What's Next for the Packers After Being Eliminated from Playoffs?

Andrew Garda@andrew_gardaFeatured ColumnistJanuary 14, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 12:  Wide receiver James Jones #89 of the Green Bay Packers celebrates after scoring a touchdown thrown by quarterback Aaron Rodgers #12 in the second quarter against the San Francisco 49ers during the NFC Divisional Playoff Game at Candlestick Park on January 12, 2013 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

With the ignominious defeat of the Packers in San Francisco Saturday night, the team's attention can now turn to the offseason and making sure they're on proper footing for next season.

As with the 2011 season, this is a Packers team with several big issues to deal with. They made a few first steps last offseason, but clearly it wasn't enough.

First things first, though. There is one person who, in my opinion, has to go if this defense is going to be successful again.

So let's start there.

Dom Capers Must Go

It's not even just about last night, but let's start there.

Did you notice that at times it appeared the Packers defense didn't seem to be ready for what they were seeing from Colin Kaepernick and the Niners offense? That they were a bit surprised by it?

If you did, that's because apparently they were.

“We didn’t anticipate the quarterback running the way he did,” (Charles) Woodson said. “I guess that was the X-factor.”

Go read that again, because it's that insane.

We break down a lot of film around Bleacher Report. So does ESPN, SBNation, National Football Post, SI.com and so on. But few are people who just do that for a living, like the defensive coordinator of an NFL team.

And yet every single person in the media talked about Kaepernick running the option, running on called plays and just running in general.

Even Packers fans who just watch football on Sundays knew this was coming.

Apparently nobody told the Packers.

What was Capers doing last week? In fact, what were the players doing?

Was nobody watching tape of the Niners?

That's on the players too, and they played horrifically at times Saturday night. They couldn't tackle (long-term issue), Erik Walden looked like he couldn't find a ball-carrier with a GPS and a guide dog and Tramon Williams was burned repeatedly in coverage.

Plus, again, players are supposed to watch tape too.

At the end of the day though, it's on the defensive coordinator to come up with a game plan and point out things like, I don't know, the quarterback runs a lot.

It's not just about Saturday night though—that game just finally pushed us all over the edge.

However, there is this as well, from Bleacher Report and CheeseheadTV's Aaron Nagler:

In the Packers last 3 postseason losses, they allowed 51, 37 & 45 points. THAT, more than just tonight, is an indictment of Capers.

— Aaron Nagler (@Aaron_Nagler) January 13, 2013

Capers has to go. He has to go because while plenty of these losses are on the players as well, ultimately the defensive coordinator is the one in charge and needs to make adjustments.

To come out of halftime against the 49ers and not make any clear adjustments was just another example of the issues with his defense.

This team has survived for two years because the offense is high scoring. When the offense collapses or stumbles as it did on Saturday, the defense will not carry them.

It's the anti-Bears, whose defense carries them and offense often fails them.

Capers doesn't even need to be fired—his contract is up. Just move on.

I'll admit this—Capers is unlikely to go anywhere, much as many may want him gone. There were, again, a ton of injuries and yet the defense was ranked 11th overall and allowed the 11th-least points.

More than likely, he's back because of that (and you can certainly argue that, based on that, he deserves to be).

It's a mistake though, and Packers fans could be in for more of the same down the road.

“We didn’t anticipate the quarterback running the way he did"—I just can't wrap my head around that.

Keep Adding to the Defense

In the "defensive collapse" vein, the Packers defense has a lot of the parts, but isn't quite whole.

There is a lot of youth here both in the secondary and along the defensive front.

However, the run defense is still a tremendous mess, and they need some strong tacklers in the middle.

So as they prepare for the 2013 NFL draft, the Packers need to make sure they address the deficiencies in the run defense.

That's not to say the team ignores the offense, but we all know the offense can score.

It's the defense that has let them down over the last few years.

Cut the Cord with Jennings (and Finley?)

We know Greg Jennings isn't coming back. He's going to want too much money, and the Packers are far too deep at wide receiver to spend the money that he'll want.

The Packers saw a glimpse of what he's brought them during his career on Saturday night.

They also saw all season long that they can do just fine without him.

For that matter, it might be time to say goodbye to Jermichael Finley as well.

Finley is tremendously talented, but has had far too many moments where that talent has not come to fruition.

Both players have been big helps to the Packers over their careers so far, but neither of them are irreplaceable.

If you were to keep one of the two, Finley would be my choice, as the talent at tight end isn't nearly as deep as at wide receiver.

Still, both players have grumbled and groused and have made waves about their role and their income.

It may be less of a headache to call it quits.

Keep Adding Depth

Ultimately, the Packers' depth once again saved them this season. Sure, they lost to the 49ers and injuries certainly played a part, but the bench depth once again saved them over the course of the year.

Like Marshall Newhouse in 2011, Don Barclay was a real find and played well in a pinch (both players were excellent Saturday night against one of the toughest front sevens in the NFL).

Nick Perry and Jerel Worthy both look like they will be very solid players, while rookie Casey Hayward was excellent as well.

Of course, the diamond in the rough for this season was absolutely running back DuJuan Harris. Cut by two teams previously (Pittsburgh and Jacksonville) and selling cars not long ago, Harris showed tremendous potential and is a testament to the scouting department.

The Packers are looking at a very tough NFC North, with the Bears re-committing to get better, the Vikings on the rise and the Lions really not as bad as they looked.

Add to it some great teams like San Francisco, Atlanta and the Giants as well as the rising Seahawks, Redskins and likely-to-bounce-back Saints and it's clear that Green Bay cannot take their foot off the gas this offseason. Not if they hope to continue staying ahead of their neighbors in the NFC.

Check out the B/R NFC North Facebook page. Like us and keep up with everything NFC North on Bleacher Report.

Follow me on Twitter at @andrew_garda.


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