Packers' Sherman loses job after first losing season
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Even as losses and injuries mounted during the worst Green Bay Packers season in 15 years, Mike Sherman wouldn't publicly plead his case to keep his job.
When prodded, Sherman said only that he hoped the team's management would take into account everything he accomplished in six seasons, not just this year.
They did -- and still reached the same conclusion: Sherman had to be fired.
Packers general manager Ted Thompson fired Sherman on Monday and said it wasn't because of the team's 4-12 record. Thompson simply isn't convinced Sherman is the right person to carry the team into the future, which might not include Brett Favre.
"I think our team hung in there very well and played under some very difficult circumstances and played hard each and every week," Thompson said. "This was more thinking in terms of where we are and where we need to get to."
Thompson said Sherman, who signed a two-year contract extension in August, was surprised and disappointed when he learned of the decision early Monday morning. Sherman did not immediately return a telephone message left by The Associated Press. The team announced Sherman would be available to news media at 11 a.m. Wednesday.
Thompson also spoke to the players Monday morning, calling the meeting "very quiet and somber."
But Thompson said he had not discussed the decision with Favre. The three-time MVP is mulling retirement and has said he might be less willing to return if he had to learn a new offensive system and work with a new coaching staff.
Thompson said he wants Favre back, but he needs a coach who will bring the team long-term success.
"Eventually Brett Favre's going to retire and go back to Mississippi," Thompson said. "But that didn't have any sway in this particular decision."
Thompson brushed off Favre's concerns about learning a new offense: "He's a pretty bright guy."
Thompson also said Favre, who threw a career-worst 29 interceptions this year, can still play.
"From a physical standpoint I don't think he's any less of a player than I've seen in the past," Thompson said. "I think ... there were games where he made some decisions that I am sure he wished he could have a do-over."
Favre, 36, has hinted the team's offseason moves would play a role in his retirement decision. And Thompson doesn't sound willing to load up on high-priced free agents for one last playoff run with Favre. He said he believes in rebuilding primarily through the draft and called free agency "dangerous waters."
Favre did not speak to the media after Sunday's game. His agent, Bus Cook, did not immediately return a telephone message.
Packers defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila said Sherman addressed the team for about 15 minutes after his firing. Players gave him a standing ovation.
"I did not see it coming," Gbaja-Biamila said. "I thought we handled this -- Coach Sherman and the rest of us -- handled the best that we could with the hand that was dealt us. We couldn't have done any better. But that's not what Ted Thompson [is] looking at."
The Packers lost several key players to injury, most notably wide receiver Javon Walker and running backs Ahman Green and Najeh Davenport, and tight end Bubba Franks. The team also struggled to replace veteran guards Mike Wahle and Marco Rivera, who signed with other teams in the offseason.
Defensive tackle Grady Jackson, one of several Packers veterans who will become free agents, expressed support for Sherman.
"Mike was a great guy and I know he'll be coaching somewhere else," Jackson said. "Wherever he goes, I won't mind playing for Mike Sherman. He's just that great of a guy."
Sherman brought success to Green Bay in his first five seasons and leaves with a 59-43 record. But he didn't deliver another championship to Titletown.
Sherman won three consecutive division titles for only the fourth time in team history -- joining Vince Lombardi, who did it twice (1960-62, 1965-67) and Mike Holmgren (1995-97). The other two coaches won Super Bowl titles. But his Packers teams were 2-4 in the playoffs and never made it to the NFC championship game.
Thompson said he didn't regret giving Sherman a two-year contract extension before the season: "Based on his record in the past, I think he deserved that vote of confidence."
Thompson said he would begin interviewing head coaching candidates this week, and the list could include the team's defensive coordinator, Jim Bates. Thompson did not fire Sherman's assistants Monday.
Thompson said he wasn't concerned about trying to find a new coach at a time when several other NFL coaching jobs are open. At least six other teams are looking for new coaches, including the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings, the Packers' rivals in the NFC North.
Thompson said the decision to fire Sherman was a difficult one.
"It's not an easy thing for anyone to do," Thompson said. "Mike Sherman's a good man."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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