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Mike Pettine Bringing Accountability to Packers' Defense

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Mike Pettine Bringing Accountability to Packers' Defense

One of the biggest storylines in the immediate aftermath of the 2017 season, right before the firing of Dom Capers and the transition of Ted Thompson to a new role, was multiple players on the Packers' defense citing a lack of accountability for their play.

In an early January piece by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Tom Silverstein and Michael Cohen, "several players" said there was minimal accountability on the defensive side of the ball for poor play. This had long been suspected by the anti-Capers contingent of Packers fans, who felt his firing was long overdue. 

Damarious Randall was quoted as saying, "Players weren't executing what they were being told, and I feel like maybe (that) wasn't being enforced enough, that we were still allowing guys on the field that wasn't [sic] getting the job done. That being said, it's probably why we'll see some changes and hopefully change is good."

Ironically, Randall is no longer on the team, and will be playing safety in Cleveland next year.

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix added the following regarding a lack of veteran depth hurting the team:

"We go from our starters to basically free-agent players. Sometimes that can hurt us as we've seen through the years that I've been here, that we don't have the guys behind us that we had. Jarrett Bush here when I was a rookie. We don't have the Micah Hydes that can step in, we don't have the Chris Banjos or the Sean Richardsons that can step in and be held accountable. I think that's the biggest thing we're missing."

Clearly, there were at least some feelings among important Packers defenders in the aftermath of the 2017 season that the team needed a defensive coach who would do more to hold his players accountable.

Enter Mike Pettine.

A PackersNews report by Stu Courtney and Ryan Wood from Monday described how Pettine "chewed out" the defense over what he referred to as "sloppy mistakes." These sloppy mistakes were a hallmark of the Capers years, but especially in the last two to three years as that veteran leadership, especially in the secondary, started to be sorely lacking.

These paragraphs from the report tell you everything you need to know about the difference in approach between Capers and Pettine:

"Capers, a quiet, analytical mind, was always calm through nine seasons orchestrating the Packers' defense. If something was amiss, defensive tackle Kenny Clark said, Capers often relied on his veteran leadership to address teammates.

Pettine, with his bald head, dark shades and 'blunt force trauma' nickname, has an intensity that matches his demeanor. He also has a reputation for not shying from confrontation when warranted."

Clark said he couldn't imagine Capers stopping a drill to light up his players.

While one approach is not automatically better than the others, it certainly seems that Capers' style (in addition to his scheme) was no longer effective in Green Bay. When players begin publicly expressing that there's a lack of accountability, that falls on the coaching staff. 

We're a long way away from seeing whether Pettine will be able to revive a Packers defense that does have quite a bit of talent on it. But if OTAs are any indication, it doesn't seem accountability will be an issue in 2018.

 

__________________________

Tim Backes is a lifelong Packer fan and a contributor to CheeseheadTV. Follow him on Twitter @timbackes for his Packer takes, random musings and Untappd beer check-ins.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (37) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

TheVOR's picture

Ya, I prefer the Pettine Coaching style. It's about time this defense and it's players start showing a freekin "pulse". I love reading this stuff, it's been sorely lacking in that tired Capers scheme.. Can't wait to see this defense. My biggest concerns are around are our players tough enough physically to endure the riggers of the season, with 2/3 of the defense on IR by week 14... We'll see. We're do to have a huge jump in rankings this season, after some pretty mediocre outings under Capers. If this defense is even in the top 10, we're going to contend.

DD's picture

I agree with you. Our defense is the key this year. I feel and am very excited to see the new energy. Now, let's hope MM can revitalize his predictable, no scheme offense. If we see the same ole stuff out of MM I'll go wild.

Bedrock's picture

Capers system relied on veteran leadership. TT relied on youth. It was a poor pairing. Neither inherently wrong...

Pettine and Gute...so far, so good.

4EVER's picture

Compelling...on both management/coaching trees...thumbs up.

Lare's picture

While I'm admittedly a McCarthy supporter (so far), I have to ask why Capers is getting the blame here. It should't be up to the defensive coordinator to dictate who plays and who doesn't, that should be up to the Head Coach. Same for accountability.

IMO, if players weren't being held accountable for their mistakes, poor play or their attitudes, the blame should fall on McCarthy, not Capers.

DD's picture

Agree 100%. You long holding on with no results and very poor performance by the defense.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

I disagree. The decision as to who plays on defense was on Capers. I don't think a HC whose background was as an offensive coordinator really handles the defense, calls the plays or determines the personnel for each sub-package. The DC probably should be the one holding defensive players accountable for the most part.

If this isn't true, then do any of these articles about how Pettine is going to improve the defense have any meaning?

marpag1's picture

Totally agree, TGR. More than that, I think most fans are usually guilty of wishful thinking when they imagine that everything would have been so much better if only that ol' stick in the mud Capers had put some other player on the field. Either that, or those fans simply don't have their facts straight.

For example, I keep hearing people say how Reggie Gilbert is a world-beater, and why the heck did that accursed Dom Capers not put him on the field?!??!? Um........ maybe it's because Reggie Gilbert WASN'T EVEN ON THE ACTIVE ROSTER until the last two games of the season? Does Dom Capers sign people to the active roster?

