It’s three and a half months since coach Mike McCarthy fired defensive coordinator Dom Capers after the disastrous 2017 season. Since the Capers departure happened along with a major purge of coaches, the news stayed a little under the radar in most places.
Not at Total Packers, however, where we’ve harangued about Capers’ shortcomings for years. It didn’t escape our notice that the Packers haven’t had a top 10 defense since 2010. TP readers, well informed, weren’t surprised and overwhelmingly greeted the news with joy.
It looked to me that Capers was respected and liked, but never loved by players, fans, and most of the media. Players were largely loyal to him, but recent criticisms indicated some of them weren’t on board with his defensive philosophy or with the way he went about his job. He’ll never do an Energizer Bunny commercial.
Blake Martinez, who is emerging as a team leader, recently spoke of the change from Capers to Mike Pettine. He did so diplomatically, but got his point across. After having an honest discussion with the new DC, Martinez indicated Pettine would demand accountability: mental errors and missed assignments weren’t going to be viewed as acceptable going forward.
Pettine told Martinez that whether you’re a Pro Bowler or a rookie, he’d hold all players to the same strict standard. Martinez was happy to hear it, saying: “(T)hat was one of the things that I wanted to voice my opinion on, just making sure everyone is on the right page at the right time and nothing is confused.”
Damarious Randall had also spoken up right after the final game of the season about the coaching staff failing to hold players accountable for mistakes. Those who wondered why McCarthy’s first player move after the season was trading Randall away need look no further for the answer.
McCarthy doesn’t abide by any criticism by the troops. Unfortunately, the head man’s thin-skinned nature has been costly to the team. Big Mike’s release of Josh Sitton was just one of the more notable examples.
Ha Ha Comes to Capers’ Defense
To be fair, when Capers was let go, an unlikely source came forward to defend Capers: Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who emerged from the 2017 season with his own mob of critics. Clinton-Dix blamed the team’s defensive struggles more on the personnel department and locker room than on Capers.
“We’ve got to control what we can control and not worry about what’s going on upstairs or worry about whether a coach needs to be gone… We’ve had so much change come through here that I don’t think we ever had a chance to develop a team,” Clinton-Dix said. “It’s business, but at the same time, we’re trying to build a championship team and if you don’t have the chemistry within the team and you’ve got so many different individuals coming into the locker room that aren’t worth a shit, it’s kind of tough… (I)t’s hard to build a winning-caliber team when you’ve got so many different characteristics of players in here.”
Time to Retire
My prior thoughts following the Capers’ firing have by now become broadly accepted. Among others, there was “McCarthy Watched Idly As Dom Capers Aged” on January 22; and, “The Indictment of Dom Capers Is Handed Down” on February 20.
I expressed my belief that Capers’ career had run its course and he likely wouldn’t be offered another NFL job. It’s now mid-April, so that belief seems to have borne itself out.
In his nine years in Green Bay, Capers did have two seasons of memorable accomplishments. In 2009, his first year as Packers’ DC, the team’s defense went from 20th to second best (net yards given up). His defense followed that up with a fifth place rating in the 2010 Super Bowl season. He once had the gift.