Mike McCarthy has his man.
Dom Capers, who made his name running the Pittsburgh Steelers' defense in the mid-1990s and was the architect of two NFL expansion teams, has been named the Green Bay Packers' defensive coordinator. An NFL source confirmed the news to Packer Report on Monday morning, and a Packers spokesman did the same at 9:15 a.m.
"He's a hell of a coach," one source told Packer Report last week.
Capers, 58, who interviewed with McCarthy on Friday and Saturday, spent last season as a special assistant to Bill Belichick, the New England Patriots' defensive mastermind.
"I have known Dom for a long time and respect him tremendously as a coach, particularly defensively," Belichick said when announcing the hire last year.
There were two overriding questions during McCarthy's search.
The first was whether he'd select an experienced coordinator or one of the up-and-coming assistants. McCarthy, showing he's not threatened by having a proven coach working under him, went with experience, even though the Eagles' touted defensive backs coach, Sean McDermott, became available after Sunday's NFC title game.
The second question was which defensive scheme to run. Two of the men McCarthy interviewed, Gregg Williams and Jim Haslett, favor 4-3 defenses while the others, Mike Nolan and Capers, favor 3-4 schemes. The selection of Capers, however, doesn't mean necessarily mean a transformation to a 3-4, and McCarthy no doubt will discuss his plans when he talks to reporters early this afternoon.
Capers used the 3-4 in Pittsburgh from 1992 through 1994 to great success. His defenses in 1993 and 1994 ranked third and second in yards, the NFL's preferred measuring stick, and those units ranked second, eighth and second in points.
He took that knowledge to Carolina, where he led the Panthers to the NFC championship game at Green Bay in the franchise's second year. His first-year defense ranked a stunning seventh in yards and eighth in points, and the 1996 group ranked second in both categories.
But the Panthers backtracked from there. In 1998, they finished 4-12, with the defense ranking 30th in yards and 27th in points, and Capers was fired.
He landed in Jacksonville, where he ran a 4-3 in 1999 and 2000. In his first season, the Jaguars finished 14-2 behind the NFL's top-ranked scoring defense.
In 2001, he was hired to be head coach of the Houston Texans, who didn't begin play until the following season. The NFL, learning from what they deemed the too-quick success of the last expansion teams, Carolina and Jacksonville, made things harder on the expansion Texans and Cleveland Browns. Adding to Capers' problems, the team used its first-ever draft pick on quarterback David Carr, who turned out to be a major bust. Plus, the team used just one of its first seven selections on defensive players in each of its first two drafts.
From 2002 through 2005, the Texans went just 17-47. Only once did Capers' defenses not rank in the bottom fourth of the NFL. In 2004, the Texans allowed the most points in the league in 2004, costing Capers his job.
Capers was defensive coordinator in Miami in 2006 and 2007, where he matched Williams as the NFL's highest-paid assistant coach. Running coach Nick Saban's hybrid 3-4/4-3, the Dolphins ranked fourth in yards and fifth in points in 2006, but a 1-15 season in which they finished 30th in points allowed led to the entire coaching staff being fired after 2007.
In all, Capers has spent 16 seasons as a coordinator or head coach. Seven times, his defenses ranked in the top 10 in points, but only once this decade.
Capers, who was considered a strong possibility to replace new St. Louis Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo as defensive coordinator with the Giants because he worked under coach Tom Coughlin in Jacksonville, played collegiately at Division III Mount Union. He was a college assistant from 1972 through 1983 before becoming defensive backs coach of the USFL's Philadelphia Stars in 1984. His first NFL job was defensive backs coach for the New Orleans Saints from 1986 through 1991. From there, he made the leap to Pittsburgh's coordinator.
Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Lambeau Level forum.
DC search: Pack goes with Capers
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