Posted by Mike Wendt on February 1, 2011 Jump To Comments
The great Bear Bryant once said, “offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships”. Although the Packers have never had trouble selling tickets, the old adage rings true once again this year as Super Bowl XVL pits two of the best defenses in the game against one another. The Steelers have won two rings in the last six years thanks in large part to their defense, which has always been strong point for the Steelers. The Packers on the other hand have had some shaky defensive squads since our last Super Bowl berth following the 97-98 season. But over the last two seasons, the Packers have seen a huge improvement on the defensive side of the ball thanks in large part to Dom Capers and his adjustment to the 3-4 defensive scheme.
Capers took an interesting road to get to where he is today. He began in the USFL, but then became an assistant coach for the New Orleans Saints. In 1992, Campers was named the defensive coordinator of the Pittsburgh Steelers, a post he held for three years before accepting the job as the head coach of the expansion Carolina Panthers in 1995. The Packers thwarted Capers’ attempt to reach the Super Bowl in the 1996 season, defeating the Panthers in the NFC championship game. Following a few underachieving seasons, Capers was let go by the Panthers. He then had stints with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans before being hired as the defensive coordinator in Miami. He was fired in 2008, and took job with the Patriots as a secondary/special assistant, but Capers knew he was best suited to be a defensive coordinator.
The Packers fired then defensive coordinator Bob Sanders following the 2008 season, and Capers was eager to apply for the job. If given the job, Capers was ready to transition the Packers into a 3-4 defensive scheme (three linemen, four linebackers). Before Capers, the Packers ran a 4-3 defense because guys like Aaron Kampman and KGB offered great speed rush from the edge. Although they had speed at defensive end, the Packers were under-utilizing their talent at the linebacker position.
The Packers hired Capers in January of 2009, and the transition got underway. April’s draft saw the Packers draft BJ Raji #9 overall, and move up to get Clay Matthews (who should have been the AP Defensive Player of the Year this year, but that’s a story for another day). Clearly the Packers were set on gathering the pieces to put the 3-4 defense in motion.
The 3-4 defense requires a dominating nose tackle that commands double teams so that defensive ends and linebackers can mix and match all sorts of different blitz packages. It also requires speedy outside linebackers who can bring pressure during blitzes and keep up with tight ends and slot receivers during different offensive packages. The Packers had the right players for the 3-4 scheme, only time would tell if the change would pay off. You’re supposed to give a defensive coordinator one year to implement his system before ragging on him, but the Packers saw improved results the first year in the new scheme. Green Bay’s defensive ranking in Capers’ first year improved to second in the league in 2009, from 21st in the league in 2008.
Even though injuries plagued the Packers’ linebacking core this season, the scheme was imprinted on the defense, and new players stepped up time and time again. Sunday will mark the first time Capers will coach a defense on the world’s biggest stage. Expect a Dom-inating performance.
Thoughts on the 3-4? Drop me a line at email@example.com