Over his six years as defensive coordinator, Dom Capers has become the whipping post anytime the Packers struggle. As soon as the team slips even a tiny bit, he gets thrown under the bus. Since the team started a mini slide this season, this year hadsn’t been any different.
The truth is, under Capers the Packers defense does occasionally give up a ton of yards and a bunch of points, so to the ordinary fan it may appear like he is the appropriate person to point the finger at. However, that is actually the place where Capers brilliance begins.
The Packers have been to the playoffs each of the last six years. Ironically, that is how long Capers has been in charge of their defense. With him as coach, the Packers have a remarkable record of 75-32-1. They have won their division each of the last four seasons, finished 2nd the two previous years, and won the Super Bowl in 2010, his second year at his current post.
Because of his age, (Capers turned 65 just before the season started,) and his 30 years of experience in the league, fans assume that his style is old-school, but he is very much an innovator.
The Packers brought him in to install his 3-4 defense right around the time the NFL changed the rules to create a pass happy league. Offenses went from being dominated by bruising running backs, to full out aerial attacks.
Capers’ scheme takes into account the fact that with offenses marching out 3-5 receivers on a single play, you can’t just knuckle up to the line anymore and fight it out in a cloud of dust. Instead he brings a fury of blitzes from different positions all over the field, hoping to frustrate and confuse the defense into turning over the ball.
A prime example of his greatness, is the Packers Super Bowl run in 2010-2011, when each playoff game was won or sealed by a big play from his defense. That’s exactly how it’s supposed to work when you are playing alongside a high powered offense. You make the other quarterback have to try and keep up with Aaron Rodgers, and as soon as he slips once, you eat his lunch. Dom Capers’ defense does this better than anyone.
This is a team that gave up 159 yards on the ground to rookie running back Todd Gurley, and 503 yards passing to veteran quarterback Philip Rivers in back to back weeks, and still won both games by a combined 21 points. What this defense proves is that it’s okay to bend as long as you don’t break.
This whole team has been bent this year, but Capers has refused to allow them to be broken.
The innovator in him is what allowed him to change the positions of his two biggest stars against popular opinion. The whole league was is an outrage over Clay Matthews being moved to middle linebacker, but that’s exactly the position he used to completely stymie the best running back in the league (45 yards for Adrian Peterson), in a game that was over by halftime. Nobody thought it was wise to turn one of the premier edge rushers in the league into an outside linebacker, except for Capers, and that is exactly the position Julius Peppers used to strip sack Matthew Bradford and give his team new life in what turned out to be a historic comeback.
Dom Capers has been willing and able to make the changes necessary to make this team a consistent winner.
Are we willing to start giving him credit?