I’ve never taken much of a stand concerning the coaching ability of recently-released defensive coordinator Dom Capers.
But if one looks back over the last several years, isn’t it apparent the Green Bay Packers stayed with Dom several years past his expiration date?
I’m not one who automatically makes judgments about one’s capabilities based solely on age, but when it comes to NFL coaches, it’s a factor to be weighed – a big factor.
Capers was one of the NFL’s most senior coaching staff citizens in 2017. In a career that has spanned over 40 years of coaching – including 32 years with eight NFL teams – he earned a great reputation and proved he once possessed a lot of ability.
He was even a head coach for two teams, the Panthers starting in 1995 and the Texans starting in 2002. Both were new expansion teams, and he lasted four years at each job, compiling losing records at each place. For the past nine years, Capers was Green Bay’s defensive coordinator.
Capers’ age should have been a red flag that his capabilities were likely going downhill. Now at age 67, I doubt he’ll be offered another coaching job in the NFL.
Even if Big Mike McCarthy was too clueless to be watchful for signs of decline in Capers, the loss of productivity of Green Bay’s defenses was a dead giveaway. As has been pointed out many times on this site, from 2009 up to now Packers’ defenses were ranked this way in terms of yardage yielded: 2nd, 5th, 32nd, 11th, 25th, 15th, 15th, 22nd, and 22nd respectively.
I’m not casting blame on Capers, who I imagine did his best. Rather the blame lies with Big Mike, who sat by and watched as the team’s defense operated unacceptably – for a team with Super Bowl aspirations – for seven years running.
Once McCarthy’s time with the Packers has ended, it might be that his failure to replace Capers for all those years will go down as his biggest blunder. CEO Mark Murphy and GM Ted Thompson should also get a generous portion of the blame for their passivity.
To finish out this storyline, I’ve been wondering how many old-timers there have been in the NFL coaching ranks the last few years, and how much success they’ve had. The ones who quickly came to mind:
Tom Coughlin – went 7-9, 6-10, and 6-10 in his last three years coaching the Giants, finishing at age 69 in 2015 (he’s now executive VP for football operations with the Jaguars).
Jeff Fisher – now age 58, he was fired in mid-2016 by the Rams after going 4-9, and with six consecutive losing seasons.
John Fox – was fired after the season at age 62 with three straight losing seasons coaching the Bears.
Dick LaBeau – defensive coordinator for the Titans, turned 80 this season – in his three years there, his defenses have finished 12th, 20th, and 13th this year, in yards yielded.
Other Aging NFL Coaches in 2017
The third-oldest coach in the league was the Cardinals’ Bruce Arians, at age 64. After three straight double-digit-win seasons, he’s gone 7-8-1 and 8-8 the last two years. He retired after the season.
Next up is Detroit’s Jim Caldwell, who is 62, and whose team was stuck in mediocrity, having gone 7-9, 9-7, and 9-7 the past three years. Caldwell was let go on January 1.
After that it’s another NFC North coach, the Minnesota Vikings’ Mike Zimmer, who is 61. Counting John Fox, the NFC North had three of the league’s six oldest coaches in 2017.
The two oldest coaches? The Seahawks’ Pete Carroll – though he acts like a spastic teenager on the sidelines – might be showing some signs of losing his touch at age 65. That other 65-year-old – Bill Belichick – seems to just keep on ticking.