Green Bay Packers  

 

Packers hire Capers to lead defense, switch to 3-4 scheme

  • By Associated Press
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Mike McCarthy wants to take the Green Bay Packers defense in a new direction, and the coach believes Dom Capers is just the man to lead the renovation project.

McCarthy named Capers as defensive coordinator Monday afternoon and said the team will switch from a 4-3 defense, which utilizes four down linemen and three linebackers, to Capers' specialty, the 3-4 defense, which uses three linemen and four linebackers.

A news conference with Capers is scheduled for Tuesday morning.

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McCarthy said one of the reasons he wants to change the Packers' defensive scheme is the challenges the offensive-minded coach had in trying to game-plan against it.

"From an offensive standpoint, it creates targeting problems," McCarthy said Monday, announcing Capers' hiring after the two reached an agreement in principle Sunday night. "That doesn't mean we won't line up in a four-man front (sometimes). We'll move in and out of both four-man and three-man fronts.

"But it's an excellent run defense (and it) creates pass rush on the quarterback. From an offensive standpoint ... it really cuts the menu of the offense probably in half of what you would normally do (against) a four-man front."

As a 3-4, the Packers will join the Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens, San Francisco 49ers, New England Patriots, Dallas Cowboys, San Diego Chargers and Cleveland Browns, the seven teams (out of the NFL's 32) who ran the scheme as their primary defense in 2008.

The Denver Broncos are also planning to switch to the 3-4 next year under new coach Josh McDaniels, a former Patriots assistant.

The Packers haven't had the 3-4 as their primary defense since 1991, when coordinator Hank Bullough used it under coach Lindy Infante. When Mike Holmgren arrived in 1992, coordinator Ray Rhodes employed both 3-4 and 4-3 schemes, using Tony Bennett as both a defensive end and right outside linebacker. Upon Fritz Shurmur's arrival in 1994, the Packers switched full-time to a true 4-3 defense and have utilized variations of that scheme ever since.

The 58-year-old Capers, the former Carolina Panthers and Houston Texans head coach who spent last season as a special assistant and secondary coach with the Patriots, replaces Bob Sanders, whom McCarthy fired on Jan. 5, along with most of the defensive position coaches.

Capers interviewed with McCarthy on Friday and Saturday, after McCarthy had interviewed ex-49ers coach Mike Nolan, longtime NFL defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and former New Orleans Saints coach and St. Louis Rams interim coach Jim Haslett.

McCarthy wouldn't confirm that Packers assistant head coach/linebackers coach Winston Moss interviewed for the coordinator job, saying only that Moss would return in his same capacity next season.

"I think this will be an excellent pairing, with Dom Capers and Winston Moss on defense," McCarthy said.

McCarthy said one of his top priorities was hiring someone with defensive coordinator experience, and Capers certainly fits that bill, having broken into the NFL coaching ranks in 1986. While McCarthy preferred a 3-4 defense, he said he didn't rule out staying with a 4-3.

"The 3-4 defense was the primary target, (but) I was still open to the 4-3," McCarthy said.

McCarthy would not say whether he offered the job to someone else before hiring Capers, with whom he did not have a prior relationship.

"We really started from scratch on the telephone," McCarthy said.

Capers has built a reputation as one of the league's finest defensive minds, beginning as the Pittsburgh Steelers' defensive coordinator from 1992-94 before becoming the expansion Panthers' first coach in 1995.

After being fired after four years with the Panthers, he spent 1999 and 2000 as the Jacksonville Jaguars' defensive coordinator before another expansion team, the Texans, hired him in 2001.

The Texans fired him following the 2005 season, and Capers spent the next two years in charge of the Miami Dolphins' defense before moving on to the Patriots after the Dolphins' 1-15 season in 2007.

During his four-season tenure with Houston, the Texans ranked 16th, 31st, 23rd and 31st in defense. Capers' Jacksonville defenses ranked fourth (1999) and 12th (2000), his Carolina defenses ranked 23rd (1995), 10th ('96), 15th ('97) and 30th ('98), and his Pittsburgh defenses ranked 13th ('92), third ('93) and second ('94).

Meanwhile, McCarthy said it was a "very difficult decision" to fire eight assistant coaches, including Sanders, earlier this month, and that he "put a lot of time and thought" into the decision.

"Really, what it came down to was, I really didn't feel we were headed in the right direction on the defensive side of the ball," McCarthy said. "It was really an evaluation of the last three years. It was a three-year process. I felt a number of things that occurred in Year 1 showed up again in Year 3."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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