What has been a rumor for weeks will soon become a fact – defensive coordinator Dom Capers will not return for a 10th season with the Green Bay Packers. According to a source whose information has always been reliable in the past, an official announcement is expected to be made in the next few days.
The 67-year-old Capers was hired by the Packers in January 2009. He had previously been a head coach in Carolina (1995-1998) and Houston (2002-2005) and a defensive coordinator with Pittsburgh (1992-1994), Jacksonville (1999-2000) and Miami (2007). His first two seasons in Green Bay were very successful, including a Super Bowl win in 2010, but the last seven have been a struggle. And while coach Mike McCarthy has steadfastly defended Capers over the years, it now appears even he’s run out of patience.
There’s no word yet on who’ll replace Capers next season, but McCarthy will have a plethora of quality coaches to choose from. The following are some of the potential candidates (listed in alphabetical order):
VIC FANGIO (Bears) – The 59-year-old doesn’t have a contract for 2018, so he’ll be available even if John Fox somehow manages to keep his job with the Bears. He’s a proven commodity, but would McCarthy want to replace Capers with his protege?
JOHN FOX (Bears) – There’s no guarantee the 62-year-old would want to be an assistant after spending the past 16 seasons as a head coach, but he did good work as a coordinator with the Giants from 1997 to 2001 and has a good relationship with McCarthy.
MARVIN LEWIS (Bengals) – Prior to his soon-to-be-over 15-year run as head coach of the Bengals, the 59-year-old was a successful defensive coordinator with the Ravens. He also goes way back with McCarthy. The two worked together at Pitt in the early 1990s.
GREG MANUSKY (Redskins) – The Redskins are expected to keep coach Jay Gruden, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Manusky is safe. If he becomes available, McCarthy figures to be very interested in the 51-year-old who played for Kansas City while he was coaching there in the 1990s.
MIKE NOLAN (Saints) – He coached linebackers in New Orleans this season, but he’s been a coordinator for seven teams in his long career. McCarthy was his offensive coordinator in San Francisco in 2005 and tried to hire him to replace Bob Sanders in 2009.
CHUCK PAGANO (Colts) – He’ll become a become a top candidate for every coordinator opening in the league the minute he’s let go by the Colts. The 57-year-old is a player’s coach who’s known as a whiz when it comes to defending the passing game.
GREGG WILLIAMS (Browns) – If available, the 59-year-old would bring an attitude, along with some baggage to Green Bay. I didn’t love his game plan against the Packers a few weeks ago, but he’s done a good job overall in Cleveland.
TERYL AUSTIN (Lions) – He’ll be available if Jim Caldwell gets the boot in Detroit, but the 52-year-old won’t be unemployed for long. In fact, there’s probably a better chance of him being a head coach than a coordinator next season.
JAMES BETTCHER (Cardinals) – He’s done a very good job with the Cardinals and could be available if Bruce Arians steps down as head coach. The 39-year-old has been underrated for years, but he’s respected around the league for getting the most out of his talent.
GUS BRADLEY (Chargers) – The former Jacksonville head coach signed a 1-year deal with the Chargers, so he’ll be a free agent after the season. While the odds are he’ll stay in Los Angeles, you can be sure many teams will come calling. The 46-year-old is one of the top defensive minds in the league.
JACK DEL RIO – He’ll be available only if the Raiders are able to lure Jon Gruden away from ESPN. The 54-year-old has had success in every stop in his coaching career. The only question is whether his outgoing personality would be a fit with McCarthy.
PAUL GUENTHER (Bengals) – He figures to be a candidate to replace Lewis in Cincinnati. The 45-year-old could also wind up in Washington, where Jay Gruden tried to hire him a year ago. There will be no shortage of interest in his services.
JIM HASLETT (Bengals) – He spent this season coaching linebackers for the Bengals, but he’s coordinated defenses for three different teams since 1996. And as head coach of the Saints in 2000, the 62-year-old hired McCarthy as his offensive coordinator.
