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Dom Capers Press Conference Transcript - Jan. 20

Read the transcript of new defensive coordinator Dom Capers’ press conference Tuesday from Lambeau Field.

Let me begin by saying that I'm excited to be here and be a Packer. I feel much better about being here this time than the last time I was here. I've always believed when you go into a stadium you carry with you the feeling you had the last time you were there, and it wasn't a very good feeling when I left here back in '96 and we lost the championship game and Green Bay went on and won the Super Bowl. Hopefully we can get back there and have that same kind of feeling again. I'm excited about being a part of this organization. I've always had a tremendous amount of respect for the tradition, the fan support, and what Green Bay stands for. That was one of the things that influenced my decision to come here.

(What do you see about the personnel that fits well with your scheme, and what does this team need to run what you want to run?)

It's very early for me to really give you a legitimate comment on that. I'll say this, that I've made the transition many times with going to different places that have different personnel, going into teams that have been 4-3 teams and gradually, and how gradual you evolve into the 3-4 always depends on your personnel. I think you make a tremendous mistake if you come in and say you have a cookie-cutter 3-4 defense and this is what we're going to be and try to fit your personnel to that. I think you fit your defense and have enough flexibility in your defense to fit it to the personnel you have, and you evolve from there.

(Which of your previous stops did you have to take a 4-3 team and mold it into a 3-4, and what are the biggest challenges in doing that?)

I would say probably the most clear transition was when I left Carolina and went to Jacksonville. At Jacksonville they'd always been a 4-3 team and we continued to use some elements of the 4-3. You had a Tony Brackens who was a defensive end that did a lot of defensive end and outside linebacker types of things for us. Kevin Hardy was there and had been a pass rusher and did a little bit more coverage things. That's always the process that you go through, evaluating what are guys strengths and weaknesses and what do they do the best, and I think that the key in this league is deciding what your guys do the best and trying to feature that and mold your defense around that.

(With your defense, do you like to err on the side of aggressiveness?)

I think that over the years all defensive players like to play aggressively. There's a lot of things that factor into that. I think if you can play aggressively and stop the run, that's the best of both worlds. I think that's where things have to start. The number of things you can do and how aggressive you can become is based on your ability to number one, not let people run the football on you so you can dictate the down-and-distance situations, and if you can get offenses into advantageous down-and-distance situations, now it opens up a whole lot of things that you can do. But if they always keep you in second-and-5, second-and-4, that type of thing, then it takes a little bit of your aggressiveness away because you've got to find some way to get that run stopped, try to get people into predictable down-and-distance, and then I think you can give them a lot more problems.

(Who did you learn this defense from? Was that when you were in New Orleans?)

I've been really blessed to be around some good coaches. In college football I had the advantage of working with three guys that were the coach of the year in college, starting with Don James and then Johnny Majors, Earle Bruce. We used some elements in college, and when I got in to pro football in the USFL I went with Jim Mora, and we had two very good years with some elements of this defense. So when we went to New Orleans, we all went together and basically took the same defensive package we played with the Stars and found out it worked well except against the San Francisco 49ers. So we had to adapt what we were doing because we were in a division with the 49ers there in New Orleans. We had outstanding defensive personnel and had good success, except against the 49ers. We made some adaptations there, and then competed and finally the last year won the division over the 49ers. So when I joined Bill Cowher's staff at Pittsburgh, we brought a lot of elements from here and Bill had been the defensive coordinator at Kansas City and they'd had Derrick Thomas outside rushing. As a matter of fact, at that time we used to have training camp over there in La Crosse and we would get together with Kansas City and work against them. So we kind of combined the philosophies, and it's kind of interesting how the zone pressure thing started because we had some elements early, but we were having a hard time getting pressure on the quarterback, so it was out of necessity that we tried to do a few things to get more pressure on the quarterback, and then that kind of just evolved. The second year we did more and the third year our guys really caught onto it, and we did a lot the third year. Then Carolina, we did the same thing. We had taken in free agency a guy named Lamar Lathon and then we had Kevin Greene come down from Pittsburgh. We had a good linebacker corps there. We carried the same scheme there when we went down to Jacksonville. They were a 4-3 team, and so we had to adapt there. Same thing at Houston going in there and starting that franchise. At Miami, we had Jason Taylor, so we used elements of the 3-4 and 4-3. I think if you can keep some multiple schemes, then you become tougher to prepare for.

(The zone blitzing started in Pittsburgh then?)

Yeah, I would say this. We'd used some elements of the zone blitz in New Orleans, and Dick LeBeau had used some in Cincinnati, so we used a little the first year, a little more the second year and the third year is when it became 'Blitz-burgh', and everybody thought we blitzed every down. Our guys really caught on a got a feel for it and were having success with it. It was an aggressive style and they loved being aggressive. Then at that point in time there weren't many teams in the league doing it, but shortly after that everybody had some element of it in their scheme.

