A lot of fans have been clamoring for the head of Dom Capers, the perceived problem to all of the Packers woes. Some have argued that Dom Capers is getting too old to be coaching, his defensive philosophy and schemes too outdated and too complex for players to handle and perhaps most puzzling his lack of coaching causing injuries, missed assignments and miscommunication between the defensive unit. However, before you start cleaning out his office, you have to have a plan B; namely if the Packers did fire Dom Capers, who would be the new 3-4 defensive coordinator? Before all of you shout “I don’t care, anyone would be better than Dom Capers”, you and I are “anyone” and we all know that anyone that comments on this site would make a terrible defensive coordinator (let’s not even pretend). With that in mind, I’ve created a list of the some of the potential coaching candidates that could replace Dom Capers
In House Options:
- Mike Trgovac: Trgovac has the most experience among the assistant coaches and is the only one with previous defensive coordinator experience having been the DC for the Carolina Panthers from 2003-2008. However in Carolina the Panthers ran a 4-3 alignment so it’s unclear how much experience he has with the 3-4 defense as a whole. Furthermore, Trgovac turned down a 2-year contract extension with Carolina in order to take the Packers defensive line coaching position, which is interesting in itself considering Trgovac essentially took a pay cut and dropped down a rung on the coaching ladder to work for the Packers, which might be an indication that he doesn’t have an interest in being a defensive coordinator any more. Of the in house choices, Trgovac probably has the best chance of being promoted to defensive coordinator; while he has turned down several coordinator interviews over the last couple years stating that he doesn’t want to move his family, obviously becoming the defensive coordinator for the Packers would not have this issue. Furthermore, 3-4 defensive line production is largely a stat less critique, which would likely help Trgovac hide some of the poor performances the defensive line has had over the years.
- Darren Perry: Perry been coaching in the league for 11 years as either a cornerback or safeties coach with the Steelers, Bengals, Raiders and the Packers after an All-Pro career. Perry, along with Trgovac and Moss were the three members of the Packers defensive staff rumored to be in the running for the defensive coordinator position with the Miami Dolphins after former offensive coordinator Joe Philbin accepted the head coaching position in Miami (the Dolphins would ultimately hire Kevin Coyle). Perry was also interviewed for the defensive coordinator position in Philadelphia in 2011. In my opinion Perry would be the runner up for in house promotions, but safety play has taken a bit hit, most notably with the lack of progression from Morgan Burnett, however Perry does have an alibi that he hasn’t been given that many talented players; his squad consisted of a 3rd rounder, a 4th rounder and three undrafted rookie free agents.
- Winston Moss: Moss is the most tenured defensive coach on the Packers staff, having followed head coach Mike McCarthy from New Orleans and was the lone member of Bob Sanders’ staff not be to fired after 2009. Moss was also promoted to assistant head coach by Mike McCarthy in 2007 so its obvious that McCarthy has a lot of respect for Moss. Moss has also been a candidate for several head coaching positions in the past, but has never made it very far in the interview process. Moss has not been the subject of many defensive coordinator interviews in the past most likely because his position as assistant head coach allows the Packers to block interviews because defensive coordinator would be at best a lateral move (Teams may block interviews as long as the coach would not be getting a promotion). It’s actually pretty interesting that almost nothing is ever heard from Moss, with most fans unsure of what exactly his responsibilities as assistant head coach really entail. Personally, should Mike McCarthy be unable to coach for a period of time (see John Fox’s heart surgery for example), I would guess that it would be offensive coordinator Tom Clements or defensive coordinator Dom Capers filling in for head coach and not Moss.
- Joe Whitt Jr.:Whitt has been coaching in the NFL for 6 years, first as an assistant and quality control coach and then as the Packers cornerback’s coach in 2009. Whitt Jr. was rumored to be in the running for the defensive coordinator position in Oakland in 2012 but it’s unclear if Whitt Jr. ever actually had an interview and the job ultimately went to Stanford assistant Jason Tarver. Whitt is also very new to coaching and is almost certainly not in line for a promotion any time soon. Whitt can be credited for the development of Sam Shields and Casey Hayward but cornerback has been an issue for the team over the last couple of years and again has no experience at any level in calling plays and never played or coached in a 3-4 defensive before joining the Packers.
