The Packers fired defensive coordinator Dom Capers on Sunday night following the 35-11 loss in Detroit that concluded a 7-9 season, ESPN's Rob Demovsky tweeted Monday. Demovsky reports that additional changes to Mike McCarthy's staff are expected.
But the biggest move will be Capers, the club's defensive coordinator since 2009, whose unit again finished near the bottom of the league in yards (22nd), points allowed (26th) and third down 'D' (28th).
Since Capers' arrival nine seasons ago, the Packers have finished in the top 10 in either points or total yards allowed twice — his first two years — and ranked in the bottom-10 in either or both categories four times.
The futility, paired with the brilliant consistency of Aaron Rodgers' offense, made Capers a popular target among Packers fans for the better part of his tenure, since the lone Super Bowl title under McCarthy following the 2010 campaign.
Capers' complex 3-4 'D,' which relies heavily on press-man coverage and an exotic and voluminous blitz package, was difficult for Ted Thompson's young defensive draft picks to quickly assimilate into. That fact naturally created a chasm, as Thompson's strong preference for drafting and developing over enlisting veteran reinforcements contributed to an annually underachieving unit.
So too did injuries. Capers finished this season with a trio of undrafted rookie corners logging heavy minutes over the final month, when top pick Kevin King and 2015 first- and second-rounders Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins were on injured reserve. It may have felt like deja vu after Capers' secondary was routinely exposed last season following the Week One season-ending concussion to Sam Shields. That prompted undrafted rookie LaDarius Gunter, not the struggling Randall and Rollins, to assume No. 1 corner responsibilities for which he was wholly unequipped, including traveling with Dez Bryant and Julio Jones last January.
But Thompson has hit on a few picks over the past couple of years, including sophomore DL Kenny Clark and Dean Lowry and ILB Blake Martinez, all of whom enjoyed strong individual seasons and should help with the attractiveness of the Packers' first defensive-coordinator vacancy in nearly a decade.
Of course, the presence of Rodgers and an offense expected to again enjoy enviable continuity for one of the NFL's most storied franchises further adds to the opening's appeal. Rodgers' ability to mask the team's other shortcomings means the 'D' doesn't have to be elite, just adequate.
But without the cologne of Rodgers for Capers' 'D' this season, the Packers' first ending without a playoff berth since 2008, McCarthy ultimately decided it's time to expect more from this perpetually underperforming unit.
One name to keep an eye on as a potential replacement for Capers: Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. He's likely on the way out of Chicago following the firing of John Fox and is one of the game's most respected defensive teachers. Fangio, whose name has been floated in connection with the Packers in recent weeks, has overseen an impressive turnaround defensively in Chicago over three seasons despite myriad injuries and turnover.
If the Packers opt to promote from within, defensive backs coach Joe Whitt Jr. could be a strong candidate. Former pupils, including Hall of Famer Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams, have raved about Whitt, who just completed his 11th season with the club.