(What do you like to do in coverage?)

Well, I think that if we know they're going to throw, ... I think your coverage has got to be a combination of pressure and coverage. I don't think it can be just one element. Obviously the better pressure you get on the quarterback, the better your coverage is going to be. I think you've got to be able to mix your coverage. I just don't think that there's anybody good enough in this day and age to just sit in one thing with the multiplicity of the offenses that you see. So I think you have to be able to change up and it's got to be a combination of pressure, coverage and disguise and not letting people know exactly what you're doing, because I don't care who you are, how good you are, if they know exactly what you're doing, you're going to have problems stopping them.

(Your scheme is designed to be complicated and confusing to the offense, but how do you keep it simple enough so your defense gets it straight and gets it right?)

I think you start with a process, and everything has to be fairly well-defined. Now there's always going to be a little gray area, but I think a big part of our job as coaches is to try to take the gray area out of things as much as we can and have a logical teaching approach so guys understand. I've always believed that the more that we can do that's simple for us and difficult for the opponent, the better we're going to be. How well you master, I think that you have to have attention to detail in what you do, they have to understand it, and you have to be able to execute it before you can move on and do something else. If you just go in with a large number of things and you aren't really good at any one thing, I don't think you have anything you can hang your hat on. I think that it's a process and you have to see, if we can be really good at three or four things, then we can do that fifth or sixth thing. But I always think that the more you can do that's simple for you and tough for your opponent to prepare for, and that sometimes has been an advantage of the 3-4 because everything goes in cycles. I know when I first came into the league back in '86 there were a large number of 3-4 teams, and the trend was to go to the 4-3, and at that point in time I thought we had a tremendous advantage because teams might go five or six weeks playing against 4-3 teams and then they have three days to prepare for you and you have to block things differently and prepare differently, so they would become more familiar. Now, again, I think the cycle, I think you're seeing a few more 3-4 teams now than what you've seen in a while.

(Had you met Mike McCarthy before Friday night?)

Yes. I've met Mike before, and one thing about this coaching profession, you get to know and get to know guys by what they do and that type of thing. I've always had a tremendous amount of respect for what he's done offensively. And of course just following the season I know two years ago, following the season that you had here and the success. Offensively I've always thought he's been one of the very top coaches.

(What did the interview process consist of from your perspective? Did you watch film of some of the players you'll be working with?)

It was a typical interview. I've been on both sides of the interview process, so it was more of a getting to know each other and talking about what Mike was looking for and what his vision was. I thought it was very informative. I'll say this. I've been through a lot of interviews both as a head coach and as an assistant coach, and the one thing that really impressed me was from the very beginning, from the initial contact right on through to when I got home, the impression I left with and I told my wife this when I got home, I said this is a class organization. Mark Murphy called me before I came out. I had a great visit with him. You can tell how organized and how detailed people are I think by the way they handle the interview process. It was very professional all the way from when you're picked up at the airport and the accommodations and all those things. Those little things, they make an impression on me because those are the types of things that I always wanted the organizations that I was with, and having had a chance to start two organizations from scratch, that's the type of procedure that you wanted to have, a very organized approach and very detailed approach. And then even being around the facility here and see how things operate, I've been very, very impressed, and I think first impressions are always important.

(You are a former head coach and you've gone from that to being a coordinator or special assistant. How do you step back and how does that dynamic develop with the head coach?)

I think that's a good question. I think that when you've been a head coach, two different places, that you knew exactly what you were looking for in assistant coaches. So now as an assistant coach, you want to try, I think you have an idea of what you were looking for, and you want to try to be that guy. To me, the success of any team, whether it's on the field or any coaching staff or any organization is everybody understanding what is your role and clearly defining that role, and then doing the very best job at that role that you're capable of. So I think it gives you a perspective maybe that somebody doesn't have if they haven't had to make those decisions and go out and search and try to find the kind of people that you want in your organization that can be great team people. Because that's what this game is all about, is trying to put together the best center, the best guard, the best tackle, and guys that can work together within the scheme.

(Is it hard to step back in that fashion and fill that role as opposed to being the guy in charge?)

I've done it, I've done it a number of times. It's kind of exciting. It's exciting to come in and have a new challenge. I think that's why we got in this business to begin with, the challenge of competing and the excitement of it, so I don't think it's that hard. It's like a player. You've got to look at the big picture, OK. If you let your ego get involved in this business, you're not going to be around the business very long or you're going to have a bruised ego.

