Analyzing Dom Capers. A Track Record of Success and Regression
One of the issues discussed on Twitter immediately after the Packers took a dump against the Giants was the track record of defenses coached by Dom Capers. The Twitter chatter focused on the fact that Capers’ defenses generally decline in years two and/or three.
Actually this topic came up before Sunday but now that us Packers bloggers have some extra time on our hands, we can actually look up the numbers and discuss the issue using more than the 140 characters allowed on Twitter.
In the chart below, the numbers represent where the team finished in respect to the rest of the 31 teams.
Let’s take a look:
|Defense||Rushing Def||Passing Def|
- Before Capers arrived, the Steelers’ defense finished 22nd in both yards and points allowed in 1991.
- Capers’ defenses improved every year he was in Pittsburgh. The Steelers finished third in yards allowed and ninth in points allowed in 1995, the season after Capers left. They lost to the Cowboys in the Super Bowl.
- The Panthers were an expansion team in 1995, Capers first year as head coach, so there’s no previous season to measure against. Guiding an expansion team to the NFL’s seventh-best defense is very impressive, however.
- Unfortunately, it was all downhill after year one. Carolina’s defense got worse every season and bottomed out as the worst defense in the NFL in Capers last season as coach.
- Carolina “improved” to 26th in both points and yards allowed in its first season post-Capers. I’m not sure how much of an improvements that is, however, since there was nowhere to go but up.
- Capers took over as defensive coordinator in Jacksonville in 1999 and immediately improved the defense. The Jags went from 25th in yards allowed in 1998 to fourth under Capers. They went from 17th in points allowed to first.
- In 2000, Jacksonville’s defense fell to 12th in yards and 16th in points. The Jags finished 17th and 10th, respectively, without Capers in 2001.
- Capers defenses as head coach in Houston were never that good. By the time Capers was finished, the Texans were near or at the bottom of the league in both yards and points allowed.
- Houston’s defense “improved” in 2006 without Capers, but not that much. It was another one of those “nowhere to go but up” situations like in Carolina.
- Capers and his hair then went back to Florida, this time as defensive coordinator for the Dolphins. The year before Capers, the 2005 Dolphins finished 18th in yards allowed and 15th in points.
- Capers took over in 2006 and immediately improved the defense to fourth and fifth, respectively, before drastically regressing again in the second year.
- Without Capers in 2008, the Dolphins defense improved to 17th in yards allowed and ninth in points.
- The Packers hired Capers in 2009 and saw immediate results. Green Bay went from near the bottom in yards and points allowed to second in yards and seventh in points in Capers’ first year.
- There was no sign of regression in 2010. Capers schemed past numerous injuries and the Packers D finished fifth in yards, second in points allowed and won the Super Bowl.
- Regression hit in 2011. Big time. Despite being healthier than the previous season, Capers’ defense was historically bad.
- Final note on Capers’ time with the Packers: His defenses have been horrible to just good enough in the season’s final game. Horrible in playoff losses to Arizona and the Giants and just good enough to win the Super Bowl against the Steelers.
- Perhaps Capers is like The Wolf in Pulp Fiction. He’s great at coming in and cleaning up messy situations, but maybe he’s not the best solution long-term.
- On the other hand, it’s unfair to stare at all these numbers and judge Capers solely on statistics and league ranking. We’re not factoring in personnel moves, injuries, strength of schedule and other factors that played a role in Capers’ various terms as a defensive coordinator and head coach.
- I’ve heard some people say that Capers’ defenses are outdated and other coaches are easily able to scheme against them once they figure it out. Well, OK. Then why does it seem to always take a year or two for other coaches to catch on to Dom’s defenses? If they were that simplistic, shouldn’t it take less than a year for other coaches to catch on?
- And why does Capers continue to have success with different teams? If he was that easy to figure out, wouldn’t he have been a one-trick pony with Pittsburgh?
- In the Packers’ case, perhaps it’s more of a player development issue. Under Mike McCarthy, offensive players like Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings and Josh Sitton have steadily improved. Defenders like Tramon Williams, B.J. Raji and Sam Shields regressed in 2011.
- Several times this season, we’ve heard McCarthy attribute the struggles on defense to “fundamental errors.” Isn’t it up to Capers to coach up his defenders so they’re fundamentally sound? Or does that fall more on the head coach?
The bottom line:
If Capers was able to coach the injury-plagued 2010 Packers to a Super Bowl title, he’s capable of turning things back around after this disastrous season. Capers has made a career out of cleaning up messes. Unless Ted Thompson’s fires him or another team hires him away, we’ll see just how good Capers is at cleaning up a mess he helped create.