Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Packers 23, Seattle 17. It was nice to beat the probable NFC Super Bowl representative, but Seattle rested many players and their strategy on offense involved making sure RB Shaun Alexander won the rushing title and set the all-time record for TDs scored in a season. It was an ususual game for the Packers because they committed three turnovers but none of them hurt (they led to zero points for Seattle) while the two turnovers by Seattle led directly to 10 points for the Packers. That was something that had not happened all season.

Any positive sign during the game was gone by Tuesday when Mike Sherman was fired. It was expected; Mike Sherman was not hired by GM Ted Thompson and Sherman had been unable to win in Green Bay the last two seasons. Although the Packers fell apart in Baltimore three weeks ago, the losses at home to Minnesota and Chicago were just as bad. Thompson was vague about why he fired Sherman saying "this was more thinking in terms of where we are and where we need to get to." It seems like Thompson just wanted to hire his own man and make the team his team.

There are more reasons not to like the firing than to like it. Thompson hasn't proved that he knows what he is doing. He damaged the offensive line by letting Rivera and Wahle leave in free agency and replaced them with the awful Klemm and the forgotten O'Dwyer. Plus he didn't address the offensive line until the 5th round in the 2005 draft. FS Nick Collins has shown some promise, but he has to continue to improve to be considered a good draft choice. G William Whitticker started almost all 16 games this season, but he is not guaranteed a starting job in 2006 and was deactived for a game just a couple of weeks ago. QB Aaron Rodgers could make this draft class all by himself, but he could make it a bust too. All the other players drafted in 2005 haven't shown anything other than the ability to be part-time players. Although it is far too early to grade the 2005 draft class, Thompson hasn't proven anything yet.

Sherman had proven that he could create a top 10 offense in every season as a head coach, except for this disappointing season. Is it Sherman's fault that RB Ahman Green was out after week 6? Is it Sherman's fault that the Packers couldn't run the ball with Green because the offensive line was such a mess? Did any opposing defense really try to stop RB Samkon Gado or did they all focus on stopping QB Brett Favre? Sherman wasn't perfect; he couldn't develop a good special teams and he didn't draft well for depth in the three seasons he was GM. Sherman deserves some blame for the 4-12 season, but its not all his blame. It seems likely that this firing will push the Packers back a couple steps before they step forward.

This seems likely to push Favre out the door. Favre has said he doesn't want to start over on a new team, and the Packers should feel like a new team in 2006. Rodgers committed a lot of turnovers during his brief opportunities in 2005. It seems unlikely that a switch from Favre to Rodgers will improve the team in 2006.

Looking back at the last two seasons, six of the ten teams that changed head coaches improved by only one or two games in the season after the change. Atlanta improved from 5-11 in 2003 to 11-5 in 2004, but that was mostly due to the return of QB Michael Vick from a 2003 leg injury. Miami improved from 4-12 in 2004 to 9-7 in 2005, but everything that could go wrong went wrong for Miami in 2004. The Packers might be comparable to Miami; they fired a winning coach after a disaster season and rebounded to a winning record the next season. Is Thompson going to hire this season's Nick Saban?

Thompson hasn't been around long enough to show a preference for established coaches vs. inexperienced coaches. Does he want to choose a coach from the old-boys network like Steve Mariucci or Dick Jauron? Does he want to hire a coordinator who had never been a head coach? Does he want to hire a top college coach?

It is really interesting that the AP reported that New York Giants defensive coordinator Tim Lewis may be a candidate. I hadn't realized that Tim Lewis was the same Tim Lewis that played for the Packers in the 80s. I have no idea if Lewis would be a good head coach. Lewis was one of the few bright spots in the dark mid-80s for the Packers, until a neck injury ended his career early.

Everything regarding the Packers will be just speculation until a new coach is hired and Favre makes his announcement regarding retirement. Then everything will have to be reevaluated.

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