"There's just so much to offense that a coach really does have control of," [Bill Walsh] said. "Defense is just a matter of having the personnel."
"The Blind Side", by Michael Lewis, p. 122.
The defense just finished up a mixed season.
The pass defense was great at times, but vanished in some late season losses at New Orleans and home against Houston. Still it was really one of the finest units in the NFL and excelled despite the absence of a reliable pass rush.
But the run defense was dismal. Dallas ran for over 200 yards against them. Carolina had five 1 yard TD runs against them. They lost a number of games (Tampa Bay, Atlanta, Tennessee, Minnesota, Carolina, Jacksonville) and allowed another game to go into overtime (at Chicago) when the run defense didn't hold up at the end and allowed a big TD drive.
The first person under scrutiny is defensive coordinator Bob Sanders. Before joining the Packers in 2005 as an assistant under then defensive coordinator Jim Bates, he coached at the University of Florida in the 1990s and for the Miami Dolphins from 2001-2004. The defense was better in 2005 (after being awful in 2004), they were great in 2006, and very good in 2007. As the quote above states, a defensive coach needs good players. But for those who wonder if Sanders really has the chops to be a good defensive coach, his resume is pretty impressive.
Ironically, the JSOnline article I've linked to spent a lot of time discussing how the pass rush struggled and the defense plays man-to-man coverage instead of the more common cover-2 scheme. But the pass defense wasn't the problem last season. S Nick Collins and CB Charles Woodson are heading to the Pro Bowl.
There is no reason Bob Sanders doesn't deserve to keep his job. He needs some better players along the defensive line.
Another wrinkle to this story is the potential interviews that linebackers' coach Winston Moss might have for head coaching vacancies. I've never understood the love for Moss, or why he was promoted to assistant head coach before the 2007 season. The linebackers he's coached have never been outstanding. They've never been bad either. There must be something about meeting the man in person.
A side note; the above quote is from a book about All American LT Michael Oher. As you can see from the preceding link, he's rated as the top player entering the 2009 NFL draft by NFL Draft Scout.com. I've read "The Blind Side" and the Detroit Lions deserve another 0-16 season if they pass on this guy.