GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Dom Capers appreciated the support from his players, especially from a veteran like defensive tackle Ryan Pickett, but the Green Bay Packers' defensive coordinator knows that alone won’t fix the problems that have befallen his unit over the past five weeks.
It will take much more than that for the veteran NFL coach to dig the Packers out of the bottom third of the NFL defensive rankings and help them salvage their season. But he has no plans on giving up on this season or any future seasons.
The 63-year-old, two-time former NFL head coach and the Packers' defensive coordinator since 2009 said Friday that he intends to keep coaching beyond this season, and that retirement is not in his foreseeable future despite increased criticism of the team’s defensive performance.
“If you’ve known me for my whole career, I don’t get caught up in a lot of those things because I know you’re going to go through periods like that,” Capers said. “I’ll just tell you, if I didn’t think I could do it as well now as I did 20 years ago, I wouldn’t do it. That’s just me. I’ve got to feel as though I’ve got something to give, and I feel that way. I don’t feel that’s changed one bit.”
But the performance of his defense has. Going into the Week 8 game against the Chicago Bears, the Packers were on the verge of cracking the top 10 in the defensive rankings. They were 11th in total yards allowed per game, and their run defense was fourth after spending the two previous weeks at No. 3.
Then quarterback Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone on the first series against the Bears, and everything changed.
Except Capers doesn’t see it that way, or at least he refused to use it as an excuse for the fact that his defense heads into Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons ranked 24th in total defense, 26th against the run and 22nd against the pass.
“I don’t think that has anything to do with us,” Capers said. “We’ve got to look at ourselves, and we’ve got to take care of our business on defense.”
That starts with the run defense.
After allowing just 474 yards rushing in the first six games combined, the Packers gave up nearly that many in their past two games. The Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions combined to rush for 473 yards against Capers’ defense in Weeks 13 and 14.
“It’s the first area we’ve got to get squared away,” Capers said.
Capers’ staff includes two of his former players, outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene and safeties coach Darren Perry. Both have known Capers for decades. They believed in his system as players, and they still believe in it as coaches.
“Just a few weeks ago, I thought we had a top-10 defense, or at least close to it, and top five against the run,” Greene said. “It’s not like Coach Dom came in and changed the game plan and put a whole new system in, you know what I mean? We’re doing the same things here. It’s not like he’s putting us in just a horrible position that we’re going to fail. Our defense just needs to play together as a unit. When they have the opportunity, they just need to make that play. You need to fit together.”
Despite an array of missed tackles, blown coverages and fundamental breakdowns, Capers said he has seen no signs that players have begun to point fingers. The fact that a veteran like Pickett was emphatic in his support for his coach meant something to Capers.
“As long as you stay strong from within, then you’ve got a chance to pull yourself through the thing, because every team in the league is going to go through tough stretches,” Capers said. “But if you don’t, if you come apart from inside, you really don’t have any chance. So you’ve got to stay confident in what you’re doing. You’ve got to make sure that you point out to guys where we have to get better. Everybody has to accept responsibility. My responsibility is to get this defense better, to get us where we want to be.”
Said Perry: “Have we played up to our level expectations this year? No. We’ve had our moments where we’ve looked good, but we haven’t been consistent enough, but that’s not a reflection on coach Dom. I’ve got nothing but the utmost respect for him. You don’t become a bad coach because of a not-so-good season, and when things don’t go the way it’s planned. We’re always subject to criticism when things don’t go well in this profession. That comes with it, and all of us know that and understand that. That’s part of our profession.”