- The Washington Times - Monday, August 21, 2000

GREEN BAY, Wis. His predecessor was fired after going 8-8. His superstar quarterback is coming off a shaky season and is battling elbow tendinitis. And oh by the way, he has never been a head coach.
But Mike Sherman is anything but cowed about attempting to lead the Green Bay Packers the NFL's best team from 1995 to '98 but a .500 club in 1999 back to glory.
"The expectations are very high," said the 45-year-old Sherman, the Packers' tight ends coach under Mike Holmgren in 1997 and '98. "But I wouldn't want to be any other place than Green Bay. This place is special. People here inside and outside the organization are very prideful about the Packers. When you come to Lambeau Field and park your car at 5:45 a.m. and there are people waiting to talk to you, it gets your juices flowing. I don't have a whole lot of hobbies. My life is pretty much my faith, my family and the Packers."
That focus might not have been as tight last season under former coach Ray Rhodes.
"Everyone here was fired up last year at this time and when we started off 3-1 and 4-2, we were feeling really good," said Packers general manager Ron Wolf. "From then on, we went 4-6. We scored one offensive touchdown in five of our eight division games. That's why we lost. It was a real shock. For whatever reason, our players didn't buy Ray's program. They're buying Mike's. We have to get back to where football's the No. 1 thing for everybody in the organization."
Top receiver Antonio Freeman admitted, "Last year we didn't have the fire." Quarterback Brett Favre, a three-time NFL MVP, saw something else missing in the wake of Holmgren's departure.
"The little things might have slipped," Favre said. "That's easy to have happen. We might have felt 'hey, we're good' and all of a sudden, we got away from the core of what got us there. Mike [Sherman] has put more emphasis on the little things like being on time for meetings, what you do in meetings, the locker room chemistry."
Sherman doesn't shy away from the back-to-the-future idea. He understands that like Rhodes was, he's somewhat in Holmgren's shadow.
"There's a street named for Mike here," noted Sherman, Holmgren's offensive coordinator in Seattle in 1999. "A lot of these players [27, but just nine starters from the 1997 Super Bowl team] played for him. Mike has been the biggest influence in my career. I run the West Coast offense which came from Mike. And Mike also showed me how to treat people, how to manage, how to organize."
Those traits are also readily apparent in Sherman.
"Mike has a plan for everything," said Packers offensive coordinator Tom Rossley, previously a colleague at Holy Cross in 1986 and '87. "He's really detailed and thorough. And he's so creative offensively. Mike's never satisfied with where we're at. He's always thinking about where we're going. Football is so much a part of Mike's life. It's all he thinks about and talks about. He outworks everybody. He was destined to be a head coach."
Safety LeRoy Butler, the senior Packer after a decade in Green Bay, is thrilled about the switch from Rhodes, who had been fired by Philadelphia after the 1998 season, to the untested Sherman.
"I was looking for something fresh, like a cool breeze, not someone with baggage, someone who had been fired, someone who had a chip on his shoulder," said Butler, who loves to blitz and who chafed at what he termed the "passive" defensive scheme under Rhodes and former coordinator Emmitt Thomas. "Everybody likes Mike and respects him. You want to make plays for him. We don't do a lot of individual drills in camp. We jump right into game-type situations."
To build camaraderie, Sherman canceled a minicamp practice and took the team to a local bowling alley where the offense and the defense competed for some serious cash which went to charity.
"One of the things I told the players when I took the job was that no matter what they had to trust me and I had to trust them," Sherman said. "I think we're at that point. It helped a little bit that I knew some of them from when I was here before. This is a young team, but we have a core of veterans who know what it takes to win and who are ready to step forward and to try to make a difference."
Sherman won't have to wait until next season to find out if he can make a difference, especially with Favre troubled by tendinitis in his right elbow and halfback Dorsey Levens out following arthroscopic knee surgery. The Packers have nine games against 1999 playoff teams, including seven of their final nine contests.
"We expect not only to get to the playoffs, but to be in the Super Bowl," said defensive tackle Santana Dotson. "We feel we're still a top-echelon team and it's up to us to show it."
If they do, Sherman Street might soon be joining Lombardi Avenue and Holmgren Way on the local maps.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide