With the Green Bay Packers missing the playoffs for the first time in eight years, many if not all players and fans are upset and rightfully so. When Aaron Rodgers broke his left clavicle back in 2013 against the Chicago Bears, most fans could have given the Packers the benefit of the doubt. It wasn’t just a shock to Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, the NFC North powerhouse was vulnerable at the most important position and other teams looked to take advantage of it. The Packers would have to rely on the run game with Eddie Lacy and James Starks, as well as a defense that hadn’t been solid since 2010. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Sure, back in 2013 the Packers were unprepared for Aaron Rodgers to miss a significant amount of the season (he missed seven total games, not including the game he broke it in) because who could have predicted that? It could have been that none of the backup quarterbacks at the time even expected to play, and so they were unprepared when thrown in. Of course, the Packers’ front office didn’t spend a lot of time scouting backup quarterbacks or using high picks in the draft to acquire a future Rodgers replacement, or did they?
Since acquiring Aaron Rodgers in the 2005 NFL Draft, they have drafted six quarterbacks and only one within the first three rounds:
- Ingle Martin (Round 5, 2006)
- Brian Brohm (Round 2, 2008)
- Matt Flynn (Round 7, 2008)
- B.J. Coleman (Round 7, 2012)
- Brett Hundley (Round 5, 2015)
Between all five of those draft picks, their combined record as starting quarterbacks is 6-10. That is throughout their entire NFL Careers, (so far for Brett Hundley) they have only won 6 NFL games with all of them coming from Brett Hundley and Matt Flynn. Now, is this because Aaron Rodgers has started almost all of the games and that these QB’s have had a limited amount of opportunities? That could be a possibility. The question is why haven’t these quarterbacks produced? Could it be that Ted Thompson isn’t drafting the right guy? Could it be poor coaching along with insufficient playing time? There are a lot of factors that play into the development of a starting quarterback. The fact of the matter is that Matt Flynn and Brett Hundley haven’t shown the team that they have long-term starting capabilities. Being that Matt Flynn is no longer in the league, Brett Hundley still has time to prove himself. Not only to the fans but also to the front office and the coaching staff. For some, Brett Hundley has already proven himself, ex-Packer (and first-round draft pick) Datone Jones called Hundley, “A future Hall-of-Famer”. If the coaching staff hasn’t determined that Brett Hundley is a possible starting candidate in the future, they still have two weeks to evaluate and watch Brett Hundley grow.
So what does the quarterback position have to do with defense? For starters, the quarterback holds the tempo of the game and can change the flow of it entirely. Watching Brett Hundley play as starting quarterback for the Packers was much different than Aaron Rodgers. It’s not that it is obvious that Rodgers is the better quarterback; it is that Rodgers changes the opponent’s defense and how long the Packers’ own defense stays on the field. This season, the Packers’ defense is 30th in opponent third down conversion percentage with 44.75% and in 2016 it was 26th with 43.1%. Not only that, but the Packers’ defense is 21st in points allowed this season where they were 22nd last year, 18th back in 2015 and 2014, and 8th back in 2013. It is safe to say that the Packers’ defense hasn’t gotten progressively worse over the past few years. How could this be?
Let’s start all the way back in 2010. This was the year that the Packers won their most recent Super Bowl. It was expected that with all of the talents on the Packers’ defense between B.J. Raji, Nick Collins, Charles Woodson, Clay Matthews and several others, that the Packers would be able to get the job done and take the Packers to another Super Bowl within the next five or so years. The Packers were Super Bowl favorites years after winning Super Bowl XLV, and with Aaron Rodgers, why shouldn’t they be? The defense just simply hasn’t been getting it done. Out of 63 total draft picks that the Packers have had since they won Super Bowl XLV, 31 of them (49%) have been defensive draft picks. Looking through the drafts, Ted Thompson has had hits and misses. Now, there could be a long list of the 31 players that Thompson has drafted, but the ones that have made a significant positive impact and have either re-signed with the Packers or are having current success with them or another team will be listed instead. In other words, the players that have panned out will be noted through the 2011 draft.