(Do you want to be a head coach again someday? It's not easy to start one franchise, let alone two, so would you like another opportunity?)

Not with an expansion team. You never say never. Again, the approach I've always taken is if you do the very best job with the job that you have, and you do a good job, then there's always going to be opportunities present themselves. I don't know if that will ever present itself. I know a lot more about that, and it would have to be the right situation. But my goal right now is to do everything I can to help this defense be as good as it can be, help us win football games.

(What did you take out of those two experiences starting teams?)

They were very unique. How often do you get a chance to go in where you start with zero players and then you've got to line up in about five or six months and compete against teams that have been doing it for 40 or 50 years. It was a challenge. It was very educational in terms of all aspects of the organization because you figured when you start out you don't have equipment people, you don't have video people, all of those things. And the dynamics of bringing together a group of players that we all know what we know from the last place we have been. To try to get, I think at Houston we had 23 different teams represented that first year, and to try and get guys to come in from 23 different places and have a common vision and this is the way we do it and pull together and get everybody pulling in the same direction. That was one of the real big challenges of it.

(Do you think your scheme in Green Bay will be influenced by what you picked up in the last year under Belichick?)

I think we are influenced by everybody we have been around. I think you take a little bit of something. You are never too old to learn something new. Obviously New England, one of the reasons I was excited about going there last year was having an opportunity to be in an organization that has had the success that they have had since 2000. Since Bill had been there they had been extremely successful and normally there is a reason why. It gives you a chance to evaluate those things. So yes, there are some things that obviously I learned there that hopefully you can take and utilize some of those things.

(Yesterday Mike said his vision of what he's looking for in a defense and your vision are similar. Is it that easy, or is there some give and take on both sides?)

I think we had some really good conversations. It's always interesting to me to get an offense's perspective in terms of what gives them the most problems and what doesn't when you are talking with a guy of Mike's offensive background. So yeah, you get a feel for these things give us problems and these are things that we like to do. You share and you interact that way. That part of the interviewing conversation I thought was very, very good. There are a lot of teams using different styles of 3-4 in the league right now, and probably when you look at Pittsburgh, you look at Dallas, you look at New England, they all have their own kind of styles. It's good to talk about what in this style gives you problems, what gives you more problems here. I felt good about our conversations.

(Did the Giants contact you about possibly working for them?)

I'm here now so I really don't think there is any benefit of going into those conversations. I'll just say this: I had conversations with numerous teams and when it came down to it I felt this was the best match and best marriage and felt excellent. I came in Friday and had dinner with Mike and we interviewed on Saturday. I went back and we talked two or three times on Sunday and I told him Sunday night that this is what I wanted to do.

(So was it a matter of them making an offer you couldn't refuse and being very aggressive?)

I think it was a matter of fit. Like I say, I felt very good about the interview here. It made an impression on me in terms of the way the interview was handled. I just felt comfortable in terms of I know the tradition that is here. You always are evaluating the team, the options and what you think can be done there. I had a good feel about it. There are a lot of things, no matter how many pluses and minuses you put down, there is always going to be a gut instinct there of what you feel is going to be the best marriage.

(There's some thought this isn't the ideal defense for Aaron Kampman. Do you envision him as another Tony Brackens, or how do you envision him?)

As I mentioned, I think you made a big mistake. I know Aaron Kampman has been a very good football player and has had a lot of production. I think the number one 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. You take and you say, hey, if these are our 11 best football players, let's adapt what we are doing to get those 11 best football players out there because they give you the best chance of winning. It's about players and scheme, but it's probably more important players than it is any scheme. You put good players out there in any scheme they are probably going to be successful. Now, if you can get a combination of good players and the scheme matches up and guys are into it and they understand their responsibilities and the other guys around them, now you've really got something.

(When you look at the linebackers, are they good players? Do they match the scheme well? Do you see that in A.J. Hawk and Nick Barnett and those guys?)

Those guys, again, I think both of those guys have been good football players and there is a reason why. Just what I know about those guys, and again, I am really in the preliminary stages of going through and looking at the guys that we have. But that's the fun part about this business. I think there are some possibilities with what I see and I'll certainly know more about it every step I go through. You start to get a clearer picture of what their strengths and weaknesses are, and quite frankly that will be a big determining factor in terms of how much we do of one thing or another because I think we've got to try to maximize what people can do.

(So what do you do next? Immerse yourself in the film room, or what's the process here?)

Yes, I think the first part is to spend time evaluating the personnel that we have and coming away with some impressions of what they do well and what we can feature. Then we have to start to meet as a defensive staff and go through this step-by-step process of putting the system in place.

(How much input will you have in filling out the staff?)

