Before school started this year, I ordered three motivational tin posters for my music classroom. One of these posters features Babe Ruth, while the other two feature none other than Vince Lombardi, legendary Green Bay Packers coach. Each one is a black and white photo prominently displaying an inspirational quote, and I often reference them when my students need some guidance.
After the past few weeks, with the struggles of a Packers team sans Aaron Rodgers, I have been unable to get one of those quotations out of my mind:
“The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have.” –Vince Lombardi
I selected this particular poster, because it suggests that measuring ourselves against others is a fool’s errand. As I have often said, there will always be people out there better than us at something, and there will always be people who are worse than us. We should be looking at success as a measure of what we’ve been able to accomplish from where we’ve started.
How does this apply to the Packers’ current situation? Like many other fans, in my frustration with this injury-riddled season, my contempt for the defense and its failures has grown. Every year since the abysmal 2011 season – and a defense that, on average, gave up over 400 yards per game – I’ve been praying that Dom Capers would turn it around.
“Just get some good players in the draft, and we’ll be set,” I told myself. “Then we can get back to the 2010 defense that allowed the second fewest points per game in the league.”
Of course, this year, I started the season with a different tune. “Just get some key players healthy, and this defense will be unmovable.” Names like Casey Hayward, Morgan Burnett, and eventually Clay Matthews and Nick Perry kept popping up in this conversation. Green Bay just needed to get over the injury bug. That’s all.
It hasn’t gotten better, though. And average quarterbacks are making the pass defense look downright silly.
Unlike some fans, I’m not going to point my finger at Ted Thompson. I believe that he is good at acquiring talent for this team. Guys like Clay Matthews, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and Eddie Lacey were unbelievable draft picks. Then consider players like David Bakhtiari, Morgan Burnett, and Josh Sitton, who have been some solid acquisitions in the middle rounds. And don’t forget the undrafted diamonds like Sam Shields and DuJuan Harris that Thompson has unearthed.
With a defensive roster like the Packers boast, I refuse to believe the problem is a lack of talent. There are too many good players who have done great things for this unit to be as bad as it is. Green Bay has a deep cornerbacks corps, a solid set of defensive linemen, and some linebackers who can get to the quarterback and make plays behind the line of scrimmage.
The problem as I see it, then, is that the Packers are not doing enough with what they have. Or, more to the point, defensive coordinator Capers is not doing enough.
Now, don’t misunderstand me. I don’t think this is necessarily a schematic problem. An anonymous poster over at CheeseheadTV who goes by the pseudonym “Paul Ott Carruth” wrote an interesting article on this issue. In “X’s and 0’s: Capers? Or the Players?,” Carruth examines a few plays from the Packers’ loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. His overall point is that players need to be responsible for their execution of the plays. (I would suggest reading the entire article, by the way.) In other words, we can’t just blame failures on the coordinator’s play call selections.
That said, we are seeing many of the same mistakes over and over again. Bad tackling. Poor zone technique. An inability to secure turnovers. Letting receivers get behind the coverage.
It is at this level that I point my finger at Dom Capers. And to be honest, this is a change of heart for me. I’ve been a Capers apologist, because he showed us a dominating defense in 2010. The next two years, I would convince myself, were merely flukes. There were other factors at work.
Well, these flukes have now become a trend. For some reason, Dom Capers is not able to make the most out of his available players and their talent. Is it because of how he runs practice? Is it because he’s a cerebral rather than an emotional leader? Is it because he’s timid? Is it because he doesn’t know what to do without Charles Woodson and/or Nick Collins? Have other teams figured him out?
Those are the harder questions to answer.
The point remains, though, that if we are measuring the Packers defense based on what they have, then they’re not passing the test. They are not playing up to their potential. At this point, it falls on the coaching. I don’t advocate a midseason change at defensive coordinator; however, I do think it’s time for Green Bay to bid farewell to Dom Capers in the offseason.
It’s time to look for a coach with a fresh approach, one who can get the players to rise up to levels we know they can achieve. It’s time to look for a coach who can do more with all the talent the Packers have provided him.——————Follow @ChadToporski