Even the greatness of quarterback Aaron Rodgers couldn’t save the Green Bay Packers playoff hopes on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. Having missed seven games and still not at 100 percent, Rodgers couldn’t knock off the rust to lead the Packers to a victory on Sunday, losing 31-24 to the Panthers in Charlotte. Sadly, the Packers have had to depend on the magic of Rodgers to win games and one of the biggest reasons for this is the lack of quality play out of their defense.
For the past several seasons, under the guidance of longtime defensive coordinator Dom Capers, the Packers defense has been the weak link of this team and they have been forced to have their offense carry this team. Capers should shoulder the blame of the Packers’ ineffectiveness, but there is more to the story than just Capers and his below average defenses. There is blame to go around for the ineffectiveness of the Green Bay Packers defense.
There Is Blame To Go Around for the Ineffectiveness of the Green Bay Packers Defense
Even though the blame doesn’t fall at the feet of any one person, Capers has to be at the top of the list on why this Packers defense has performed so poorly. It just isn’t this season that the Packers have struggled on that side of the ball. It’s been that way for the past several seasons.
Even with having an offense led by arguably the best quarterback in the NFL, in a league that is driven by elite quarterbacks, the Packers have fallen short on making its way back to the Super Bowl. A lot of the blame falls on the defense which has been led by Capers. In fact, the last time the Packers have fielded a defense that carried its own weight was when they last won the Super Bowl. Since that magical run, the Packers defense has struggled and really has prevented the Packers from getting back there.
Packers fans have called for Capers’ job for quite a while, but this season, the calls have gotten even louder and more consistent. Currently, the Packers rank 26th in total defense, and also rank 23rd in total yards given up. Capers made a name for himself by creating defenses that create pressure and cause turnovers, but even those have slipped. This season the Packers rank 17th in interceptions and 16th in sacks. Without the top 10 rankings in sacks and interceptions, the Capers led Packers defense has struggled stopping opposing offenses. Capers’ scheme is dependent on those two things and without either, the scheme and the Packers defense has been ineffective.
During the Packers-Panthers broadcast on Sunday, Fox analyst Troy Aikman pointed out that the Packers defense has struggled all season long with big plays and also struggled with getting players in and out of the game. Capers is known for his complicated schemes that depend on changing personnel on a play-to-play basis. Although the scheme has been ineffective and caused confusion, during the past several weeks the defense has struggled with too many players or not enough players on the field. Capers has refused to adjust. In a league that depends on their coaches adjusting to win games, it seems that Capers’ ego has gotten in the way of winning and is too stubborn to make the proper adjustments.
Ted Thompson Hasn’t Done Dom Capers any Favors
As Jonathan Barnett, host of the Green, Gold, and Bold podcast, pointed out on Facebook after the loss on Sunday, the Packers have talent on the defensive side of the ball with players such as Mike Daniels, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Blake Martinez, Kevin King, Kenny Clark, and Damarious Randall. So the defense’s issues shouldn’t be so dramatic.
However, the talent behind those players, along with the injuries to key players such as Nick Perry, Clay Matthews, and Morgan Burnett, has hurt the Packers defense. When Burnett, King, and most recently Davon House went out with injuries, general manager Ted Thompson chose to promote players from the practice squad, instead of going outside the franchise to help out the Packers’ depleted depth in the Packers secondary.
As Tom Silverstein from JSOnline.com emphasized, while Thompson promoted players such as cornerback Donatello Brown and safety Jermaine Whitehead to help with the injuries, the Kansas City Chiefs signed former All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis to help out their depth, a major difference in philosophy and a major difference in results.
Capers has struggled and in reality, failed, to improve the Packers defense. But Thompson and his “develop within” mantra hasn’t helped him and the Packers defense by any means. It is one thing to do that when you are trying to develop talent for future seasons, but when you have the best quarterback in the NFL and are competing to get back to the Super Bowl, that isn’t going to work. Capers needs to shoulder a good majority of the blame, but Thompson is to blame as well.
Change Needs to Occur to Improve
Head coach Mike McCarthy has been loyal to Capers and the rest of his defensive staff to a fault. It could be that he believes Thompson isn’t getting the right personnel to compete, but everyone knows Thompson isn’t going to change and that he isn’t going anywhere. Like it or not, just like McCarthy is loyal to Capers, team president Mark Murphy is just as loyal to Thompson.
It seems that loyalty is getting in the way of the Packers improving on the defensive side of the ball. Until that changes, Packers fans shouldn’t expect anything different. Unless either Murphy makes a change with Thompson, or McCarthy finally removes Capers from his duties as defensive coordinator, more of Rodgers’ seasons will go to waste. Sadly, the NFL and the people that run the teams in the league have huge egos and in the case of the Packers, those egos are preventing the Packers and Rodgers from getting back to the Super Bowl.