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McCarthy Watched Idly As Dom Capers Aged

I’ve never taken much of a stand concerning the coaching ability of recently-released defensive coordinator Dom Capers.

But if one looks back over the last several years, isn’t it apparent the Green Bay Packers stayed with Dom several years past his expiration date?

I’m not one who automatically makes judgments about one’s capabilities based solely on age, but when it comes to NFL coaches, it’s a factor to be weighed – a big factor.

Capers was one of the NFL’s most senior coaching staff citizens in 2017. In a career that has spanned over 40 years of coaching – including 32 years with eight NFL teams – he earned a great reputation and proved he once possessed a lot of ability.

He was even a head coach for two teams, the Panthers starting in 1995 and the Texans starting in 2002. Both were new expansion teams, and he lasted four years at each job, compiling losing records at each place. For the past nine years, Capers was Green Bay’s defensive coordinator.

Capers’ age should have been a red flag that his capabilities were likely going downhill. Now at age 67, I doubt he’ll be offered another coaching job in the NFL.

Even if Big Mike McCarthy was too clueless to be watchful for signs of decline in Capers, the loss of productivity of Green Bay’s defenses was a dead giveaway. As has been pointed out many times on this site, from 2009 up to now Packers’ defenses were ranked this way in terms of yardage yielded: 2nd, 5th, 32nd, 11th, 25th, 15th, 15th, 22nd, and 22nd respectively.

I’m not casting blame on Capers, who I imagine did his best. Rather the blame lies with Big Mike, who sat by and watched as the team’s defense operated unacceptably – for a team with Super Bowl aspirations – for seven years running.

Once McCarthy’s time with the Packers has ended, it might be that his failure to replace Capers for all those years will go down as his biggest blunder. CEO Mark Murphy and GM Ted Thompson should also get a generous portion of the blame for their passivity.

To finish out this storyline, I’ve been wondering how many old-timers there have been in the NFL coaching ranks the last few years, and how much success they’ve had. The ones who quickly came to mind:

Tom Coughlin – went 7-9, 6-10, and 6-10 in his last three years coaching the Giants, finishing at age 69 in 2015 (he’s now executive VP for football operations with the Jaguars).

Jeff Fisher – now age 58, he was fired in mid-2016 by the Rams after going 4-9, and with six consecutive losing seasons.

John Fox – was fired after the season at age 62 with three straight losing seasons coaching the Bears.

Dick LaBeau – defensive coordinator for the Titans, turned 80 this season – in his three years there, his defenses have finished 12th, 20th, and 13th this year, in yards yielded.

Other Aging NFL Coaches in 2017

The third-oldest coach in the league was the Cardinals’ Bruce Arians, at age 64. After three straight double-digit-win seasons, he’s gone 7-8-1 and 8-8 the last two years. He retired after the season.

Next up is Detroit’s Jim Caldwell, who is 62, and whose team was stuck in mediocrity, having gone 7-9, 9-7, and 9-7 the past three years. Caldwell was let go on January 1.

After that it’s another NFC North coach, the Minnesota Vikings’ Mike Zimmer, who is 61. Counting John Fox, the NFC North had three of the league’s six oldest coaches in 2017.

The two oldest coaches? The Seahawks’ Pete Carroll – though he acts like a spastic teenager on the sidelines – might be showing some signs of losing his touch at age 65. That other 65-year-old – Bill Belichick – seems to just keep on ticking.

Rob Born

Smart drafters don’t select the best available players, they fill a team’s positions of greatest need.



  1. Howard January 22, 2018

    I just didn’t like Capers play calling style. 2 gap the D lineman. Wait and react. Bend but don’t break. That may work if you can get pressure with your linebackers and have several ball hawking play makers as defensive backs. The Packers had that combination seldom the last few years. A defense does have to mix it up to keep an offense off balance, but give me a defense that allows D-linemen to attack and DBs pressure the receivers the majority of the time, rather than wait and react.

    Wade Phillips is one of those type of aggressive defensive coordinators. I think he is close to 70? I think Pettine is an aggressive coordinator that won’t be yawning while calling plays.

  2. Cheese January 22, 2018

    So Capers lost two head coaching jobs for having losing records. Why not become the D-coordinator in Green Bay where you won’t be held accountable for losing? Heck, the offensive coordinator, I mean head coach won’t be held responsible for losing either. It’s a perfect situation. You can just kick back in your warm skybox, not even have to go on the field, and take a nap because Aaron Rodgers will eventually bail you out with some miracle play. And if he doesn’t, you can blame everything on injuries. You can do this for nine years before anyone grows a spine and tells you to leave.

  3. PF4L January 22, 2018

    So McCarthy was ultimately responsible for the defense performance over the years and basically did nothing about it.

    Not sure why i didn’t think of that.

  4. MAMASBOY January 23, 2018

    I think we’d have at least one more trophy without the defensive melt downs in two NFC title games. McCarthy is loyal to a fault. Which is great, if your talking about your dad or a coworker. Not when you have to produce NFL Championships!

  5. Jimmy J January 26, 2018

    Where’s the comment about watching TT age? His defensive picks have been pitiful the last 3-4 years, not including the guys he let go. And with Clay not on the juice anymore, I knew that every week was going to be a challenge regardless of DC.