VANCE JOSEPH (Broncos) – He could be one-and-done in Denver. If so, the 45-year-old will be highly sought after by teams looking for a coordinator. He might not be cut out to be a head coach, but he impressed a lot of people in his one season running the Dolphins’ defense in 2016
DICK LEBEAU (Titans) – There’s no guarantee he’ll be available, and even if he is, there’s no guarantee he’ll want to keep coaching. But if he does, the Packers would have to be interested in an 80-year-old who’s seen it all and still has more energy than most people half his age.
WINSTON MOSS (Packers) – He’s worked with Green Bay’s linebackers since 2006 and added the title of assistant head coach to his resume in 2007. The 51-year-old, who’s been with McCarthy for the past two decades, has made no secret of his desire to run a defense.
JOHN PAGANO (Raiders) – Chuck’s younger brother did a nice job after replacing Ken Norton Jr. late in the season. The fiery 50-year-old also had some success as the Chargers’ defensive coordinator from 2012 to 2016.
MIKE PETTINE – He’s a bit under the radar because he spent last season as a consultant with Seattle, but the 51-year-old has an impressive and very diverse resume. He did a solid work as Buddy Ryan’s defensive coordinator with the Jets
STEVE SPAGNUOLO (Giants) – He took over for Ben McAdoo late in the season, but he’s expected to be let go after today’s game. The trademarks of his defenses are aggressiveness and inconsistency. The 58-year-old relies on getting pressure on the quarterback even more than most coordinators.
LONG SHOT CANDIDATES
GILL BYRD (Bills) – He worked as the Packers’ director of player development from 1999 to 2001. Since then, the 56-year-old has forged a solid career as a defensive backs coach with four teams.
BRIAN FLORES (Patriots) – The 36-year-old linebackers coach has worked under Bill Belichick since 2008 and has developed a strong reputation around the league. Like most assistants in New England, he’s looking for the right opportunity.
KEVIN GREENE (Jets) – He’s 55, but he’s still relatively new to coaching. The Hall of Fame pass rush did good work as linebackers coach in Green Bay before quitting after the 2013 season. He’s a great motivator who holds players accountable.
CHRIS HEWITT (Ravens) – The up-and-coming secondary coach will be running his own defense – it’s a matter of when and not if. The 43-year-old former NFL corner has done a good job developing talent in Baltimore.
NICK RAPONE – He’s no spring chicken (61), but he’s done a good job with Arizona’s cornerbacks the past five seasons and he has a history with McCarthy. The two were on the same staff at the Pitt in the early 1990s.
NICK SORENSEN (Seahawks) – The 39-year-old began coaching defensive backs following a long career as an overachieving safety with four teams. He might be a year or two away from running his own defense, but that day will come.
SAL SUNSERI (Raiders) – The 58-year-old was on the same staff as McCarthy at Pitt. He’s a high-energy guy who has extensive experience in both college and the NFL.
MIKE TRGOVAC (Packers) – If McCarthy wants to stay in house – and let’s hope he doesn’t – the team’s 58-year-old D-line coach could get the nod over other position coaches due to his experience as a coordinator in Carolina.
CORY UNDLIN (Eagles) – The 46-year-old defensive backs coach is a good teacher whose players swear by him. He worked under Wade Phillips in Denver before coming to Philly.
MIKE VRABEL (Texans) – He won’t be available unless Bill O’Brien is fired, but if he hits the open market, teams will be fighting over the 42-year-old. While his first season as a coordinator was marred by injuries, that hasn’t hurt his reputation. He learned under defensive masterminds Bill Belichick and Romeo Crennel.
JOE WHITT (Packers) – If McCarthy decides to hire from within, this is the only assistant worth considering. The 39-year-old has developed three Pro Bowl cornerbacks and he’s very well-respected by his players. He’s also a straight-shooter.
ADAM ZIMMER (Vikings) – The 33-year-old has done good work as the linebackers coach on his father’s staff. Not only is he an up-and-comer, but this would make the heads of Vikings’ fans explode. So it would be a win-win.