Furthermore, during the two games when Gilbert was available, Capers played Gilbert 46 out of 65 snaps vs. Minnesota, and 40 out of 59 snaps vs. Detroit. His total of 86 snaps in two games is hugely MORE than any other OLB on the team. (Fackrell was second with only 62).

So who are these slam-dunk improvements who were wasting away on the bench because Dom "Lucifer" Capers stupidly refused to play them? Donatello Brown instead of Damarius Randall? Post-surgery Vince Biegel? Quinton Dial? Jermaine Whitehead? Chris Odom, maybe?

HankScorpio's picture

It's interesting that you raise the point about Gilbert being on the active roster for only the final 2 games. It is an entirely reasonable assumption to say that signing Ahmad Brooks is what cost Gilbert a roster spot. Using 20/20 hindsight, that looks like a mistake as we sit here on the anniversary of D-Day, 74 years later.

So signing vet help is not some kind of magic elixir. Sometimes it is the wrong move. It always boils down to comparing individual players.

marpag1's picture

Agreed. It might also explain why the Packers didn't feel pressured to draft an OLB early. It seems pretty clear that they are high on Gilbert. MM pretty much gushed about him a while back.

To be fair, though, Gilbert was on the Packer PS, and we have to wonder if the coaching staff/front office made a mistake by not bringing him up sooner than they did.

Rak47's picture

Actually the defensive coordinator has a big say in who he wants up on game day. Gilbert never got the shot til late in the season and produced when called upon. Capers played Casey Heyward out of position in the slot as well as Jarrett Bush at CB where Bush couldn't track the ball for beans, Capers wouldn't let Desmond Bishop sniff the field until he was forced to due to injury and we all saw what Bishop could do.Capers also loved to play Hyde at CB where he was not nearly as effective as safety,hence his trip to the pro bowl and top 100 ranking in Buffalo. And the list actually goes on with Capers ineptitude. I do blame McCarthy for keeping Capers around 3-4 years too long though.

stockholder's picture

TT gave Capers the talent. Capers failed to develop them. Remember Randall was traded. Hayward Was let go. And so were others. HAWK what happened? Datone Jones. Peppers , etc. Seems to me it's not about accountability, but development. Something Petine better be able to do. He must stop the revolving Door.

DD's picture

Development? Okay, but why weren't they developed then? Who's in charge of the team on the field and coaches motivation? Oh, it's the head coach. So develop? How'd that work out with Hundley? Think I've answered that question. We'll find out. Only thing that hasn't changed is is the head coach. So excuses now, none!

stockholder's picture

True - if you look at Hundley . But the drafts over the years have been defense. Too much blame to go around. MM only makes changes when it's obvious. MM is still judged on wins and loses. As long as he wins, he can blow anything off. It became obvious Hundley was not going to produce like in best preseason. Remember we had Flynn. And look what happened there. Still MM can't coach every player.

croatpackfan's picture

Oh, do not start with that crap regarding Hayward and Hyde!

You were first who wanted both out of Packers "because they are slow, often injured and lack of talent!"

Now you turn your coat. But if nobody else, I remember!

Oppy's picture

Off topic: What ever happened to FITZCORE?

Bearmeat's picture

Dunno. I miss that guy. I know that he and Behnke were buddies. They went to several games together.

Oppy's picture

I don't really have an opinion positive or negative on him, but he was a frequent poster and for whatever reason I just realized he's been MIA for a long time.

DD's picture

One question on Capers? Who was in charge of him? MM. Done.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

All I have to say is no matter where the fault lays, I am glad the combination of Capers and Thompson is finally over.

Lphill's picture

I remember Kevin Greene always being animated on the sidelines that motivated the players let's hope it works for Pettine , I think it will .

Since '61's picture

I posted for years that the Packers defense lacked a sense of urgency and a nasty attitude. Poor tackling, players out of position, poor technique, no leadership, etc. I was one who wanted Capers gone since the 2013 season. Finally he is gone.

Now it is up to Pettine to inject some nasty and a sense of urgency into the defense. Add some better tackling and a better pass rush and we'll see an improved defense in 2018.

As for MM, I have been and remain a supporter. However, I have to wonder how long would Capers be around if the players didn't speak up about the lack of accountability. While I realize that current HCs cannot be on top of everything any longer (ala Lombardi), but what was MM watching during the games? If we as fans could see the defense was not performing how could he not see that change was necessary at least 2-3 seasons ago. Where was MMs accountability with Capers? What was going on in all of these alleged self-scouting sessions? We'll probably never know.

In any case, it's time to move forward with Pettine and look forward to the Packers actually playing defense in 2018. Time will tell. Thanks, Since '61

fthisJack's picture

it always bothered me that Capers was up in the booth away from the players. i want a DC that's on the sidelines kickin' azz and taking names....i think we have that with Pettine.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

From what I've read him being on the sideline wouldn't have changed anything.

Tarynfor12's picture

" While I realize that current HCs cannot be on top of everything any longer (ala Lombardi), but what was MM watching during the games?"

