Editor’s Note: You can discuss this, and all Vikings news on our new message board! Click here to see the board and click ‘Register/Sign Up’ on our top menu to create a free account that works on our message board, live chat, user groups and even our Twitter like system, VikesGeist.
As announced yesterday, the Vikings have added yet another NFL legend to their 2020 coaching staff in Dom Capers, who is most well known to Vikings fans thanks to his time as the Green Bay Packers’ defensive coordinator. While his time with the Packers wasn’t necessarily as successful as his roles elsewhere, it’s hard to say how much of that came from then-general manager Ted Thompson’s “No More Free Agents” policy.
Regardless of what you think of Capers’ time in Green Bay, his hire does raise a few questions about the Vikings 2020 plans on defense, especially as the team moved on from long-time defensive coordinator George Edwards after the debacle in San Francisco and replaced him with two long-time position coaches in Adam Zimmer and Andre Patterson.
ESPN Staff Writer Courtney Cronin had access to coach Zimmer’s conference call announcing the Capers hire, and has reported a few things about the call and the hire.
Zimmer said that he had mulled over the idea of bringing in another defensive-minded coach before even the post-season began last season, specifically saying he was looking for someone “that has a background in a lot of different things” as a way of improving his defense.
Not dislike President Abraham Lincoln, who famously had a cabinet full of people with opposing viewpoints on a myriad of subjects, Zimmer’s rationale behind bringing in Capers is rooted in Capers’ expertise in defensive concepts, especially in terms of creating pressure on opposing quarterbacks, specifically as it differs from what the Vikings are already doing.
That will make the nearly 70-year-old Capers the “idea guy” in the coaching room, with his over three decades of experience coaching in the NFL giving him the ability to look outside of what the Vikings have been doing on defense since 2014 and, like those in Lincoln’s cabinet, play devil’s advocate for the sake of bringing ideas that the Zimmers and Patterson otherwise may not have thought of or otherwise have seen.
That’s actually intriguing and self-aware, something that I wouldn’t necessarily have called Zimmer a month ago, especially after the Wilf’s released a statement saying it was their “intent” to keep Zimmer as head coach in 2020 and beyond.
While that was a carefully crafted statement that allowed the Wilf’s to change their minds, it did concern some that the Vikings would be stuck with the (so far) mediocrity that we’ve seen during the Zimmer era for the remainder of the seasons that the core of this team is under contract for (which is mostly around 2023).
As, nothing says “Keep it up!” like a blank check from ownership to continue with a defensive plan that has so far created defenses that are only great when it matters least. When you throw in the lack of investment in the offensive line and the impact that’s had on this team’s fortunes, it’s not hard to see why many in the fan community have been pushed past their limit so far this off-season.
If that seems like too much, Zimmer has had nearly complete control of this defense since he was hired in 2014, from calling plays on Sunday to having his pick of personnel (both in the draft and free agency). So, by adding Capers to his team, he’s showing that he’s aware that the status quo hasn’t been good enough when compared to the expectations of the ownership and fan-base and that drastic change needed to happen.
However, because of how ingrained this team is in Zimmer’s system in terms of personnel and the fact that Zimmer is most likely going to continue to call plays on Sunday’s in 2020, finding a new defensive coordinator from outside of the organization wasn’t something that seemed plausible this off-season.
After all, what young up and coming defensive mind would want to come into a situation where they’d have no play-calling responsibilities for a team that’s also built, from a personnel perspective, to run a very specific system? Especially if it seems like they’d be the person who’d take the blame should things not work in 2020 (a la George Edwards)?
That’s why adding Capers in this fashion makes the most sense, even though it does make you wonder whether or not Capers was approached for the defensive coordinator position but like Kubiak (at least initially), didn’t want the full responsibility (and hours) that come from that gig.
Either way, Capers can now bring a fresh set of eyes to a system that is in dire need of them. But, it’s also about more than that according to Zimmer:
“It’s more about just having another set of eyes in there — you see things — and also being able to say, ‘Hey, we used to run this pressure, what do you think about this?’ Or as we’re putting the defensive package together, being able to discuss different things and go from there.”
That makes Capers the defensive version of 2019 Gary Kubiak. Which allows the Vikings to not tear down a pretty good defensive scheme while looking for ways to improve it to compete with the elite defenses of teams like the San Francisco 49ers, or even the front of the Packers (one that dominated the Vikings offensive line thoroughly on Monday Night Football late in the 2019 season).
“We won’t change defensively, terminology or really — his role will be more of kind of an overseer, an idea person. Maybe the corners should play this way or maybe we should play defensive line a little differently. Just things like that, really. It’s more of another guy, like a consultant that can come in and — we’ve been running this defense for a long, long, long time and I just thought it’d be good to get some new, fresh ideas.”
The last question about this defensive coaching situation then is whether or not Zimmer will continue to call plays on Sundays. He had previously been non-committal in that regard when asked a few weeks ago and when asked again during his conference call, he said:
“We’re still in the process with all that. We’ll figure all that out as it goes. I can always call the plays. We’ll just see how it goes in the spring. We’ve got a plan that we’ll stick to, and we’ll just see how it goes. If I feel like the best thing for the team is for me to call the defenses, I will, and if I feel like it’s not, then I won’t. We’ll just kind of work through that process as we continue to move forward.”
Stay tuned to VikingsTerritory.com/purplePTSD.com for that eventual news and all of your Vikings news and discussion!
Speaking of which, if you haven’t already, you should join our new Vikings online community! Click Here to register and click here to check out this topic and many others on our message board (one of a couple cool ways to talk about the Vikings on our community!).