Dom Capers’ name has been thrown around this week as a candidate for coaching awards and even a head coaching position for his work with the Packer’s defense. This praise is almost always attributed to the play on the field, but it’s rare to hear any praise for the moves made by both Dom and Mike in the front office. Namely, the decision to designate their defensive coaches to a more accountable and defining role of specific player coaches.
Until 2009, the Packers had two overall position head coaches for both the secondary and the linebackers. In addition, the Packers also carried an assistant coach for each position.
In the early offseason 2009, the Packers changed that philosophy. And guess what? It’s working.
On February 3rd, 2009 the Packers made three moves that can be attributed to the defensive success just as much as the players in those positions.
The Packers started by promoting Joe Whitt Jr. from defensive quality control to cornerbacks coach, a job title not previously used by the Packers. At the same time, they hired Darren Perry as the safeties coach.
McCarthy and Capers did the same thing with the linebacking crew by hiring outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene and modifying assistant head coach Winston Moss’ description solely to inside linebackers.
These moves not only put the best coaches in the best scenario for them, it also created individual accountability for on the field performance. This was something previously reserved for the position coach as a whole.
How has it panned out so far? Let’s take a look.
When’s the last time you heard yourself knocking Nick Collins? It’s been awhile hasn’t it? That’s what happens when you designate a coach that makes pro-bowlers (Asomugha, Polamalu. Collins). More importantly, when is the last time you heard yourself saying, “Charlie Peprah sucks?” Seriously, did you hear what I said? Charlie Peprah is good now. Not to mention taking a rookie 3rd round draft pick in Burnett and making him serviceable in a few short months.
Much like choosing the right running back for third down, the Packers found the right coach for the right position in Perry.
Joe Whitt Jr.
What hasn’t Joe Whitt Jr. done since he got here? He got a DPOY, made the next great corner in Tramon Williams, replaced a pro-bowler at nickel with a former rookie receiver (Whitt was a wideout as a player and started as a receivers coach), and dare I say that even Jarrett Bush looks pretty good?
A lot of credit, as it should, goes to Charles Woodson for bringing about the younger players. Who should get the credit for bringing around Charles? You bet, Joe Whitt.
Quite a few people give Kevin Greene props just for being Kevin Greene. Conversely, some people, even people with their own sirens, have said that Kevin Greene isn’t all that great. I’ve also heard it from several people that Greene could never start for a modern defense, and outside of his ability to motivate isn’t really all that good as a coach.
Now, I don’t know how the coffee and donuts meetings go at 1265, but I can’t think Kevin Greene can be taking flack for anything right now.
I’ll start with the obvious in Clay Matthews. Although I hate to admit it (I’m sketchy that way) Clay Matthews is a frickin’ monster. Kevin Greene molded that talent. On the other side, he’s down two players already and has now turned a street free-agent in Frank Zombo into serviceable at the very least.
I understand that everyone likes to judge by the numbers and the film, but what Kevin Greene brings in motivation really can’t ever be quantified statistically. It’s invaluable.
Nobody talks at all about the modification of Winston Moss’ job description, but the results clearly speak for themselves. A.J. is on pace to have the best season since being a rookie, and Desmond Bishop has come in and replaced the injured Nick Barnett without a moment of drop-off. Here’s two guys that were ready to be written off in 2009, and Winston Moss has turned both of them into serious free-agent considerations.
Now that I think about it, you suck Winston Moss. We better be able to re-sign these guys.
In addition, who knows what the reduced role has allowed Moss to accomplish in his role as assistant head coach?
To leave all of the notables aside, like I mentioned previously, it all comes down to how people naturally deal with accountability. We see it all the time on the field when guys are benched for fumbling, or penalties. However, you rarely see it in the coaching ranks.
I always laughed when a position performed poorly and the team would fire its head position coach in favor of the assistant. What kind of plan is that to hire the underling of the guy who just messed the whole thing up? When you do that, you end up with a Mike Stock/Shawn Slocum (yes, I know ST’s are playing better. Most likely due the quality second string CB’s Safeties, and LB’s) type situation.
I mean, would you fire Sam Shields just because Tramon Williams had a bad year? The lunacy of it all is obvious.
The Packer’s have now put themselves into a model which prevents this type of thing from ever happening on the defensive side of the ball. Each coach has a specific duty at a specific position on the roster. There’s no fallback, there’s no way to blame anyone else.
When people are held accountable for their work they simply perform better. It’s not rocket science. The Packers know that.
And it’s working.