During one of his final press conferences of the 2013 season, Green Bay Packers Coach Mike McCarthy was asked Wednesday if the Packers will retain Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers for another season.
It was a touchy question to ask flat out, albeit one many Packers fans are dying to hear an answer to.
“I’m not looking to make big changes,” McCarthy said. “I think Dom Capers is an outstanding football coach and I’m glad he’s on our staff.”
No big changes? We need some big changes after the way this season ended, with an 8-7-1 regular season record and a loss at home in the first playoff game. Right, Mike?
“[It was a] very challenging season for us. We have a lot of work to do,” McCarthy continued.
Challenging is one way to put it. The Packers’ defense was ranked overall number 25 this season, giving up an average of 26.8 points and more than 370 yards per game.
“We’re in day three of our evaluation process. We’ll do everything we need to do as we push forward to next season,” McCarthy said.
Is eliminating Capers part of the process of pushing forward?
It was a challenging season, with Capers’ men plagued with injuries. Just the one postseason game alone annunciated the defensive struggles to keep players healthy: star linebacker Clay Matthews was out with a thumb injury (and had been out for a good number of games this season), while linebackers Mike Neal, Brad Jones and Nick Perry and DT Ryan Pickett were probable but not up to full health.
It’s not Capers’ fault that starters were injured, or even that his backups sustained blows too.
“I was really impressed with our young players, just the way they’ve grown,” McCarthy said during the press conference. “It gives us a chance to get better and we will get better.”
And McCarthy has a point. The rookies and second and third-string men who filled the gaps in the injury-riddled defense helped lead the Packers to a NFC North title win, and a playoff game at home.
But injuries aside, what it comes down to is how strong a defense is as a whole – star players and rookies. Capers had potential with his players this season, from the newbie linebackers who stepped up, to Packers veterans like Sam Shields and Tramon Williams. Yet it did not pan out.
Since joining Green Bay as defensive coordinator in 2009, Capers’ defenses have slowly declined statistically. The Packers’ defense was ranked number two and number five overall in the NFL in 2009 and 2010, respectively. 2011 was obviously not Capers’ year, as the defense was ranked last overall by giving up an average of more than 400 yards a game, but with a number three offense overall the Packers went 15-1 that season. In 2012 Capers bounced back with a number 11 ranked defense overall, but slid to 25 this past season.
Maybe the decision shouldn’t be based on numbers alone. Maybe injuries should be taken into consideration for such a poor 2013 ranking. Maybe Capers is still the right man for the job.
Whether Capers stays or goes, something needs to be done to help bring the defense into the top 10 again. Either way, McCarthy needs to get used to the prospect of big changes.
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