Well, Mike will obviously make the decisions but I'll be involved in the interview process with the people we have coming in. I'll meet with them and talk with them and then meet with Mike probably and give him my impressions and he'll make the decisions.

(Is it important to have assistant coaches who have coached in the 3-4 before, or can you teach it to them and have them pass it on to the players?)

Yeah, I think the number one priority is just to have good assistant coaches. I think good assistant coaches are like good players. Good players can play in any scheme and probably be successful. Good assistant coaches can adapt to any scheme if they are good teachers. They've got to be good teachers in the classroom. They have to have an organized approach. They have got to be very thorough, attention to detail. They have got to be sound fundamentalists that can teach good fundamentals. Then probably above everything else they have to have a great work ethic because you are going to be working a lot of hours in this business.

{sportsad300}(What's the importance of the nose tackle position in your scheme?)

It's very important. There are different style nose tackles. Again, some nose tackles can sit in there and play head up on the center in quote what people call 'two-gap.' Others you put maybe on the edge of the center and they play more of a one-gap scheme. But I think probably the classic nose tackle, you look at the people in the league that have the big, physical nose tackle like a Hampton at Pittsburgh or Wilfork at New England, which are big, physical guys that are hard to knock off the ball. A lot of times they use up a couple of blocks.

(What's your coaching approach? 20 hours a day and sleep at the office? Do you yell at guys or are you more even-keeled?)

I think in this business there are a lot of ups and downs, so if you can develop an approach to handle the ups and downs and not get too high with the highs and not get too low with the lows. I think it is important when guys walk in every day that you aren't one way one day and another way the next day. They know what to expect, that you are going to be consistent more than anything else. I think consistent but demanding. Try to define things as much as you can in terms of what is going to be expected. I think communication is a key because many times there is something lost in the communication in terms of this is what we expect and there are certain things you can't compromise. The type of effort you play with on defense and your preparation in terms of knowing your assignments. I think if you can do a couple of those things it goes a long way to of giving you a chance in every game in terms of playing as hard as you can and knowing what to do because I think a lot of games are lost because teams will beat themselves. There is a difference in the effort and intensity that teams play with.

(What stands out the most from that NFC Championship Game for you?)

I know we came in and I don't think anybody expected us to be here. We had won eight in a row and we had just beaten the Cowboys in the first home playoff game. We had won every game the first year in a brand new stadium and we won every game in that stadium. We were 9-0 in that stadium, so we had a lot of momentum coming in. If I recall, the game started pretty well for us. We were up, what, 10-3 I think. We were up 10-3 and we missed a throw into the end zone which would have put us up 17-3, but from that point on it started to go against us and the crowd got into it. It got colder, OK, as the day went on the more that Green Bay started to roll. I'll say this, that the Packers had the best team in the league that year. They were No. 1 in offense and they were No. 1 in defense, and I don't know the last time that ever happened but it's awful hard to get your defense and offense that good at the same time. I remember one of my assistant coaches on the sideline, as you recall it was a cold day and it was windy. He was warming his hands on one of the blowers and I heard all this commotion during the course of the game. Guys were scrambling around and I looked around and he had his game plan laminated. It had melted and caught his gloves on fire and he was on fire back there. So I remember that, that stuck out in my mind.

(Does that game seem like yesterday or forever ago?)

Well, a long time ago. You say what are the high points of your career, well that year was one of the high points we had taken a second-year expansion team and won 13 games with it. We were here playing to go to the Super Bowl with a second-year team. So that part of it sticks out because it was a real good feeling. After our first five games there I think we won 20 out of the next 27 games or something like that. But then I remember the empty feeling of walking off there and losing the game. I know how the teams felt this weekend that got there. The Ravens probably people didn't think would be there and the Eagles because they were both sixth seeds and they were both playing to go to the Super Bowl. Getting there and not going, well you know from two years ago here the feeling.

(Over the course of a season, what percentage of times would you like to pressure?)

That varies. It varies on the team really. To me, you've got to take what you think is going to give you the best chance of being successful. Now I can tell you this, I used to smile because the last year in Pittsburgh we were known as 'Blitzburgh', and we came out of a couple of games where we had given up one touchdown or seven points and basically all you heard about was you didn't blitz. Well, you do what you feel you have to do to try to win the game. And some people were better at picking up the blitz, and to me it's foolish if you know that people are going to protect and they are sound in their protection just to keep bringing pressure and isolate your guys in one-on-one coverage. Now part of the element is if they think you are coming with pressure and you can double their receivers, you're going to give your front guys more time to get there. That's why you have to have a combination of things where you can disguise, you can show pressure and come out of it. You try to hit them with pressure when they are not expecting it because if they are expecting you to pressure every down then they are going to just sit in there and protect. To me that's part of the chess match of the game.

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