by Scott Benson

The Patriots have hired veteran NFL coach Dom Capers to be the team’s special assistant/secondary coach.

Capers will replace the departing Joel Collier, but even at first glance, you have to wonder if there’s more to it.  

Like, what’s a ‘special’ assistant? Coach Bill Belichick may have answered this one in his team-issued statement, “I look forward to getting to work with Dom and Dean [Pees] immediately.” I understand it’s just a press release, but given that statement and Capers’ history as a defensive coordinator, it may be clearer what’s “special” about him.

Capers is said to have recently turned down an offer to be defensive coordinator with the Dallas Cowboys; granted, alot depends on the right fit, but DC still seems to be a step above assistant and position coach.

For all the faults of the almost-world-beating offense in the Super Bowl, the fact remains that for two years running, the Pats defense could not stop the winning points from being scored at the end of a championship game. That’s a gradual yet sharp decline from what that defense once was, when it once dominated the best offenses in the league, with many of the same players. Which is probably the biggest part of the problem now, the passage of time being what it is. My prevailing thought on that Sunday night almost three weeks ago was that, most of all, something had to change with this defense.

It’s only an assumption at this point that Capers is the first step in that change, and that the team is moving towards a more aggressive style. My recollection of Capers’ defenses is that he made big stars out of lunatics like Greg Lloyd and Kevin Greene and Carnell Lake, all of them blitzing from every angle, pretty much all the time. A 3-4, but one that was really predicated on its hyper-aggressive pass rush, particularly from its linebackers. Much more so than the Patriots seem to have been recently.

Which would bring further urgency to replenish a defense – with all due respect – that simply isn’t good enough to be depended on anymore, not in the way it used to be. You don’t just stumble across an offense that ends up scoring more points than anyone ever has. There was some planning behind that, and considering the way things have ended in each of the last two years, you have to ask yourself if there are others who reached that conclusion long before us.

Or maybe I’m just getting way ahead of myself. Maybe Capers is here simply to deal with a post-Samuel secondary, and to find the right mix of Brandon Meriweather, James Sanders and Rodney Harrison. Maybe he’s here to chip in with a thought here and there. Maybe he’s here simply to do a good job in a high profile situation, as he often has as an assistant, and hope for his third try as a head coach.