One thing is for certain entering the Green Bay Packers' 2009 season: Another aspect of the old team that the players and fans knew and loved is gone for good.
The team that already lost so many recognizable players now has a new defensive coaching staff and an unfamiliar defensive system. The adage that “change is good” must be bronzed all over the hallways of 1265 Lombardi Avenue.
With the setback of the 2008 season still lingering, this week Packers head coach Mike McCarthy continued to execute GM Ted Thompson’s plan of completely reshaping the Packers into an image that hardcore fans won’t easily recognize.
Ex-head coach Dom Capers will be calling the defensive plays when the 2009 season begins. Luckily, Dom is not just any average replacement for the recently fired Bob Sanders, but rather a coach who loves the game of football and has a well-respected reputation.
Most Packer fans remember Dom from the 1996 NFC Championship game against the Carolina Panthers before Super Bowl XXI. Add in five years of head coaching in Houston and the Packers have acquired an experienced and well-regarded defensive coordinator who is confident in running a system he helped to perfect in Pittsburgh.
"Dom is real serious. He likes to focus every day on football. He dreams about it. He's a guy that is meticulous with detail," said ex-Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher of Capers. "He's a very even-keel guy. Attention to detail is his greatest strength. He is unbelievably prepared.”
Any off-the-field transitional difficulties from the Packers' existing 4-3 system into the new 3-4 format should be minimized because Capers instructs veterans and rookies alike on technique. Fans can expect a more blitz-orientated, attacking style of play to replace Sander’s run-stopping focused defense.
Capers improved the Miami Dolphins defense in 2006 from 23rd to fourth in the NFL. Jason Taylor earned NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors as well. Can anyone else envision Aaron Kampman as Player of the Year in 2009? I can.
"I know Aaron Kampman has been a very good football player and has had a lot of production," Capers said. "I think the No. 1 thing you do is you try to adapt what you are doing to your good football players. If a guy is a good football player, we're going to find a way to use him."
What does Capers' hiring mean for McCarthy? Will Dom be looking over Little Mac’s shoulder during meetings and game time situations? Only time will tell. Dom can certainly contribute immediately and place extra pressure on McCarthy to achieve better results than those of the 2008 season.
While the coaches have not worked together, they have battled each other across the field. My opinion is that the battle has only begun for ‘09, but this time it is on the same sideline for the head coaching position.
Capers' recent success on his resume made him a strong candidate for a coaching position in Dallas and New York. If McCarthy struggles early and often in the 2009 campaign, Dom will be waiting in the wings to potentially assume control of one of the most respected organizations and most storied franchises in the NFL.