Capers Not Obsessing Over Pistol, Read-Option

Green Bay's season was shot full of holes when Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers essentially rolled out a new offensive philosophy in the playoffs. The Packers have done their homework during the offseason but practices haven't been dedicated to defending the latest fad.

Dom Capers is working on stopping the pistol and read-option attacks that have shaken up the professional game so drastically.

It's safe to say, however, that the Green Bay Packers' venerable defensive coordinator isn't stressing too much on the latest fad.

"No," Capers said with a chuckle. "It's funny how things work. I've gone through a lot of different cycles over 28 years. When I first came into the league, I can remember sitting through a meeting and I made the statement, ‘We can't do that,' because I had been at Ohio State and played against Oklahoma, and Tennessee playing against ‘The Bear' at Alabama and he was running the wishbone and all of that stuff. Those guys said, ‘You don't have to worry about that anymore.' Well, if you stay in the league long enough, it comes full circle. It is interesting, OK, with the number of young quarterbacks that are good athletes."

It's not as if Capers' head is in the sand.

The coaching staff went to Texas A&M this past winter to learn some of the nuances of the college game, which has been the incubator for the pistol and read option. University of Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, who lined up against college football's premier pistol team, Nevada, while at Utah State, paid a visit to 1265 Lombardi Ave., with the coaches picking each others' brains.

As Capers installs his playbook, he's had the "look" team running some pistol and read-option. It's just not as much as you might have guessed, considering the way Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers' pistol shot the Packers' defense full of holes.

"We're mixing some in. Obviously, the first two teams we open up with (run it)," Capers said of opening games against San Francisco and Washington. "Any time your first two games people are doing it, you're going to work it in. I'm sure that a lot of teams will have a certain element of it in their game."

Capers was harshly criticized following the playoff loss, and there was speculation he would be handed his walking papers after Kaepernick piled up 444 total yards and four touchdowns in the 45-31 thrashing.

The Packers didn't face a pistol/option team all season until the playoffs. Thus, with limited practice time available every week, the Packers didn't work against it until the week of the San Francisco playoff game.

With that said, nobody could have predicted what unfolded.

San Francisco ran a combined total of seven pistol plays in the final two games of the regular season and merely 70 snaps the entire regular season, according to's Bucky Brooks. It ran the read-option 26 times in the regular season. Then came the playoffs, when the 49ers used the pistol on 34-of-75 snaps against Green Bay and 28-of-51 against Atlanta in the NFC title game. The Niners ran the read-option 29 times in those games.

"Really, the Redskins did more than the 49ers last year," Capers said. "The 49ers just kind of fell into it in the playoffs. The Redskins did a lot more of it. So, I don't know how much they'll do now (with Robert Griffin III"s knee injury) but they certainly did a lot of it last year."

Whether the pistol and read-opiton are fads or will be effective over the long haul remains to be seen. Capers, however, said there's nothing magical about stopping them.

"I just think working on it and guys getting a feel for it," he said. "If guys are doing that and the quarterback's running, you just can't pin your ears back and rush the passer, like a lot of guys get paid to do in this league. You have to reel that in a little bit."

Capers will put more of an emphasis on the pistol and read-option once training camp starts. Even then, it won't be an obsession. Not with Cincinnati's Andy Dalton, Detroit's Matthew Stafford and Baltimore's Joe Flacco — all passing quarterbacks — highlighting the next three games, and no running threats at quarterback until possibly facing Michael Vick of Philadelphia in Week 10.

"You've just got to look and see what fits into what you're doing," Capers said of studying the college game. "I don't think you can go crazy on it because we're going to play a lot more games than just that. If that was the case, you'd sit there and just work on the doggone pistol but people throw the ball a lot better up here than they do at some places in college. The time you start saying, ‘Well, we can take care of that run,' OK, that ball's going down the field."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at

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