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The Green Bay Packers have hired former head coach Dom Capers to be their new Defensive Coordinator. Packer Head Coach Mike McCarthy now has the veteran coach that he felt he needed to turn his defense around form a very poor showing in 2008.
"His vision of playing defense and my vision of how we're going to go forward in Green Bay, I'm going to say I think is why he is an outstanding fit for our organization," said McCarthy. McCarthy also said, "I wanted someone that had experience. The 3-4 defense was the primary target."Many people in and around the NFL thought that Capers was headed to New York to rejoin his old boss, Tom Coughlin and take the Defensive Coordinator position vacated by Steve Spagnuolo when he became the Head Coach of the St. Louis Rams. Reportedly, the Dallas Cowboys were also interested in hiring Capers.
McCarthy had to move fast with Capers. Before hiring him, McCarthy and the Packers interviewed former San Francisco 49ers Head Coach Mike Nolan, former Jacksonville Jaguars Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams and former St. Louis Rams Defensive Coordinator and Interim Coach Jim Haslett. Nolan took the Defensive Coordinator job with the Denver Broncos while Williams assumed the same position with the New Orleans Saints making McCarthy’s first two options unavailable. Haslett is still available.
Capers started his professional football coaching career in the now defunct USFL. After moving over to the National Football League with the New Orleans Saints, he became the Defensive Coordinator of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1992. He was instrumental in that team’s appearance in the 1994 AFC title game (sorry to mention that game, Steeler fans). The Pittsburgh team that he helped to build with Bill Cowher did eventually go on to win a Super Bowl.
In 1995, Capers became the Head Coach of the NFC expansion Carolina Panthers. His innovative use of zone blitz packages helped lead that team to the NFC title game after the 1996 season. Ironically, a game in which they lost to the Green Bay Packers 30-13.
After being fired by the Panthers after a 4-12 season in 1998, Capers became the Defensive Coordinator of the Jacksonville Jaguars. He remained at the position until becoming the Head Coach of the AFC expansion Houston Texans.
After being fired by the Texans after a dismal 2-14 record in 2005, Capers became the Defensive Coordinator/Asst Head Coach for the Miami Dolphins.
In 2008, Miami purged their coaching staff and Capers found a job with the New England Patriots as their Secondary Coach. It is said that there was friction between Capers and New England Head Coach/Demi-god Bill Belichick.
Never known for his offensive prowess, TV announcers have been able to predict his offensive calls, Capers is known for his abilities as a defensive coach. In three seasons in Pittsburgh, his defense ranked 13th, 3rd, and 2nd. In Carolina, they ranked 10th, 15th and 30th. In Jacksonville, they ranked 4th and 12th and in Miami they ranked 4th and 23rd. Greg Bedard of the Milwaukee Journal-Setinel has a nice comparison showing Capers' capabilities as a DC.
Capers started his defensive career in the 3-4 system. The same system that has seen much success in recent years with teams such as Pittsburgh and Baltimore. Even though Green Bay has been running the 4-3 defense since time immemorial and they do not have the personnel to run a 3-4 defense, it looks like the Packers will definitely be pursuing the 3-4 defense.
McCarthy stated in his press conference, "Our starting point will be the 3-4. I'm a big believer in the 3-4 defense for a number of different reasons. From an offensive standpoint, I think it creates targeting problems. It gives you the ability to utilize your personnel, the flexibility now. You want to put staples on 3-4, that doesn't mean we won't line up in a four-man front. We'll move in and out of both four-man and three-man fronts. But it's an opportunity, it's an excellent run defense, creates pass rush on the quarterback..." He went on to add, "From a personnel standpoint, I'm in favor of the 3-4 because it's the body type that I think will enhance the type of football we want to play here in Green Bay, particularly in November and December."
It should be interesting as they are missing the large two-gap tackle the scheme requires. Of the tackles that they have, only Ryan Pickett and the oft-injured Justin Harrell are suitable for defensive end in the new alignment. They do not have anybody big enough and fluid enough to play outside linebacker in the 3-4 (unless they can convert Aaron Kampman. The linebackers that they currently have do not have the size to play inside in the 3-4 or the speed to play outside. The Packers will be relying on the creativeness of Dom Capers and the athleticism of guys like Cullen Jenkins, Kampman, Nick Barnett, AJ Hawk, and Brandon Chillar to make a hybrid scheme work.
McCarthy is of the belief that the 3-4 will work with many of the current Green Bay personnel, "I think Aaron Kampman and Cullen Jenkins will be excited about their roles in this defense. It's an impressive system that utilizes the talents of its players. That's really the bottom line. It's about utilizing your players, and this is a system that we will institute."
Sources: www.jsonline.com , www.packers.com , www.pro-football-reference.com , www.wikipedia.com