More than this, what was he seeing during all the film study of the game played and how it correlates to the preparation for the next.

Since '61's picture

Taryn - I agree. I wonder if MM delegated everything to Capers without paying attention to the defensive details or he assumed that Capers was handling it. Maybe MM has been focused on the offensive/QB game plan meetings and letting Capers handle the defense. I have no way to explain what or why Capers lasted so long or what MM has been doing about the defense. Fortunately we are finally moving forward, I think. Thanks, Since '61

Handsback's picture

One thing to consider is the Packers late round pick, Looney. Pettine wants penetrators and that kid can do it.
He'll learn this year but next could be a difference maker in the rotation.

LambeauPlain's picture

A few years ago MM announced he was going to spend equal amount of his time with the O, D and STs.

The D did improve...that was the year MM moved CMII to ILB for many plays...so did the STs.

But the O had its struggles by year end and after slow start on O the next season MM went back to the O for most of his time and the D went back to being inept and losing games, even as the team made the NFC championship game but got destroyed by Atlanta.

I think MM has handed the keys of the D to Pettine. MM will invest most of his time with Philbin and the O, IMO.

Johnblood27's picture

This defense has lacked LEADERSHIP.

If Capers relied on veterans to implement accountability, that didnt happen. eg NO LEADERSHIP.

Daniels just gets tuned out by the players, all bark little bite.

Matthews is not a vocal leader and with his frequent absences (see Seattle 2014 Q4) he lacks the pop or desire to be a leader. See his lack of depth comment this year, leaders dont say those things except behind closed doors to the right people.

Burnett? Senor Milquetoast. nuff said.

Where's it gonna come from this year?
Alexander? all swagger, lets see performance.
Wilkerson? new kid on the block.
HHCD? He better pull up his big boy pants and make a hit and some plays.
Martinez? doesnt seem the type.
Clark? in Daniels shadow still.
King? maybe
TWilliams? good chance, will he be on the field much by mid-season?
Jones? learn a position and perform first.
Jackson? rookie, nuff said.

Pettine takes the mantle until an on-field leader steps forward. He has to be the parent on this defense until one of the kids grows up enough to babysit the rest of the brood.

Someone has to want to win more than anything. Right now that's just the coach. He is the only one with his job on the line by W-L.

Lare's picture

The logical leader would seem to be Martinez. He's already calling the plays, and he definitely showed last year that he can lead by example (he had twice as many tackles as almost every other player on the defense).

Your leaders don't always need to be the ones yelling & screaming and pumping their chests every time they make a play. Just consistently being on the field and doing your job well gets more respect from your teammates than anything.

Johnblood27's picture

Right Lare, if vocals alone got it done, Daniels would be firmly entrenched.

I am talking about someone that can gain and hold the respect of his teammates and call them out when need be.

Not necessarily yelling or threatening. Just a word or two when needed. Maybe call a position group or defense only meeting to get mindsets right.

That kind of caring about performance and the chops to make it work in the locker room and on the field.

4thand1's picture

Packer practice, whistle blows................WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON OUT HERE !!! ? EVERYBODY'S GRABBING, NOBODY'S TACKLING, GRAB GRAB GRAB. This defense needed a kick in the ass, looks like it is getting it. A good coach gets the best out of his players. Vince was rolling over in his grave watching these guys going through the motions.

4EVER's picture

Thumps up...

HankScorpio's picture

Defense is all about fundamentals and desire. My favorite Packer DC from the past two decades is Jim Bates. He kept things simple in the film room and intense on the practice field.

What I'm reading about Pettine sounds a lot like that. I hope that shows up on the field this fall. If it does, I think they have plenty of talent to get it done on defense.

PAPackerbacker's picture

Holding players accountable for their performance is what will make this defense better. Pointing out mistakes so players can learn and develop from them is better than hoping the veteran players can take up the slack. Pettine will bring out the best in everyone, including the veterans. Lighting a fire under their butts will keep competition at a high level and force each player to play to their potential. It's what a coach is supposed to do.

BradHTX's picture

Here's the thing about "holding players accountable." Words mean things. Accountability isn't really accountability unless there are consequences involved.

A lot has been made of the lack of accountability when players screwed up in previous years under DC. Well, what exactly is "holding them accountable"? Yelling at them? Easy to tune out after a while. Docking their salary for mistakes? I think the NFLPA might have something to say about that.

That leaves only one thing: benching them. And for that, you need to have someone else to play in their place. I think we saw how well that worked last year, especially when the offender is in a position group ravaged by injuries. Bench the underperforming vet and what, play a UDFA scrub in his place who may lose you the game?

I actually think that with the ascension of BG to the throne, there will be more of a veteran presence behind the staters, making accountability through benching more feasible.

Chuck Farley's picture

My two cents, you get top d people it makes your job easier. you get bums or just so so guys, your limited. Capers was limited imo. Datone Jones, worthy, Perry injuries, Mathews injuries. It hasn't been pretty. Our 5`10 d backs covering 6`6 Calvin johnson types, poor tacklers, div ia talent. Undrateds galore. Gee and were wondering why the lack of success for capers.

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