The newest member of the Patriots coaching staff discussed his role with the team during a conference call with the media on Friday afternoon. Dom Capers, who was hired on Thursday under the title of special assistant/secondary coach, said he's looking forward to working with Bill Belichick and the Patriots organization.
"I'll say this, I'm the only coach in the history of the league to start two expansion teams from scratch," Capers said. "So I know what it's like to take the field knowing your talent isn't quite up to the level of the opposition. Sure, I'm excited about joining a team that's had the successes they've had."
Capers brings a wealth of defensive experience to New England after 22 years of NFL coaching, 16 of which have been as a defensive coordinator or head coach. He spent 2007 in Miami and was let go after Bill Parcells took over the Dolphins operations at the end of the season.
While it might appear that a coach with such an impressive resume is taking a step down in becoming a position coach, Capers said he's ready for whatever comes his way.
"Anything that I can contribute to the staff, and I'm sure that will be ongoing," Capers said. "The first thing is familiarizing myself with the staff and my primary role will be coaching the secondary and anything else I can contribute.
"We'll kind of see how things go and what other things I can contribute. When you go into a new situation you try to figure out what you're role is going to be and jump into it."
Previously Capers served as the first-ever head coach of both the Carolina Panthers and the Houston Texans. The bulk of his success came in Carolina, where he led the Panthers to a 12-4 record and the NFC Championship Game in 1996, just the second year of existence for the franchise. Overall he posted a record of 48-80 in eight seasons as a head coach.
Prior to landing the top job in Carolina, Capers was the well-respected defensive coordinator in Pittsburgh from 1992-94, where his units were known for their aggressive style and zone blitz schemes. Although he has a background in the 3-4, Capers' defenses differ slightly from what Belichick has featured in New England, offering more of a pressure-oriented attack.
Although Capers and Belichick never crossed paths during their long coaching careers, there was a stretch of time when the two went at it twice a year and developed a lot of respect from one another. Belichick's tenure as the head coach in Cleveland (1991-95) coincided with Capers' run in Pittsburgh, and those teams obviously are bitter rivals.
"I've always had a lot of respect for Bill," Capers said. "It goes way to back to when he was the defensive coordinator with Giants back in the '80s. When Bill Cowher took the Pittsburgh job and I was the defensive coordinator there and Bill of course was with the Browns and there's a good rivalry there. We faced each other twice a season so I know how tough Bill Belichick is to coach against."
Belichick's defensive coordinator at the time was Nick Saban, the same guy who hired Capers in Miami in 2006. That obviously gives Capers some familiarity with Belichick's version of the 3-4 and the flexibility the Patriots system has.
On paper he replaces Joel Collier, who has been a secondary coach for the past three seasons. But he also figures to work closely with defensive coordinator Dean Pees, who will remain in his current capacity despite Capers' arrival.
The 57-year-old Capers also led defenses in Jacksonville (1999-2000) and Miami (2006-07) and is considered one of the most respected defensive coaches in football.
"I have known Dom for a long time and respect him tremendously as a coach, particularly defensively," Belichick said in a statement released by the team when the hiring was announced. "To add a coach of his caliber is an outstanding opportunity for us. I look forward to getting to work with Dom and Dean immediately."