GREEN BAY, Wis. -- There weren’t many concrete answers from the Packers’ defensive players about where things went wrong and what ultimately cost their coordinator, Dom Capers, his job.
Unless you talked to Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
The former Pro Bowl safety didn’t hold back on Tuesday in an interview with ESPN while players cleaned out their lockers at Lambeau Field.
“That’s the problem with this locker room,” Clinton-Dix said. “We’ve got to control what we can control and not worry about what’s going on upstairs or worry about whether a coach needs to be gone.
“No, you need to worry about if you need to be gone.”
Clinton-Dix defended Capers, who was fired on Monday after nine seasons as the Packers’ defensive coordinator, and put the blame on the locker room and the personnel department.
“We’ve had so much change come through here that I don’t think we ever had a chance to develop a team,” Clinton-Dix said. “It’s business, but at the same time, we’re trying to build a championship team, and if you don’t have the chemistry within the team, and you’ve got so many different individuals coming into the locker room that aren’t worth a s---, it’s kind of tough. Other guys have a different motivation when they come in here. Other guys want to get checks and just get out of here. Some guys just want to go to the Pro Bowl. Some guys are just content with where they’re at right now.
"So it’s hard to build a winning-caliber team when you’ve got so many different characteristics of players in here.”
Clinton-Dix did not say which players he was referring to.
During the last offseason, the Packers let go of a pair of defensive free agents, Julius Peppers and Micah Hyde. No one predicted Peppers would have an 11-sack season for the Carolina Panthers at age 37, but the Packers were lacking in the pass-rush area. They signed veteran Ahmad Brooks, but his impact was minimal. Hyde, a versatile player during his four years with the Packers, got the chance to play safety full time with the Buffalo Bills and made his first Pro Bowl.
Outgoing general manager Ted Thompson used his first two picks in the 2017 NFL draft on defensive backs, Kevin King and Josh Jones. Both played extensively this season but neither made many impact plays.
The cornerback position was ravaged once again by injuries. Davon House battled gallantly through injuries (even playing with a broken back). Quinten Rollins (torn Achilles) ended up on injured reserve. And Damarious Randall bounced back from a terrible start and a benching to finish with a team-best four interceptions.
Clinton-Dix couldn’t match the production from his 2016 Pro Bowl season, and by the end of the season, he didn’t look like the take-on-all-comers tackler of old. Perhaps he was worn out from again leading the defensive snap-count list, playing in all but eight plays one season after he didn’t miss a single snap.
A first-round pick in 2014, Clinton-Dix wasn’t around the last time the Packers ranked in the top 10 on defense. That was in the Super Bowl season of 2010, when they were fifth. Capers’ last defense finished 22nd, and his units hadn’t been consistently effective since the end of the 2014 season, when the Packers lost in overtime of the NFC Championship Game at the Seattle Seahawks.
"I’ve seen this locker room change from 2014 to now, where I had leaders to look up to, I had guys that I trusted and guys that trusted me; and when I messed up, they still had my back and didn’t point the finger," Clinton-Dix said. "So it’s tough.
"It isn’t the defensive coordinator. I’m a baller. Put me in the position to make plays, I’m going to make plays. Give me an opportunity, I’m going to take advantage of those opportunities. Dom was fine. Dom didn’t do me no harm. I love playing for Dom. Whoever they bring in here next, it’s about me adapting to that person. It isn’t about him coming in here and kissing my ass. I guess I just look for change, and I look forward to 2018."
Other Packers players were either less certain or less willing to discuss why the defense failed.
“I don’t want to question the bond,” veteran safety Morgan Burnett said. “I just feel like our bond was real tight in this locker room, and I really feel like the true character was revealed in people when you’re hit with an adverse situation. It’s all about how you respond, and I think the guys in this locker room responded really well.”
Linebacker Nick Perry offered his take.
“As a defense, we didn’t do enough to help the team get to the playoffs, win more games," Perry said. "It just didn’t happen. It wasn’t enough. I’m sure that’s collectively, as a whole team. That’s pretty much all I’ve got on that.”