. Meanwhile, the only defensive player left from the 2011 draft is backup cornerback Davon House.
Over the long haul, Thompson has proven to be an effective talent evaluator, but heís been in a slump lately when it comes to defensive players. Three consecutive drafts with little impact is the reason the Packersí defense is languishing in the bottom third of the league rankings.
Until Thompsonís draft success turns around, the Packers will continue to scuffle on defense. Either that, or Thompson must decide to step outside his comfort zone and sign an unrestricted free agent or two to bolster his roster.
Thompson did that in 2006 and landed Charles Woodson and Ryan Pickett, who helped lead the Packers to a Super Bowl title.
Another championship will come only if the defense improves significantly, and thatís not going to happen by jettisoning Capers. The Packersí problems run far deeper than that.
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