- Kevin Greene: The “sexy” choice among comments on this site and fans in general, many remember Greene from his potentially Hall of Fame career (he’s been nominated the last two years) at linebacker and his famous “it is time” quote from Super Bowl XLV. Fans angry at the “softness” of the defense think that Greene and his hard hitting coaching style as well as his fiery personality would push the defensive players harder and make a more smash-mouth unit. However, Greene has the least coaching experience of all the defensive coaches, having gotten his first coaching job at any level with the Packers in 2009. Furthermore, Greene’s only training as a coach was in 2008 when he served as a coaching intern for the Pittsburgh Steelers during training camp. Personally, I don’t think Greene is ready for a promotion just yet, it took Mike McCarthy 11 years to be promoted from position coach to coordinator and 19 years for Dom Capers to get his first defensive coordinator position. Also keep in mind there are very few star players that make the successful transition to coaching, Packers fans only have to remember Bart Starr and Forest Gregg to recall how much of a disconnect there is between the two occupations
“Out House” options
- Wade Philips: Son of the legendary Bum Phillips, Wade has been coaching for 44 years, starting as a graduate assistant at the University of Houston, rising to the rank of defensive coordinator after 12 years and finally taking his first head coaching position in the NFL with the Denver Broncos after 24 years. Most recently he served as the defensive coordinators for the Houston Texans and took over as intern head coach after Gary Kubiak was fired mid-season but was also let go after new head coach Bill O’Brien was hired this offseason. As a defensive coordinator his units have ranked on average 11.6 over 15 years.
- Romeo Crennel: The first set of “coordinator geniuses” to come out of the Bill Belichick coaching tree, Crennel and Charlie Weis both left the Patriots staff after the 2004 season and took up high profile positions with Crennel taking over as the Browns head coach. He lasted 3 abysmal season before being let go. Perception of the Patriots has changed a lot over the last 10 years and now it appears as if Bill Belichick is the only genius with the Patriots as countless coaches and front office personnel have failed in new locations (here’s looking at you Josh McDaniels) . Crennel’s most recent coaching position was in 2012 when he was promoted to head coach after the firing of Todd Haley in Kansas City and proceeded to guide the Chiefs to the first overall selection in the 2013 draft. As a defensive coordinator his units have ranked on average 7.2 over 7 years, but considering 4 of those years came while he was the coordinator under Belichick a grain of salt needs to be taken with that average rank.
Overall, no one really strikes me as a significantly better than Dom Capers. The Packers have a history of promoting and grooming coaches from within, such as Tom Clements moving from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator, Edgar Bennett moving from running back to wide receiver coach and Ben McAdoo moving from tight end to quarterback coach. However, the Packers curiously have not moved defensive coaches around at all, hence no position coach really has any experience outside their position (save the secondary coaches who have flip flopped between safety and cornerback). Furthermore, if you take out the interviews where the team has just cleaned house and has an obvious connection to the Packers (Reggie McKenzie in Oakland or Joe Philbin in Miami), there hasn’t been much interest in the Packers defensive coaching staff. Out of the group, Mike Trgovac probably has the best chance of succeeding Capers as he’s the only one with previous defensive coordinator experience (his units ranked 9.8 on average over 6 years). As for “out house” options, there isn’t really much to differentiate Dom Capers from Wade Phillips nor Romeo Crennel; all three have had very good seasons as coordinators (Capers fielded the best defense twice, Crennel the 2nd best once and Philips the 4th thrice) while all have had abysmal seasons as well. Capers’ defensive units ranked 11.9 on average over 11 years, nearly identical to Wade Phillips. None of these options would be any younger; Dom Capers is 63 while Philips and Crennel are both 66.
Arguably, a lot of the defensive woes from last season are not the fault of the defensive coordinator; poor tackling is not the fault of the coaches but of the players themselves (they didn’t get into the NFL without already knowing how to tackle). It’s also not the fault of the defensive coordinator when players miscommunicate with each other or miss assignments; inherent with each of these issues is that the defensive coordinator gave the players an assignment that they failed to execute. Furthermore the argument that the defensive players cannot grasp the play calling is also a little suspect; if Aaron Rodgers and the entire offense can have so many different variations of routes, concepts, protections and calls for every single play, why can’t defensive players handle the same complexity? Finally, blaming the spate of injuries on the defensive coordinator is pretty hilarious, its not like Dom Capers is down on the field stretching the players before a game or taping them up. As I’ve mentioned before, injuries are statistically random hence no coach is really responsible for injuries.
So really, why would the Packers fire Dom Capers when there’s no sure fire better option? No one in house has the experience and the free agent coaches out there right now are without jobs for a reason. Firing Dom Capers might give some fans a warm and fuzzy feeling, but not having a plan afterwards would truly be the stupid thing to do.