- Davon House (Round 4)
- Nick Perry (Round 1)
- Casey Hayward (Round 2)
- Mike Daniels (Round 4)
- Micah Hyde (Round 5)
- Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (Round 1)
- Damarious Randall (Round 1)
- Jake Ryan (Round 4)
- Kenny Clark (Round 1)
- Blake Martinez (Round 4)
- Kevin King (Round 2)
- Josh Jones (Round 2)
Out of those 31 defensive players that have been drafted since the Packers won Super Bowl XLV, 12 of them have made a significant positive impact at some point or another for the Packers’ defense. Players like Casey Hayward and Micah Hyde have found success elsewhere but nonetheless contributed to Green Bay’s success. With that being said, only 38% of those 31 defensive draft picks have made a significant impact on the Packers’ defense. It is difficult to determine whether or not 38% is a significant number compared to other NFL teams. Nonetheless, one can expect the Packers’ General Manager should have a better draft history due to his “draft and develop” philosophy.
Is it the fault of Dom Capers, or Ted Thompson that the Packers’ defense hasn’t played well in recent years? The answer is simple, it is both of their faults. Don’t get me wrong, Mike McCarthy is not clean either. The breakdown of his failures or successes is a story for another time. Also, the offense is not completely clean. But if you ask any Packer fan, the burden of the Packers’ struggles falls on the defense. Just for the sake of fairness, let’s say that a 38% success rate on the defensive side of the draft is a good one and that GM Ted Thompson has done his job well. Let’s also say that due to Ted Thompson’s success in the draft, that Dom Capers has had what he needs to run a successful 3-4 defensive scheme. This would mean that the Packers’ defensive woes fall completely on Dom Capers. If Ted Thompson is a successful General Manager, why has the Packers’ defense in recent years (including this year) been so bad?
This could indicate two things. First, that 3-4 defensive scheme that the Packers run on defense is outdated and it can be exposed easily. This very well could be true. Back when Dick Lebeau and Dom Capers created the 3-4 zone blitzing defense, it was effective, and remained the schemes of both the Packers and the Steelers, when they played against each other in Super Bowl XLV. And second, it could be that Dom Capers is not the defensive coordinator he used to be, and is simply out of touch with reality. Players are constantly running around pre-snap and can’t seem to line up correctly. Whether it be ten or twelve men on the field, lining up incorrectly, or just simple confusion, something isn’t clicking. That could be and most likely is Dom Capers’ fault. The Packers might just have to move on from Dom Capers, and Packerland thinks so too:
- Time to Fire Dom Capers after Green Bay Packers’ defense quits
- Green Bay Packers: Is this the season to fire Dom Capers?
- Is it time to part ways with Dom Capers?
- Should Dom Capers be on the hot seat?
- Why didn’t McCarthy fire Dom Capers?
- Dom Capers: Is the Green Bay Packers’ defensive coordinator to blame?
The list could go on and on, but to top it all off, there is even a petition floating around to have Dom Capers fired. So should Dom Capers be let go, and should the Packers look for another defensive coordinator? The answer is that there is no reason at this point for the Packers to keep Dom Capers. Why would they? As pointed out earlier in the article, the evidence is all there. Capers’ defense has played poor the past several years and it is time for a change.
All of that was based off the speculation that Ted Thompson’s draft choices have been stellar. There is evidence to show that Ted Thompson has had success with his draft-and-develop philosophy, but to what extent? Sure, on offense he has had obvious success with Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, David Bakhtiari, and Bryan Bulaga, just to name a few. So does this mean that Ted Thompson is better at drafting or finding offensive players than defensive players? That is also a story for another time. The Packers’ defensive struggles could be that Dom Capers does not have the right players to be successful. It could be that Ted Thompson isn’t giving Capers what he needs. Thompson has for the most part drafted offensive and defensive players evenly throughout his time in Green Bay. His knack for drafting offensive players is clearly better than defensive ones. So should Thompson be let go? There is a case to be made for that, but there isn’t enough evidence. Here’s why: Thompson’s offensive drafts since 2005 have been near excellent. He drafted Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Davante Adams, Bryan Bulaga, Corey Linsley, the list goes on and on. Packers fans should be happy with the way Ted Thompson has drafted on the offensive side of the ball. On defense, Thompson hasn’t had as much success. It is almost as if every other year Thompson finds a solid defensive player in the draft. With the way that injuries are piling up for the Packers, Thompson either has to have better drafts or dip into free agency (which he did do more so last offseason).
When it is all said and done, what is most likely to happen at this point in the Packers’ organization is that Dom Capers and Ted Thompson will stay. If one of them is going to go it would be Dom Capers. Mike McCarthy has hinted at early evaluations of all of the coaches, allowing him (McCarthy) more time to think things over. Nobody is perfect, especially Dom Capers and Ted Thompson. The front office could look the same going into next season. Only time will tell.