GREEN BAY—Mike McCarthy delivered a strong vote of confidence to Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers in his season-ending press conference on Tuesday, but stopped short of making it official.
“I’m not making any decisions, but I feel very confident that Dom Capers is going to be our defensive coordinator,” McCarthy said.
“I have great, great faith and respect for Dom Capers and all of our coaches, but everything top to bottom will be evaluated.”
McCarthy said he’d be derelict in his duty if he took any other approach. He has just begun the evaluation process, primarily with the players, with whom he has been conducting exit interviews since Sunday. The evaluation of the coaching staff will be delayed somewhat by the upcoming trip to Hawaii to coach the NFC squad in the Pro Bowl next week.
Capers, whom McCarthy hired as part of both a staff and scheme change defensively in 2009, has come under fire for the defense’s performance in the 45-31 divisional playoff loss at San Francisco last Saturday.
The Packers surrendered 579 total yards, including 323 rushing, both figures the most in franchise playoff history. San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick rushed for 181 yards, an NFL single-game record for a quarterback, regular season or playoffs.
McCarthy talked all season about gearing up the team to peak at playoff time, but a defensive unit that ranked 11th in yards and points allowed in the regular season did just the opposite.
“We did not play our best football in that game, and that’s something obviously as the head coach that I’ll have to take a very, very close look at, because I felt that we were ready mentally,” McCarthy said. “There were definitely some things we did not handle schematically, and no one will be tougher on that than ourselves.”
Scheme-wise, the Packers struggled mightily with the 49ers’ read-option calls, the most damaging of which resulted in a 56-yard TD run by an untouched Kaepernick to break a 24-all tie in the third quarter.
McCarthy confessed that it was obvious his team didn’t spend enough practice time defending the read-option, and he lamented the adjustments that the team’s health forced upon the practice schedule as the season wound down.
The Packers didn’t handle Kaepernick at all, run or pass. He scrambled out of the pocket for at least half of his rushing yards, and he threw for 263 yards to boot.
“We’ll go through every play like we do every week,” he said. “We’ll go through every call. If it was as easy as making another call, trust me, it would have been done. It wasn’t one guy. There’s more involved than that.”
McCarthy also addressed the shortcomings on offense in San Francisco, which in part had to do with a lack of opportunities, because the 49ers dominated time of possession by 16 minutes.
The Packers went into the game with a large number of personnel groupings and packages they wanted to use but didn’t come close to utilizing them all in running just 45 plays through 56-plus minutes before a late, hurry-up TD drive.
“We talked about not coming home with anything on our call sheet, and obviously we did not achieve that,” McCarthy said. “We had a number of things we would have liked to have gotten to.”
McCarthy’s biggest regret was not going for it on fourth-and-five near midfield with 11:37 left in the fourth quarter and the Packers trailing, 38-24. Given the 49ers’ time of possession advantage and how worn down Green Bay’s defense was, in hindsight he wouldn’t have opted to play for field position at that point.
“I have been aggressive on fourth down throughout the season,” he said.
The punt did pin the 49ers at their own 7-yard line, but they went 93 yards in 11 plays and took nearly eight minutes off the clock in taking a three-touchdown lead.
“Frankly, that’s what broke our back,” McCarthy said.
As a consequence, winning a second straight NFC North title amidst a slew of injuries and trying circumstances will be all the Packers have to show for 2012.
Defeats in Seattle, Indianapolis, New York and Minnesota that were devastating in different ways were all followed by victories, but the answer to what happened in San Francisco will have to wait.
“The one thing I appreciated about this football team was the ability to respond,” McCarthy said. “Unfortunately this year we don’t have the opportunity to respond to the San Francisco loss.
“It’s tough. The goal around here is not just to win 12 games, not just to win division championships. Our goal will always be the same here.” Additional coverage - Jan. 15