Harlan's on the clock
Good article from JSOnline on the options that Harlan faces.
Harlan has a call to make on Sherman
Posted: Jan. 12, 2005
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Green Bay - Great stories are born from adversity. On Sunday, the Green Bay Packers produced enough adversity to fill the pages of "War and Peace," "Gone With the Wind" and "The Bible."
This is what happens when you lose to the Minnesota Vikings. At Lambeau Field. In the first round of the playoffs.
This roller-coaster season finally decided on a direction when it came off the tracks against the Vikings and crashed in a twisted ball of chaos.
Losing to the Vikings in the playoffs is as bad as it gets. On one cold, dreary, Randy Moss-moonlit Sunday the Packers destroyed their entire season.
And in doing so they made the season for the Vikings and their fans. An 8-8 season? Two regular-season losses to Green Bay? A choke job down the stretch in which Minnesota lost 7 of 10 games? No biggie. They beat the Packers. In the playoffs. At Lambeau.
This is all the Purple People wanted. It matters not if the Vikings go to Philadelphia on Sunday and get pounded by the Eagles. After knocking the Packers from the playoffs the Vikings and their fans are in a no-lose situation.
All of this, of course, means that something must be done to revive the Packers; to make them a team capable of making a run in the playoffs.
Winning three consecutive division titles means very little in Green Bay. It's like driving a 10-year-old Ford Escort. It almost gets you where you want to go, but no one really notices.
And so far, after five seasons as head coach, Mike Sherman - also the general manager - has shown us little to indicate that he is the man to lead the revival.
"This is as disappointed as I've ever been after a loss," Sherman said following Sunday's whupping. "I can handle losing a ball game, but losing the way we lost the ball game by not playing very smart was disappointing. We're better than what we showed today. We're a better team than what we demonstrated today."
OK, so the coach and GM seems to be suffering. But Packers fans have a hard time feeling his pain because they are wallowing in an agony all their own.
And we're all tired of hearing the same old Sherman responses to new meltdowns. Coach, if your team is better, it should play better. If your team's not playing smart, maybe it's the teacher's fault.
Unfortunately, the player displaying the fewest smarts Sunday was the teacher's pet, Brett Favre. When the defense dug the Packers a 14-0 hole against the Vikings, Favre assumed it was his job to grab the shovel and single-handedly fill it in.
So Favre pressed. He tried to make things happen. He tried to win it all by himself. But Favre succeeded only in matching Daunte Culpepper's four touchdown passes, with four interceptions.
Basically, the Hall-of-Famer-in-waiting threw this one away. And it was a big one, because the NFC championship has never been more attainable.
But the problem isn't the quarterback. It will be if he retires. Without Favre there would have been no coming back from the 1-4 start to the season. There would have been no division title. No playoff appearance. Nada.
The real problem exists on the management level. And only team President Bob Harlan and the board of directors can address the issue.
Here are some of the options available to the president.
Leave Sherman alone
Harlan and the board might opt for the status quo. Maybe a 10-6 record, an NFC North title and a one-and-done playoff run is good enough.
If it is, this team needs a new president and a new board.
These are the Green Bay Packers, not the Cincinnati Bengals or the Arizona Cardinals. The bar sits a little higher here. Sherman should be measured by the standards set by Ron Wolf and Mike Holmgren not Scooter McLean or Lindy Infante. Sherman himself has said many times that Super Bowl championships, not just division titles, are what's expected of the Packers. He hasn't met those expectations. In fact, Sherman has a miserable 2-4 record in the playoffs, including the only two home losses in team history.
Just say no to the status quo.
If the Packers fire a coach who has never had anything but winning seasons, they will make NFL history. No team has done that, there is no precedent. But the team in the NFL's smallest city - owned by the fans - has always gone it's own way. So why not?
Well, here's why not: Firing Sherman could mean Favre's instant retirement. It's doubtful the quarterback wants to start all over with a new coach in a new system. The Packers need Favre. He's still got game.
Relieve Sherman of his GM duties
Logic tells us that human beings are more productive when focused on one task. Sherman is a coach. He came to Green Bay to coach and later had the GM duties thrust upon him. Working these two jobs - especially in this fishbowl - is just too much for one person. So why not?
Well, here's why not: If Sherman is removed as GM, a new one, of course, must be hired. Can you respect a GM who would happily inherit a head coach? Any GM worth his three-piece suit wants to put his mark on the team. How good can he be if he agrees to these limiting conditions? Hiring his own coach is the best and quickest way for a new GM to make that mark.
Also, could Sherman accept working for a GM who isn't, well, Mike Sherman? It's like a blind date. The odds for a lasting - and winning - chemistry are not good.
Relieve Sherman of his coaching duties
Sherman's abundant organizational skills might be more successful when applied exclusively to the GM's job. And he should be a much better GM without the demands of coaching, too.
So why not?
Well, here's why not: There's the Favre factor again. A new coach probably means a new system. And that might mean good-bye to the reliable old quarterback.
Sherman, as GM only, could impose his West coast offense on his new coach. The offense seems to be the only area of this team functioning at a Super Bowl level. There's something to be said for fixing only the things that are broken.
But if you hire a new coach you have to let him coach. Could you respect a coach who would agree to those terms? How good could he be if he lets the GM tell him how to coach?
Of course, if Sherman gives up coaching and retains the GM job, that means he must hire the new coach. Can he be trusted with that responsibility?
After all, this is the man who fired Ed Donatell and promoted Bob Slowik as defensive coordinator.
There's no easy choice. Bob Harlan, you're on the clock.